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Getting the grass greener at home

Traditional garden design has suggested elements that our first garden might likely include. This is probably due to a vague recollection of featured gardens in Architectural Digest or a movie filmed in England. Such musings are replete with a vast acreage of emerald green grass — croquet, lawn chairs and children’s swing sets complete the image.

If a green lawn is appealing to you, it is simple to grow your own from seed. Besides water, all grass requires is sunlight, the right sort of prepared soil and the appropriate seed.

Lawns sown in the fall are more successful than those sown at other times of the year. The reasons are obvious enough: Moderate temperatures allow for rapid seed germination and the new lawn enters the winter encountering little competition from weeds. Autumn days provide ideal sunlight and warmth and as this week bore witness, there is even the possibility of early rainfall.

Although our temperate locale and the current availability of water allow the use of cool-season grasses, like bluegrass and bent grass, I recommend the tall fescues (Southland’s Marathon is a well-known brand), because they require less water (as mandated by the Water District) and stay green year-round.


A good lawn always begins with a good soil preparation for the grass roots. In Laguna, I generally recommend adding good quality compost and the addition of both gypsite and ammonium phosphate. These materials need to be thoroughly incorporated into the soil at a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Rake and roll the area thoroughly, insuring that all large lumps are broken up. The soil should be left as smooth as possible.

Early-morning sowing is advised to avoid afternoon winds. Rake the seed lightly into the soil. Apply a quarter of an inch layer of mulch over the seed to protect it from drying out and being eaten by birds. Keep the mulch dark with water until the grass begins popping up. Water gently so you don’t wash the seeds out! In four to six weeks, you’ll have a great lawn!

When travels find us away from Laguna, Catharine and I miss the ocean. It’s part of the lure that keeps us at the beach.

We have discovered, however, that a patch of grass in a secluded spot can usually be found anywhere. It is the green spaces that always seem to enhance our visiting experiences. It’s also true, however, that the grass is somehow greener back home. See you next time.


STEVE KAWARATANI is happily married to award winning writer Catharine Cooper. He can be reached at (949) 497-8168, or e-mail to