Raised beds

As I have said, I am dismantling the garden. The original layout, with separate raised beds, was quite attractive (I thought), although the concrete blocks did look a little industrial where they weren’t softened by the planting. However, at the end of 2011 I was planning a redesign that would give me more planting space, a project that events interrupted. The result was a mish-mash, cobbled into the closest thing I could manage to a conventional garden. A neglected year later, it was a bit of a mess.

It may not longer be necessary (fingers crossed!) but when I came home I decided to turf over the whole thing bar a border at the edge, leaving prospective house buyers with something they could understand when they came to see the house. And so I looked in to returning a vegetable patch to a lawn, something people must have to do every one in a while. Perhaps they get older and want a lower maintenance garden, or they have kids and want somewhere for them to play, or simply move into a house with a veg patch they don’t want.

The most important step in laying a new lawn (whether from turf or seed) is to prepare the ground properly. If you’re turfing over a veg patch then a lot of this work will already have been done – the soil will have been improved and the perennial weeds removed along with all the stones. There shouldn’t even be a problem with the pH, although if you’ve just moved in, it would be worth checking. All that remains is to rake the surface to a fine tilth, levelling it out as you go. Then you gently tread the soil to firm it down – but do this when the ground is dry, so that you don’t damage the soil structure.

Two or three days before you buy your turf, or it’s due to be delivered, water the area well so that the soil is wet down to a depth of 75 cm (3 inches) – given the weather we’ve been having lately, the rain may take care of that for you!

To lay turf, work from boards – it stops your feet making indentations. Having a bucket of sandy soil to hand is useful to help level out the turves; if they’re too high you can just scrape out some of the soil instead. Butt the turves up to each other nicely to avoid gaps, and once you’re finished use a rake or a brush to work sandy soil or compost into the joins to ensure they knit together.

The advantage of using turf over seed is that you get an almost instant lawn, but it’s getting a little late in the season to lay turf now (it’s best done in the autumn, but can be done in early spring). If you lay turf in spring then it needs to be kept well-watered to help it establish in the drier (!) conditions.

It will be odd if the garden has to revert to grass – I removed a very ropey lawn when we moved in, all those years ago. But either way, I know that I’m leaving the soil in far better condition, and for a gardener that’s something to be proud of.