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GARDEN CUTTINGS.

Byline: with Hannah Stephenson

THINKING about laying a new lawn? Want to give a boost to the bare patches that have seen a lot of wear and tear in the last few months?

Well, the next couple of months are the best times to lay turf, if that's the way you want to go. Before you make your decision, remember that turf is much more expensive than growing a lawn from seed. But it does provide instant results and can prove long-lasting and healthy if you take care of it.

The disadvantage is that you can never be quite sure you are getting exactly the grass you want unless you buy seeded turf, which is even more pricey. So what sort of lawn do you want? There are many turves to choose from which come in different sizes, from one square foot to three square yards.

The most popular, and cheapest, is meadow grass but be warned, it contains hardly any lawn grass and can be full of weeds.

You may be lucky and get a hard-wearing, reasonable lawn but it's best to take a sample before you buy it. Other types include Downland turf and Parkland turf - both superior to meadow grass .

It should be of a good, uniform colour, devoid of pests or disease, with few or no weeds and recently mown. Now look at the soil underneath. There should be plenty of visible white roots and good soil which isn't stony.

Another good test is to lift up the turf holding one end with both hands and shake it gently.

It shouldn't split or fall to pieces.

Seeded turf is often used in landscape gardening, being lighter than standard turf and composed of good lawn grasses.

Turf can be laid at any time from mid-autumn until late spring, except when the soil is very wet and muddy, or during frosty weather. You need to mark out the area and prepare the ground before laying each turf. It should be dug deeply and sprinkled with fertiliser dressing. Then the soil should be raked, stones and roots removed and the ground levelled, firming the soil with your feet.

Start by laying the edging turves. Start with a single row along the longest, straightest side of the area. If no side is straight, start in from the edge and you can plug the gap later.

Stand on a wooden plank and tap down each row with the back of a rake, then check the level by placing a piece of wood on the turf and a spirit level on top.

If there are bumps it's best to take up the turf and fill the holes with more soil rather than bash it down Now lay out the second row, pulling it hard into the first. At the end of each line, overlap the turf with the edging turf and cut off the excess with an old knife so it makes a good fit. Remember to always stand on a plank when you are working, not on the newly laid turf or the unturfed patch.

Once your new lawn has been laid, water thoroughly if the weather is dry and keep off the new lawn until it has rooted into the soil.

You can also mow new turf when necessary but make sure the blades are set fairly high.

The transformation will seem instant, but it will take a good few weeks for the new lawn to settle and the joins to disappear.

PLANT OF THE WEEK - Sedum This is a real autumn stalwart in the garden when everything else is fading, providing colour against a backdrop of succulent, greygreen foliage.

This perennial, otherwise known as the ice plant or stonecrop, belongs to a family of sunlovers, and will create solid edging to a border, living happily even in poor soil.

Among the best is S. spectabile, which grows to about 2ft and bears star-shaped pink flowers, loved by bees and butterflies.

For different colours, go for 'Carmen', which provides rose red flowers, or 'Autumn Joy', which has 8in salmon pink flowerheads which turn rusty brown in autumn.

A newcomer worth trying, with burgundy leaves and lilac flowers, is S. 'Purple Emperor'.

In autumn sedums can be lifted and divided.

But leave the flowerheads on them which will add ornament to the winter garden.

GARDENING CHORES Lift and divide overcrowded, lacklustre perennials.

Continue to lift and overwinter tender perennials such as geraniums when they have finished flowering.

Trim back established roses to avoid wind damage. Tie in new shoots on climbers and ramblers.

Rake the lawn to remove thatch and aerate the lawn by making holes with a garden fork and then spreading sharp sand over the area.

Continue to harvest and store apples.

Sow sweetpeas in the coldframe.

Continue to plant spring bulbs.

Spread compost on vacant soil and work it in with a fork.

Take cuttings of hydrangeas, heathers and crysanthemums.

Reduce watering in the greenhouse.

Cut down asparagus and mulch.

CAPTION(S):

FALL TO GRACE: Sedum
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 30, 2001
Words:838
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