LAWN RENOVATION PROJECT- Lee Kelly- Project Cleanslate
I work in a large multinational company as part of an Information Systems team and interact daily with many colleagues across the world. I live in a small village on the southern tip of Hartlepool in the North East of the UK called Seaton Carew. It’s a tiny place right on the beach with some lovely walks for dogs and I’m literally a few hundred metres away from the beach.
Ever since I was a little kid both of my grandfathers would spend time cutting the lawn and I recall both the smell as well as the stripes in the lawn and thinking when I get older that’s what I want in my garden. This nagging desire to make my lawns as good as they can be has stayed with me even though my wife reminds me constantly that when we were first married (27 years ago) – I was not that keen to cut the grass ;-(
Ignoring that blasphemous statement I really have been interested over the years to a point that surely must be unhealthy – you would not believe (honestly) how much lawn related content I have watched over the years (in some respects I really don’t want to start to calculate it). The ability to watch YouTube via my TV really started the bug around 15 years back and since then each year I really did enjoy looking after the lawn and learning more and more about it. I have over the years always had cylinder mowers except from the early years of house ownership – when I had a rotary (probably why I never wanted to cut the grass….). I purchased my first electric ATCO classic (12 inch) cylinder mower from Ebay for a great price when I moved into my current house over 20 years back and really enjoyed the quality of the cut vs the rotary and never really looked back since then.
Over the years I started to follow all the usual lawn content creators (Ryan Knorr, Connor Ward, Ben Sims, Lawncare Nut) but never really connected with them as they were not UK based. I recall I had seen a few early Danny Hibbert videos, but it seemed too far away from my attainment levels and as there was not much content it slipped through the net for a few years. Then one day I decided to join Instagram and decided to search for lawn stuff (as you do)……
I then went down multiple rabbit holes of Bentgrass vs Fescues vs Rye etc etc – we’ve all seen the golf courses on the tv and wanted it I’m sure in our own gardens. Then some more of Danny Hibbert's content appeared which ticked all of my box’s
1. UK Based
2. The look I was after
3. The advice I needed
So, after deciding (with my wife in full agreement) that “we” really needed to invest in a new mower in the middle of the first lockdown period in 2020 and the need to renovate the garden at a later date I decided to buy a new Allett Liberty 35 Battery mower online as we had some spare money as not going on holiday due to Covid – the ease of use and having no longer a cable to worry about was a big draw to me. The order was placed with an online supplier and I waited patiently.
Project Cleanslate had begun !!
In the meantime, I also started to draw up plans for the garden makeover – a covered BBQ area which would allow me the ability to cook outdoors all year round, something that really interests me also – I found a picture of someone’s bbq area on the internet which I really liked the look of and used it as the inspiration for mine. With the help of a family friend who knew someone who could source and cut the wood for the structure (Matt — Abundant Earth ) we decided that we would start from a blank canvas for the grass area and follow the Hibbert step by step video guides to the letter. Even though my garden is only around 85 square metres in total it did get costly very quickly but as I had committed to doing it, I could not stop once started – and boy am I glad I did continue as what I have today still blows my mind when I go outside. Yes, people have bigger gardens and people have better outlooks but to me the combination of the 100% pure dwarf rye grass lawn that’s well tended alongside the outdoor cooking area I have hits all the right buttons for me and my family’s needs.
So, we stripped away the old decking in the corner and then my friend started to lay the paving for what would eventually become my outdoor cooking area. As the wooden structure started to be erected, I could finally see my drawn-up plans becoming a reality which was a real kick to me.
In the meantime, my thoughts turned to the grassed area.
I first stripped the garden of the old turf by hiring out a turf cutter after I had initially killed it using roundup a few weeks beforehand (this part was quite hard as I had spent years looking after it up to this point and then just killing it and knowing I was going to strip it kind of felt a bit harsh) and with the help of my son we set about ripping it up. In typical fashion the day we decided to do it, it had the most amount of rain for a long while although the forecast was a decent one with minimal rain (the joys of living by the seaside I suppose).
Nonetheless we managed to get it rolled/collected up and waited for my father-in-law and brother-in-law to pick it up with a trailer and pickup – thankfully they live on a farm and could dispose of the old turf easily for me. I purchased and brought in a new sandy loam soil as well as wooden batons to border the lawn. I followed Danny Hibbert’s advice to the letter and used Barenbrug Extreme Green ryegrass seed.
Once my new soil had arrived on the driveway, I knew I was in business and set about barrowing the soil round the back into little mounds. After then moving this around and a lot of heel and toe’ing in I finally managed to get a level surface to allow me to be able to have a fine seedbed.
A great tip from watching Danny’s videos was the introduction of using the horticultural blankets – these really helped to keep in the moisture and stop the birds feeing on the seeds in the early days. I’m 100% sure that without this tip it would have made my life harder as it was almost high summer when I had gotten to this point (I recall many people saying I should wait for autumn or do it in spring but with the addition of the blankets it was turbo charging the growth allowing for a nice moist warm place for my seeds). Especially as I could water the blankets morning and night and the moisture would be then trapped in the seedbed.
Literally within a few days I started to see growth – every day I woke up and could see really massive growth spurts – I did experience some spots which did not catch up the same as others but on the basis my garden is north facing and I suffer a lot of shade I wasn’t too worried about it – it will fill in I was assured by watching Danny’s videos constantly – sure enough he was right.
Once all the grass had grown in, getting to a point where I wanted to cut it – it was very hard to not unleash the cylinder mower straight away but following Danny’s advice from a video I used a lightweight rotary machine. This was a Greenworks battery powered rotary sourced from Ebay for a steal at £60 including another battery which I bought specifically so I could swap out batteries from my Allett cylinder to the lightweight rotary depending on season/type of cut I wanted).
I’ve since purchased a leaf blower that also works using the Greenworks battery system that all stemmed from the Allett mower I bought – so now I am completely electric and I have to admit – I love it – no cables/wires etc – the freedom to go anywhere without worrying about electrocuting myself is kind of liberating 😉.
Then the day came when the lawn had filled out enough to cut with the Allett and it was a momentous day – I still recall looking back at it thinking how far we had come in a fairly short space of time but how cool it looked to me (cool and grass don’t normally go together but in my world, they do). The ability to choose the correct height of cut to achieve the look I was going for was exceptional.
This year I will really look at taking the lawn to another level once again now that it has matured over the seasons and with the help of the products that Danny Hibbert has started to sell my lawn game has never been so strong – which is spurring me on to go to heights I never would have thought possible.
I always keep the Mantra of the 3 P’s that Danny preaches (Products, Perseverance & Patience) – they’ve not let me down yet.
As part of the journey we went on I wanted to ensure I logged all the steps for posterity and here you can find a Google Photos album that I created in celebration of “Project Cleanslate”. This contains pictures from 20 years ago when we first moved in and the evolution all the way up to today.
Link to album here > https://photos.app.goo.gl/2t8cLnPTEhAkqd7f9
I have also started to post on Instagram all content for the garden and BBQ etc
Would I do it again – 110% !!!
Thanks so much to Lee for taking the time to write this blog- an incredible renovation project which he has documented beautifully with the photo album.