Gardening With Caro

Is your lawn in need of some TLC?

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Caro Sanders is a garden designer based in West London who loves helping home owners in London and the Home Counties transform their gardens from ugly ducklings into beautiful swans.  She can turn her critical eye on any patch of land and offer helpful advice to potential sellers as well as new buyers wanting to make the garden their own.  Trained in Garden Design at Capel Manor College, she creates gardens little and large, and believes that everyone is entitled to a great view, ideally from their own doorstep.
Contact details:     
                020 8566 3750

Twitter:              @carogarden


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A reader asks….

My lawn looks terrible and I want to replace it. Should I use grass seed or turf, or should I try artificial lawn?


As with many questions in life, it’s a balancing act between aesthetics, time and money. When I say time, I really mean your time, because whichever route you choose it will take a wee while.

Cheap as chips route – reseed your existing lawn. Cost of seed – next to nothing. But you’ll need to follow this routine pretty closely: mow the lawn, then scarify it (scratch the surface with a rake to scuff up the soil a little and loosen the moss – not terrify it to death). Next get rid of the weeds and moss. For the more eco-friendly but arduous approach you can dig them out by hand, or if you prefer the hands-free blitzing option you can get a chemical based lawn treatment – most garden centres will sell you a box of powder for this purpose. If you use chemical weed and feed stuff you’ll need to wait a week or two for it to take effect. Then remove the blackened moss and weeds. Great – so now you’ve got a scarified raggedy lawn with muddy patches on it. That’s what you want, in order to sow your seed. Sow according to instructions on the packet, sprinkle with water and keep watering (not continuously you understand) until the seeds have sprouted and grown to around an inch tall.

Good points – really cheap, about 10p per m² for seed, 15p per m² for weed and feed. Can select different types of seed for different areas (though anyone who says grass will grow well in shade is, frankly, lying to you). Bad points – needs patience. No guarantee of success, either, though you can repeat the process if necessary, and it’s still really cheap.

Middle for diddle route is turfing. This means skimming the existing grass off the surface of the lawn, preparing the ground really well so it’s flat as a marble table, ordering your turf in for the moment you want to lay it (a day or two later and it’s fit only for the compost bin) then laying turf ever so carefully so there are no gaps, overlaps or wrinkles. If it’s badly done it looks like a goat track on the side of a mountain, if it’s done properly it will look fantastic, but you still need to water it assiduously for at least a month, and incidentally you can’t walk on it either, so you need a clever system of planks to walk on and sprinklers to throw water as far in all directions as possible. Unless you’re really good at leveling earth, meaning you like nothing better than walking on your heels on every inch of ground, raking it over, and repeating, I’d get a professional landscaper in to do this.

Good points – looks great, immediately. Bad points – not really a DIY job if you want a good finish, unless you know what you’re doing. Costs a lot more than seed – around £20 per m² depending on your landscaper.

The final granddaddy route, these days, is Artificial Lawn. Once upon a time, artificial grass was strictly for football clubs and greengrocers’ displays of fruit and vegetables. Then suddenly it was at Chelsea Flower Show, winning awards. How did that happen? Well, firstly, they got a lot better at making it. So it can actually look like grass. It doesn’t get weeds, bare patches or need mowing. You can install it in the shadiest of places and right up to the edge of vertical surfaces, like raised beds or patio steps (without a mowing edge). Right now it’s the Holy Grail of Flat Green Stuff.

Good points – as above. Bad points? Well, make sure you’re sitting down before you read on. The cost to have it installed (and believe me, you don’t want to be laying hardcore, sand, membrane and this grass yourself) is around £50-80 m² depending on the quality of grass you select, and which supplier/installer you choose. There are lots out there so get a couple of quotes, look at samples (make sure you look at them outside too) and see what you think.

So it’s your decision – what you like the look and feel of, and what you can afford in terms of time and money. Personally I have a weedy lawn that I encourage to be naughty. Last year we had loads of daisies, buttercups and other self-sown wild flowers and grasses in flower too. But others need or just love a tidy garden, and if you want neat, genuinely evergreen AND almost maintenance free then it might well be worth looking at the new artificials.


Caro is happy to answer any of your horticultural or design queries, just send them in to and she’ll do her best to give you the fruits and flowers of her garden wisdom.


19th February 2014