Lawn stars

Lawn expert David Hedges-Gower reveals how builders and gardeners collaborating can make all the difference when selling top quality homes.

When designing or building a high quality house, it’s important not to make the mistake often seen across some of the wealthier areas of the country – that’s to overlook the simplest, but most visually effective sales item, the landscaped garden lawn.

When someone decides to invest their wealth in a new build property, they expect every aspect of its design to have been planned and executed properly to ensure it is fit for purpose, and that includes the garden landscaping. They are choosing a house that will reflect the latest in modern lifestyle and modern thinking – and that’s why a quality house without a quality lawn is a big mistake.

First, let’s forget any bad press the lawn may have had in the past decade or so. All the main horticultural organisations and gardening media now agree that not only do British people still love their lawns, but they need them too. Harnessing this enthusiasm can be key to a successful development.

Remember the market: well-informed people are a sector of society that can afford the expenses of more environmentally aware living, and are people who like to boast about their responsible purchasing principles. This is a gift to the enterprising builder!

Sales blurb

What is your sales brochure going to say about the landscaping? If you go to the effort of laying a decent lawn, but then fail to include these USPs in your sales blurb, you’re missing out on vital advertisement.

For example, as acknowledged by the Royal Horticultural Society, the quality lawn in a new property will:

  • Keep your garden cooler in hot summers
  • Prevent localised flooding by maximising rainwater drainage
  • Impress visitors with the rich selection of colourful bird and insect life it attracts

Also remember to add: “It’s also easy to look after and provides simple, soothing colour all year round.”

That’s still only half of the story, however. To get a real edge on the competition you need to be able to boast a well-designed lawn, and you need to demonstrate that it is a quality lawn “built to last.”

Now, unless you are landscaping a country estate, the difference in cost between a shoddily-laid lawn of poor quality turf and that of a high quality garden, is minimal. But, even if it were to double the cost, being able to cite the species of grass, the nature of the ground preparation and the reason for the shape of the lawn in your sales blurb will make a huge positive impression on your highly discerning buyers. So, bearing all that in mind, here’s how you do it.

Designing the lawn

Normally carried out by the garden designer to a good standard, there are a couple of things to remember when designing a lawn. One, it helps if the lawn is flat and free-draining, and thought must go into water run-off areas, drainage interceptions or diversions. Two, trees and lawns rarely go well together (apart from both saving our environment), so design the lawn around any existing or planned trees.

Preparing the site

Most people won’t think about soil type unless a garden designer or landscaper of note is brought in. However, ensuring the sub-base has a fall or is free-draining is essential now as most drainage (non-disruptive at least) needs to be done before the lawn is finished. Sub base materials are often there already, so creating falls on the sub base or adding drains can pay dividends.

Choosing the turf

What makes good turf? Is it the most expensive? The cheapest? The greenest? Nowadays many leading turf suppliers sell direct to housebuilders, which has established industry standards, so the days of buying something from a farmer by the side of the road have largely gone.

However, most turf comprises a blend of natural grasses including the new kid on the block, ryegrass. While not an invasive, like Japanese Knotweed, it still grows quite differently to our native species. Thankfully, good lawn practices will enhance the natural species and make the blend work well into the future.

Laying the lawn

Preparation is key. Lay in a rush or in poor soil conditions and you’ll get poor results. However, turf generally likes to be laid on the same day as it arrives. Left rolled up it can create a yellow, diseased mess which will struggle to come back to some form of life, if at all.

Special attention must be made to keeping the edges ‘tamped down’ to ensure they knit together well, and to using boards to ensure your feet aren’t making depressions in the soft, fluffed up soil.

A pre-seeding fertiliser applied to the soil before the turf goes down will ensure greater root development. Also, make sure you’ve ordered more than enough turf to finish the job. There’s nothing worse than running a little short!

Finishing touches

Finally, one massively important tip: new turf needs regular watering. You should try to lay the lawn before you do all the final finishing and snagging. This gives you time to organise a simple sprinkler system, and make sure turf never dries out until it has properly knitted with the soil below.

You might not go to this trouble with a standard house, but if you want to convince upmarket buyers of the lifestyle they’re buying into, you need to show them a beautifully designed and laid lawn already looking vibrant and healthy.

It’s the finishing touches that help sell real quality, and a landscaped lawn is such an easy one to get right, if you just make the effort.

David Hedges-Gower is a lawn care specialist based in the UK