Despite his Italian background, where concrete is king, Fabian De Angelis has become obsessed with having a good-looking lawn.
“Cleaning up the home after renovations in 2019 … it felt like growing a lawn was the next thing to do,” Fabian says.
“It’s kind of like being a greenkeeper at home now.”
After spending his week working in IT, Fabian says it is good to get outside on the weekend.
His lawn is in such great shape that people stop to admire it, slowing down in their cars or complimenting him as they walk past.
His next-door neighbour even asked if he could take over custody of their front yard.
“They’ve said please look after my lawn, so I do theirs as well,” he said.
“They are rapt. They bring me food, they bring me all sorts of things to say thank you.”
Lawn brings ‘joy’
As well as the satisfaction that comes from a maintaining a good lawn, Fabian has developed a love of older style lawnmowers.
He now has a total of 12 lawn care tools in his shed and garage, ranging from rusty cylinder mowers waiting to be restored, to new electric models, edge trimmers, groomers, and scarifiers.
“We all have a hobby,” he said.
“I restore older style cylinder mowers and bring them back to life.”
Cylinder mowers are heavier than rotary mowers, and have cylinders that give you lines like the MCG.
“The way that I explain it is if you went to the hairdresser would you rather the hairdresser hold your hair up in the air, grab a knife, and slash it with the blade? Or actually use some scissors?” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“A cylinder mower is cutting grass like scissors.”
Starting your lawn renovation
If you are just starting to give your lawn a bit of love, the first thing Fabian recommends is getting rid of weeds.
“I keep a bucket and knife out and when my kids are playing, if I’ve got a few minutes, I stab the weed with the knife or pull it out cold,” he says.
Once you’ve removed the weeds you will want to fill the area with grass, so the weeds don’t come back.
“If you choose a seed get a couch-type seed, rake it in — don’t just throw it with your hands, that’s why you get patches — give it a good raking, and give it a good 10 days of keeping it wet.”
Weekly water and mow
Depending on your climate and your grass variety, Fabian recommends watering once or twice a week once your lawn is established. Do less in colder months or if you have had rain.
“Don’t just put the hose on jet and point it out and think, ‘that looks great’,” he says.
“Put the hose on shower on full, and walk over it to give it a good drink.”
He also recommends regular mowing — as much as once a week or even more if you have time.
“If you mow your lawn every week, you can pretty much get around in 15-20 minutes [and] you’re done. It doesn’t actually take as long,” he says.
In colder states like Victoria and Tasmania, if you bring up the height of your mower in winter your lawn will be more resistant to frosts.
Monthly or yearly maintenance
Fabian fertilises his lawn once a month, with either a liquid or granular fertiliser.
Depending on how far down the rabbit hole you want to go, Fabian says you can also use “pre-emergents” in late autumn and early spring.
“They actually stop weeds from germinating, and there’s also another one that stops grubs from being born.”
Fabian believes it is also important to look after your tools, he recommends changing or sharpening the blades on your lawn mower once a year and getting the machines serviced.
“When you don’t get a nice cut on your lawn it leaves the blades rugged and open to disease,” he says.
Once you’ve got weeds under control and the grass is nice and thick, Fabian says lawn requires less work and water.
“Because you’re covering the soil underneath and it’s not drying out as quick … really you might only have to give it a good drink twice a week in those summer months,” he says.
Spring spruce up
For lawn lovers in southern states Fabian says winter can be a depressing time, because the grass goes into dormancy.
When the weather starts to warm up in spring, it is a good time for a refresh.
“We call it a lawn renovation, it’s usually after AFL grand final weekend (late September) for Victorians.”
Fabian removes all the dead yellow and grey grass and then cuts the lawn right down “as low to the dirt as you possibly can”.
He then uses a scarifier or a rake to clean the dead matter out, gives it a dressing of soil and then a water.
“Don’t be afraid of trial and error,” he says. “You’ll see it comes up as brand new grass.”