Wednesday, 15 June 2011

151. An English lawn in the Pays Basque

As it was
15th June 2011. It's been a quiet week in the Pays Basque (with apologies to Garrison Keillor!) Starting a lawn from scratch here has proved trickier than I ever would have believed. When we moved in here in February 2008, the 'lawn' was a mess - it was choked with weeds and dandelions (pronounced dandellyons by Madame!) with many bare patches of hard-packed earth. I started pulling the weeds out one by one but, after I'd done a small area, I realised I was wasting my time as there was hardly any grass remaining after the weeds had gone. After looking at the price of turf, I thought it would be cheaper to re-seed. This meant digging it all over, putting in fertiliser and a lot of new soil, leveling it and re-seeding. So - it was out with the spades and the forks. Digging it over took me a week as just below the surface lay a tangled web of roots from the surrounding trees and bushes. Heaving out as many of the firmly-entrenched roots as I could manage filled ten 50 litre sacks - and lopped 5 years off my three score years and ten.. I put in a lawn edging strip to try and contain the lawn neatly at the borders and then I started building up the level with soil. I've long lost count of how many 50 litre sacks of earth and fertiliser I've put in but it's well over a hundred. I seeded and then stood back to watch and wait.

Lawns flourish in England's mild & well-watered climate but that of the Pays Basque is more challenging with its fierce summer sun and infrequent but torrential downpours of rain. 

Early results were illusory (right) - the lawn looked promising but it gradually faded and we ended up with dead burnt patches. I think the tree's roots were sucking up much of the water and so a couple of years ago, we had it taken out. As it came down, we discovered that it had been dying on us - much of it was rotten. After re-seeding with different grass and achieving mixed results I bit the bullet and turfed the lower half. Madame has been raking it all and putting liquid fertiliser on it and I think we must be doing something right as this year it's finally starting to look pretty good. We've also been making good use of the water barrel to keep newly sown patches well-watered. The birds remain a problem though. For some reason, they keep pecking holes in it. The little treasures!

Did a search on YouTube for a suitable clip about mowing lawns and came up with this.. (don't ask!)


Lesley said...

Our back of the house grassy area was 'coming along', then we got The Dog. So no chance of being a lawn it's his playground.
The video/advert. was fun - my husband always refers to the edge of un-cut leg hair as the hedge. Too much info. sorry.

Pipérade said...

Learn something every day! Two new euphemisms for me - 'mowing the lawn' and 'the hedge'!