Gardening Advice

Lawn maintenance

Every garden should have a square of grass – a space for relaxation, play and colour which, alongside beds of flowers, adds contrast to the garden. But keeping your lawn beautiful requires a little maintenance work. Mowing, fertilisation, watering and scarification are all jobs that will give you a lawn worthy of an English country garden.

At Villandry, the lawns represent 20,000 m² of garden area. The space is divided into zones and an annual maintenance schedule identifying priorities has been put in place. Different areas are treated in different ways. Some lawns, depending on location, receive less intense mechanical working, limited fertilisation and moderate watering. All the lawned areas are cultivated organically, which means that they are not treated with chemical fertilisers or selective weed-killers. The showcase lawns near the pond receive five treatments with an organic fertiliser. We use the DCM brand (available from supermarkets and garden centres) in the form of small granules of organic matter of animal and vegetable origin. These elements are decomposed by subterranean activity and assimilated by the roots of the grass, unlike chemical fertilisers.

Mowing the lawns takes one day a week from March to November. For this operation, we use a ride-on lawnmower with a front deck together with small push mowers with rotating blades. For finishing the edges and around the lime trees, we use a string trimmer. These are now available with battery power for efficient, lightweight, quiet trimming. In summer, for the lawns with pride of place and the grass tennis court, we have two cylinder mowers, which provide a better quality of cut than a rotary mower. They form attractive alternating stripes, as seen in large stadiums. When the weather is particularly hot it is advisable to mow less frequently and to a greater length.

The watering is controlled by computer software which enables us to schedule watering for specific areas. The water comes from the pond, which serves as a reservoir and is fed by a stream. The schedule is updated every day to provide the necessary quantities of water for different areas and different weather forecasts. Watering takes place at night to limit evaporation.

October is the month when the lawns are worked mechanically. We carry out a process called scarification, which involves removing thatch and moss and cutting superficial roots. This may appear drastic given the quantity of waste removed by the scarifier, but the operation is necessary to help the lawn regenerate more strongly. In addition, this method limits the spread of weeds. We also drain the soil by piercing holes 12 cm deep, using equipment harnessed to a tractor. This operation relieves compaction in the soil, helps water drain away and improves rooting. Small areas damaged by the scarification process are reseeded. You can use commercially available grass seed.

A beautiful lawn with no chemical inputs is possible, but it will require some maintenance work throughout the year. For small areas, dandelions and other weeds can be removed with a knife; these adventive species need to be eliminated regularly. Clover and couch grass are more difficult to eradicate. Only scarification can limit their spread, but we tolerate them at Villandry as they do not detract from the aesthetic effect of our lawns.

Laurent Portuguez
head gardener 

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