Friday, 21 December 2012

Lawn Problems

 The Trouble With Grass

       Two questions which keep occurring to me are: 'why do footballers constantly spit?' and 'why don't they hurt themselves when they slide on their knees in saluting their own brilliance after scoring?' These conundrums have bothered some of the best minds for years without a satisfactory answer -even Einstein gave up and turned towards simpler matters like relativity. Likewise I've spent many hours pondering until, in a flash of blinding inspiration, it came to me. There is only one answer to both questions: they spit so that when they slide on their knees they are cushioned on a protective sea of goz. Proof of this can be seen in the fact that teams on a good run spit more than the ones destined for the drop: the greater the likelihood of scoring, the more protection is needed. Come to think of it, Einstein could probably come up with a pretty good equation for that.

Organic lawn-mower (Picture courtesy of daughter who runs a national archive of sheep pictures)

      No-one seems to pay much consideration to the grass though. The general perception is that grass is grass and you can do anything to it and it will still bounce back. This is only true to a point. Grass is the same as most of the things in the garden in that it is a plant. Unlike most plants though, it will tolerate being cut down regularly, walked on and footballed on to quite an amazing degree. The gardening experts on TV will blithely advise scarification, aeration and top dressing on an annual basis to remove a build up of detritus on the surface, allow air to the roots and  improve growing conditions. This is fine for the experts paid by the TV companies.They  wave a rake around to the camera then retire to their mansions, clean their carefully dirtied hands and leave gardeners to do the proper work. However this can be a big job, especially if you've got a sizable lawn and are working, so it sometimes suffices to simply treat the areas most used: the route to the washing line, shed  and so on - the rest will usually look after itself with only the occasional blitz.

A half-decent lawn is an effective foil to the beds

      Thatch - a surface build up of dead grass, moss, leaves and other detritus - can lead to water being held near the surface. This, in turn, result in grass roots  growing shallowly  in order to exploit it and when a drought (remember droughts?) comes along, there are no deep roots to reach water reserves lower in the soil. Removal of thatch can be achieved by dragging a spring tine rake through it, but use of an electric scarifier makes the job a lot easier and does away with the days in bed recovering.

      One of the main causes of lawn problems is the gardener's wish for a bowling green sward, leading to the grass being cut to about a quarter of an inch. This doesn't take into account the fact that bowling greens have been created using certain varieties of grass, mainly bents and fescues, which react happily to being close-shaved. However, most lawns consist of other grasses which suffer if cut lower than an inch. Ignoring this leads to poor growth and the inability to compete with moss and weeds. Walking on frozen lawns can cause brown, footprint shaped, marks in the grass, because the weight causes the grass stalks to break off at the base. It will probably recover, but is a classic example of the dangers of cutting to closely.

      But coming back to footballers: why do they pull their shirts over their faces when sliding around after scoring? Is it to show off their tattoos or hide the agony when their knees hit a patch the goz missed? Answers on a postcard, please.

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