How to get a lawn worthy of Wimbledon – including the trick to perfect stripes

Wondering how those clever folk at Wimbledon create the perfect stripes and keep the courts playable and green? We can reveal all.

It’s not just the tennis at Wimbledon that provokes oohs and aahs. The beautifully manicured playing surfaces and ornamental lawns always impress – but how do they get them looking so good?

Ensuring that the grass is presentable but always playable is – not surprisingly – a full-time job undertaken by a specialist Court Services team. Meanwhile the flowers and planting are the work of head gardener Martin Falconer and his team, who have some great tips for a Wimbledon-inspired garden.

Players practice on the outside courts at Wimbledon The Championships 2022Credit: AELTC/Jed Jacobsohn

If it’s the grass you’re keen to emulate, we can reveal the process that goes behind the upkeep of Centre Court and beyond. We’ve also spoken to Steve Morgan, gardens and outdoor manager at the National Trust’s Tredegar House, and Andy Wain, head gardener at Euridge Manor, who share their secrets to a green lawn and perfect Wimbledon-inspired stripes.

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1. You’ll need the right type of grass

For a playing surface like Wimbledon, grass needs to be hardwearing

If you think any old turf will do when it comes to creating a Wimbledon-worthy garden, you’d be wrong. Depending on the look you want to achieve – and the job you want your lawn to do – you’ll need to lay a different type of grass, as Morgan explains.

“A rugby pitch, for example, is likely to be a rye grass, which is coarse,” says Morgan. “When you cut it, it can look a little bit lime green or even yellow. But after a week or two, it will turn dark green, which shows that it’s a bit thicker. The more thickness in the lawn, the more hardwearing it is.”

Not surprisingly then, Wimbledon’s courts are made of the tough stuff. According to the Wimbledon website: “Courts are sown with 100 per cent perennial rye grass (since 2001) to improve durability and strengthen the sward to withstand better the increasing wear of the modern game.”

Previously, a grass seed mix of 70 per cent rye to 30 per cent creeping red fescue was used, but The Sports Turf Research Institute in Yorkshire recommended the switch “to combat wear and enhance court presentation and performance without affecting the perceived speed of the court”.

2. Feed your lawn to make it greener

Only feed your grass when it’s growing

To keep your grass Wimbledon levels of green, Morgan recommends using a liquid feed at the times of year when the grass is growing – typically from early spring to mid November.

“You could also use liquid iron to give you a nice green lawn, but it will become very lush and soft, and not necessarily hardwearing.” That makes it a fine choice for an ornamental lawn, but not such a good idea if your grass doubles as a tennis court or football pitch.

Morgan also has a warning if you intend to use a granular feed. “If you use a granular feed, make sure it’s watered in well, otherwise it will dry up and scorch the lawn,” he adds. “I’ve seen that quite often through my career. People wonder why their lawns have gone black and scorched. More often than not, it’s because they have used a granular fertilizer and not watered it in properly.”

Love a green lawn? Pet owners beware

“If you have pets, particularly female dogs, try to deter them from using the lawn as a toilet, as that can affect the greenness of your grass, causing it to look yellow and scorched,” says Morgan.

This is down to the nitrogen urine contains. Small quantities of nitrogen are actually good for a lawn – for example, in a fertiliser. But larger amounts will turn the grass yellow.

And if you do see your pet relieving itself on the grass? “Pour lots of water on the grass immediately to dilute any urine and reduce any potential damage,” says Paul Hicks, marketing manager and lawn care expert at STIHL.

View of the practice courts at Aorangi ahead of The Championships 2023Credit: AELTC/Chloe Knott

3. You’ll need a mowing schedule

How often you cut depends on the type of grass

At Wimbledon, the mowing schedule and even the height to which the grass is cut varies through the year.

According to the official Wimbledon website: “The courts are constructed and seeded in April. The courts will then be cut once the new grass reaches 15mm [just over half an inch], and then cut three times a week in May to keep at 15mm.”

However, during the Championships, the height of grass is reduced to 8mm [a third of an inch] and it will be cut every day. Then, “for the remainder of the summer the courts will only be cut three times a week and watered as they need to mature and naturally firm up.” If you’re following their lead, don’t make this lawn watering mistake.

Morgan recommends a mowing schedule based on your grass type. “A fine turf lawn – for example, a bowling green or golf green – would be cut anywhere between three and five times a week in summer,” he says.

“For your average back garden, I’d recommend cutting it once a week to once a fortnight in summer, depending on the growth rate and grass mix,” advises Morgan.

“A municipal rugby pitch or football would only need cutting every three to four weeks, so you maintain a good covering of grass,” says Morgan. So if any children are prone to using your garden as their own Wembley Stadium, an upside is that you won’t have to mow too often.

4. Never mow the lawn when it’s wet

You could end up killing your turf

Just as rain stops play on Wimbledon’s tennis courts, that rule should also apply to your mowing schedule.

“When you mow with a rotary mower in the wet, it can actually tear the grass out of the ground rather than cutting the grass as it’s designed to do,” Morgan explains. “The grass is heavier because it’s wet, and sticks to the underside of the mower, so it will actually grab the blade rather than the blade cutting through it. This will tear it out of the ground and weaken the ‘sward’, which is what we call the grass plant.”

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exterior of Centre Court at the All England Lawn Tennis ClubCredit: AELTC/Bob Martin

5. For neat stripes, you’ll need the right equipment

A lawn mower with a rear roller and a strimmer are essential

Andy Wain is head gardener at Euridge Manor, a country house wedding venue in the Cotswolds. To create a beautifully striped lawn he recommends that, aside from a healthy lawn to work with, you’ll need a lawnmower with a rear roller, and a grass strimmer to keep the edges neat.

“In order to create beautiful stripes in your lawn, I recommend investing in a rear roller machine,” says Wain, who uses the Stihl RM545VR.

The strimmer, meanwhile, is essential for perfecting the overall look. “A striped lawn will look untidy if you don’t maintain the edges,” Wain warns. According to garden power tool manufacturer Stihl, “a half-moon edging iron is perfect for the job, and will give your freshly-cut lawn a manicured finish, as will using a nylon-cord trimmer to cut right up to paths and fence panels”.

A view through the flowers behind Court 8 looking towards Centre Court ahead of The Championships 2022Credit: AELTC/Chloe Knott

6. Mow stripes straight up and down

Have a slight overlap as you mow

To create stripes in your lawn, you’ll need to use a mower in conjunction with a roller – ideally a mower with a roller attachment. This pushes the blades of grass forward and presses them down as you trim them.

The stripe effect is actually the result of sunlight hitting and then reflecting off the grass. “The lighter shade comes from the blades of grass facing away from you and the darker shade is caused by shadows in the blades of grass facing you,” Wain explains.

To create perfect Wimbledon-style stripes, mow up and down your lawn in straight lines, with each stripe slightly overlapping so you don’t get unsightly tufts of grass in between. “By always following the same stripe pattern every time you mow, you will increase the definition of the stripes, as more of the grass will be pushed over,” advises Wain.

The tricks to a neat finish

To ensure your stripes are as neat as they can be, collect up any clippings immediately, either using a grass box attached to your mower, or by hand.

Also, don’t cut your grass too short, as otherwise you won’t have enough of a blade left to reflect the light and make the stripes ‘pop’. Wain suggests going no shorter than 30mm (1 inch).

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Amy Cutmore

Written by Amy Cutmore she/her

Published:

Amy Cutmore has been writing about interiors for more than 20 years, harking back to the days when glossy red kitchens, toile de Jouy and rag rugs were all the rage, and everyone wanted a Changing Rooms makeover. You’ll have seen Amy’s work at Britain’s biggest homes titles, including Ideal Home, where she served as Consumer, Technology and Group Digital Editor. She has also edited or written for Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, 25 Beautiful Homes, Real Homes, Gardeningetc, Inside Readers’ Homes, Inspirations for Your Home, Country House & Home, Top Ten Reviews, Trusted Reviews and Country Life.

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