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The best turf I’ve ever seen belonged to Mrs. Brisket-Bartizan. The sward stretched to the horizon in all directions and the greenery was lush, flat, weed free and never ending. It stayed in great condition because she paid me to keep it that way. I’ve asked Attila for some encouragement or support here at home but so far this has amounted to “Go on girl, get on wi’ it.” This from a person who gets hay fever from just looking at a mower.
Lantana (shrub verbena) still flowering in the conservatory
Lantana (shrub verbena) still flowering in the conservatory

If you dish up some tender loving care now, both the man in your life and the grass in the back garden should survive for longer. Firstly, whizz around with the mower on a high cut or sweep up the leaves; don’t let them sit there over winter, or you’ll get patches which will persist until next summer. The trees are mostly naked and won’t put many zits all over the place if you do it now. Gather the swarf into small local heaps and bag them up promptly. A while ago I had an apprentice who despite my suggestion, insisted on collecting the bits into one giant mound. Each time he turned his back, a zephyr breeze would ruffle the pile and send him back to square one. He propelled himself back into the fray with flapping arms and a look of grim determination on his face. I admired his resolution but his wind dance drove me into the shrubbery, the better to conceal my chortles.
Sempervivum (houseleeks)
Sempervivum (houseleeks)

Clear the worst of the moss and thatch with a spring tined rake if you are a masochist, or use a scarifier if you tend towards pragmatism. You want to maintain your enthusiasm for the maximum amount of time and that requires minimising the effort required. Still got some energy left? Aerating will use that up and relieve compaction, thus helping the grass to deal with both drought or water logging. Get a garden fork and thrust it into the turf, four to six inches (10 – 15cm) deep. Waggle it around, remove and repeat until jaded. I do a different part each year, paying most attention to the paths where foot traffic is more frequent.
Cortaderia selloana (pampas grass)
Cortaderia selloana (pampas grass)

If you remain thirsty for punishment, make a mixture of loam, sharp sand and compost in a big bucket. Spread it over the spiked lawn and brush it into the holes that you have just made. Sprinkle some of the stuff into dips and eventually these will level out. Don’t add fertiliser, since dormancy is just around the corner. Save this for spring, by which time you should have recovered from your current exertions. On a day like today, with gale force winds and driving rain, it took substantial bribery to cheer me on to chase about with my vision fixed firmly on the future. My husband brought me tea, biscuits and flattery throughout the process. When I retired with an irregular gait, ravaged complexion and eyes like gooseberries, it was to find supper cooked, Bach playing on the stereo and a bath full of hot, scented water awaiting. Hi ho Silver.

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