Let’s talk about grass
With more and more municipalities coming down hard on gravel- or rock-based gardens, now is a good time to explore grassier options. Most of us are seduced by the idea of the perfect lawn. The one that features in most products advertising gardening. Whether you are aiming for that ideal or not, consider maintaining your grass now, before winter sets in.
Before beginning, clear your lawn of any toys, furniture, fallen leaves and so forth. You want a clear canvas to operate on. Get a bird’s eye view of your grass. This may mean standing on a ladder or going to a top floor window. Now you can really assess your lawn - where is it yellow, brown, bald or mossy? These are the areas to concentrate on. Take pictures and in a couple of months revisit these to see what is working, or not.
Lawn care specialists emphasise aeration, scarification and fertilisation. And, for good reason - this holy trinity works! Aeration improves drainage and relieves soil compaction. Scarification - also known as dethatching - allows layers of dead grass or moss to be removed from the surface; opening up your lawn to more water, air and light. And fertilisation feeds both your soil and grass. Before beginning any of these tasks, mow your lawn. The growth process is slowing now that it is autumn. But a trim and tidy is recommended.
Start with aeration. Yes, you can buy specialist equipment, but generally, standard tools work just as well. A regular garden fork will do the job. Walk around, making holes with your fork approximately 10-15cm width apart and as deep. The neighbours may stare - just smile.
Next up: scarification. You can buy a scarifier, but if you have a small area to maintain a long handled rake works just as well. You’ll be surprised what you pull from the surface. Work in decreasing circles and compost what you rake to the top. Don’t rake too deeply. No soil should be disturbed, just dead grass, moss and other debris. Once finished, decide whether to reseed any areas of your lawn that are bald or patchy. Then pop an autumn or winter organic fertiliser on your grass, lightly sprinkle it with water and you’re done.
Turf lawns may seem perfect, but their environmental credentials are questionable. A good, low maintenance alternative is clover. Mixing clover with your grass can smother weeds and fertilise your soil whilst providing a more biodiverse environment for wildlife. Still not convinced? Then maybe chamomile is more your cup of tea. This plant can make a sweet smelling decorative lawn, but beware: it’s thirsty for attention and certainly the least hard-wearing surface in this line-up.
Herbs and more
After talking grass, we might as well widen the discussion to include herbs. Tidy your herb garden and begin drying them for use over the winter months.
Choose a dry day to collect your specimens - mid-morning is best. Cut only a third of the plant back, remove any yellow or dry leaves and shake it out. Air dry for approximately two to three weeks by hanging upside down in a cool, dry area of your home. Herbs with a low moisture content, like oregano, sage, rosemary and thyme, respond well to this method.
Once dry, gently crumble the leaves into airtight containers and store for up to a year. Delicate herbs with a high moisture content, such as basil, chives and tarragon, benefit from being frozen in water or oil and kept in your freezer in an ice cube tray until required. Want to sow herbs to reap at a later date? Chamomile, fennel, lovage, parsley and angelica can all be sown outside now.
Save any seeds. Letting crops go to seed - especially heritage or hard to find plant varieties - is a money-saving exercise that benefits pollinators too. Even if you don’t wish to save your seed to sow next year, use the varieties you have to make your own teas or spices. A new seed I’m saving this year is herb fennel. Collect on a dry day. For plants like fennel, hanging their heads upside down in a paper bag is an easy way to harvest falling seeds. Homemade fennel tea in winter is a treat and the seeds can be used in Italian and Asian dishes.
Many of us have used this year to experiment with growing cut flowers on our vegetable plots. Now is a good time to plan ahead and up our flower game by forcing springtime bulbs for the festive holiday. Think hyacinths, highly scented paperwhite daffodils, muscari (grape hyacinths), amaryllis and crocus. Stimulate that winter chill by storing your bulbs in a compost in a dark cool cellar from now until December. This way you can enjoy the sights and scents of spring even in the depths of winter.
See you in the garden next month.
Want a lIttle more?
No harvest in your garden, no problem. Thanks to this Luxembourg Initiative during the autumn, all fruiting trees that are available to pick from will be marked with a yellow ribbon in your commune.
Go pick your own flowers and vegetables in Luxembourg at one of the numerous farms here. One of my favourites is ‘A Lill - Haff Famill Peller’ in Keispelt. Check their Facebook page for more information.
Life’s too short to take gardening seriously. For all of us who lost tomatoes to blight, this sketch by Irish comedy group, Foil, Arms and Hog, is just for you.