Monday, April 2, 2018

Secrets of a Perfect Lawn

Not happy with the green patch in your garden?  Has your lawn dry patches or moss in the grass?  Here are some basics about healthy and attractive lawns:

The Foundation of a Great Lawn
Before sowing grass seeds or rolling out lawn carpets add one foot (ca. 30 cm) of loam soil on the ground - which is made up of a balance of sand, silt, and clay.  This is called loam soil.  Loam soil holds moisture but also drains well when you water the lawn.  It is able to retain nutrients and allow air flow, making it an ideal soil for plants.  You can also mix your own lawn soil with black soil, sand and peat moss (60:20:20).  You can even mix a bit chicken, cow or sheep manure into this mix.

Increase Organic Matter and Microbes
Applying fertilizer will not help if your soil does not contain an adequate population of microbes; you need billions of these microscopic organisms per handful of soil. Your soil must contain 2- to 5-percent organic material to have a thriving microbe population.

If you want to improve an already existing, ugly lawn, just spread this soil mixture on top of the old lawn - AFTER you dug out any weeds.  Or mow the lawn very low, and then cover the whole lawn with thick layers of cardboard and place a foot of soil over it, before you apply the seed.  Don’t worry, the soil will sink down over the next weeks to approx. 5 inches or less in height.  You can also over-seed as often as once or twice a year, in mid-spring or early fall for cool-season grasses.  Water well before and after over-seeding and for at least four weeks after the application - every single day!  Unless it is heavily raining.

Important:  Do NOT buy the so-called “topsoil” unless you like weeds in your yard… Topsoil is made out of ground excavation soil from new developments and contains roots, stones, weeds, etc. - finely ground up.

Choose the Right Lawn Seeds
Is your lawn all day in the full sun or most of the time in the shade?  For cool-season grass, fine and tall Fescues offer the most shade tolerance.  They require four hours of sun minimum to survive.

  • Tall fescue is a cool-season grass that does well in the hot, full sun.  Primarily used in northern provinces and states, tall fescue does not require a lot of maintenance and is generally resistant to drought and high heat.  The reason it can withstand dry conditions is that it has deep roots that draw water from the ground.  It also grows from seed quickly and usually germinates in 10 to 14 days.  Bermuda grass thrives in full sun and more southern dry areas - and even coastal areas.
  • Cool-season turfgrasses are those species with optimum growth at temperatures between 60 and 75°F (15.5 to 24°C).  Cool-season grass species include for example Fine Fescue, Tall fescue, Kentucky Blue Grass, etc.
  • Warm-season turfgrass is those species with optimum growth at temperatures between 80 and 95°F (27 to 35°C).  Warm-season grass species include Bahia Grass, Bermuda Grass, Carpet Grass, St. Augustine, and Zoysia Grass.

Benefits of Aeration 
Aeration allows grassroots to deeply penetrate the soil and for water, fertilizer, and organic matter to reach the roots. It’s controlling thatch buildup and reducing water runoff.
There are lots of aerator tools available from Lawn Aerator Shoes to Rolling Lawn Aerators to engine-driven aerators that can even be used as a tiller.  My favorite is a Rotary Cultivator which reduces back strain and can also be used in planting beds.

Watering Your Lawn
Under a tree, two things occur to create drier soil.  First, rainfall doesn’t always penetrate the tree canopy to reach the soil beneath.  Second, tree roots absorb available moisture. As a result, turf beneath a tree needs more frequent irrigation.  Water these areas deeply to encourage deep grassroots for a healthy lawn around trees.

Constrain Your Lawn
A lawn is spreading over time - preferable towards planting beds (as the soil is often better there). To avoid this you would either have to edge your lawn twice or three times a year at least or build a tight stone rim around the lawn and edge only once in a while.

Another Question:
Are lawns really necessary?  They require so much work and are really expensive if you consider the cost of soil, seed, water, fertilizer, mower, stones, for yard workers and lawn mower service.  Many garden owners who are too lazy to dig out weeds - before they are seeding - are buying poisons, such as glyphosate-containing, to de-weed their lawns. Those poisons are very dangerous for pets and children and are contaminating the soil, groundwater, and oceans or lakes.  Lawns are nothing natural, rather use to impress people how large your property is - not how beautiful a natural garden could be.

And then there is the aesthetic aspect of lawns versus blooming shrubs, water features, fruit-bearing trees with their lovely, enchanting spring colors and attractive perennial blooms that are offering fascinating showpieces almost year-round.  You decide!  Turn at least a part of your lawn into a sea of flowering shrubs to invite butterflies and birds. 



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