A beautiful lawn does not come without some effort. Depending
upon what type of soil you have, the amount of effort will
vary. For instance when raising trees and shrubs, sandy or a
gravel base soil is great. Landscape plants like well drained
soiled. A lawn on the other hand is different. Lawn grasses
grow constantly throughout the growing season, and need an
ample supply of both nutrients and water. Regular watering and
fertilization is required to keep a lawn beautiful.
If you're lucky enough to have a lawn that was originally
planted in good rich topsoil, you won't have to work near as
hard as somebody like me, who has a lawn that is planted in
sandy gravel. The soil at our house has little nutritional
value, nor does it have the ability to retain any amount of
moisture. By mid May my lawn starts drying out. It is very
difficult for us to keep our lawn looking nice.
Lawns are one area where a little clay in the soil is a good
thing. Or course standing water is not good, but having soil
that has the ability to retain some moisture is helpful. If
you happen to be installing a new lawn, this is something to
consider. Add lots of organic matter before you install your
new lawn if you have sand or gravel.
Because most lawn grasses grow so vigorously, they need
additional amounts of nutrients added in order to stay looking
nice. Just use one of the four step programs offered by the
fertilizer companies. Most of these programs also include weed
control along with the fertilizer. Here in the north we
basically have two concerns with weeds in our lawns.
Crabgrass can be a problem, and I do consider it a weed. In
order to control crabgrass you must use a pre-emergent
herbicide that will prevent the crabgrass seeds from
germinating. In order for this herbicide to be effective you
must apply it early in the spring while the soil temperature is
still below 45 farenheight.
Broadleaf weeds such as Dandelions are another problem,
although fairly easy to control with a broadleaf weed control.
Most broadleaf herbicides are mixed in with the fertilizers,
and must be applied when the grass and weeds are damp. The wet
foilage will cause the herbicide to stick to the weed, giving
the herbicide time to be absorbed by the weed. Once absorbed
the herbicide translocates through the weed plant and kills it
These types of herbicides are considered "selective" since they
seem to know the difference between a grass plant and a weed.
That's why they only kill the broadleaf weeds and not the grass
However, many people have different kinds of thick bladed grass
in their lawn such as quack grass, this stuff is on the ugly
side, and can really detract from a lawn. The problem is, it
is still in the grass family, and "selective" herbicides leave
it alone because it is a card carry member of the grass
family. So what's a person to do?
In order to get rid of these thick bladed grasses you must use
a "non-selective" herbicide, and "non-selective" herbicides
don't care who they kill. Well, at least that's true in the
plant kingdom. When you use a "non-selective" herbicide you
must understand that everything that you spray is going to die,
but it really is the only effective way to rid your lawn of
thick bladed grasses.
This type of treatment is effective if you have isolated areas
that contain wide bladed grasses. You'll have to spray all the
grass in the area, then reseed with good quality grass seed.
My herbicide of choice for this type of spraying is RoundUp.
It is believed that RoundUp does not have any residual effect,
which means that it does not linger in the soil. That means
that the new grass seed or the young grass plants will not be
affected by the herbicide.
Being a non-selective herbicide you must be careful when
spraying, making sure that the spray does not drift onto other
plants or lawn areas that you do not want to kill. To keep the
spray from drifting adjust the nozzle so that the spray pattern
is narrow with larger spray droplets. You do not want a fine
atomized spray if there is danger of spray drift. It also
helps to keep the pressure in the sprayer as low as possible.
Pump the sprayer a minimum number of times, to keep the
pressure low. You just want enough pressure to deliver the
spray. Buy a sprayer just for herbicides and mark it as such.
You never want to spray plants with a sprayer that has been
used for herbicides.
Once you have sprayed the area you want to kill, wait three
days before doing anything else. After a period of three days
the grasses that you sprayed may not look any different, but if
they have been properly sprayed, they will die. It takes three
days for the herbicide to translocate throughout the entire
plant, then the plants will die. So even though the weeds and
grass plants look fine, you can start digging and chopping and
not worry about them growing back.
If you happen to be installing a new lawn, make sure you spray
all the weeds and thick bladed grasses before you start. Once
you have the lawn installed, you sure don't want to go through
all the trouble of killing areas of your lawn and reseeding.
If you make sure that all of these undesirables have been
killed before you start, you'll be way ahead of the game.
When selecting grass seed, you should always use a blend that
is recommend for your area. Here in the north a popular blend
contains fine bladed perennial rye grass, fescue, and blue
grass. Keep in mind that it takes blue grass seeds 28 days to
germinate, while most perennial rye grasses germinate in 5 or 6
days, so you never want to plant a lawn that is 100% kentucky
blue grass. Before the blue grass seeds have a chance to
germinate, every kind of weed imaginable will already be
actively growing in your lawn. With a blend, the faster
germinating grasses come up quick, and act as a nurse crop for
the slower germinating seeds. Having a blend also gives you
some protection in case some new pest comes along that attacks
certain types of grasses.
People often ask if they have to have their lawn hydro-seeded
in order for it to be nice. The answer is no. Hydro-seed is
not some kind of magic formula. It is nothing more than a
fancy way to apply grass seed. A hyrdo-seeder is just a
machine that mixes water, grass seed, fertilizer and mulch into
a slurry that is sprayed onto your lawn. The ingredients are
exactly the same that you would use if you seed by hand, with
the exception of the mulch. And contray to popular belief,
hydro mulch is no better than good old fashioned straw. In my
opinion straw is a much better mulch. The primary advantage to
hydro-seed is that the grass seed is thoroughly soaked before
it is applied, which assures germination. That's a huge
advantage if your seeding along a freeway where it is not
practical to wet the seed after it has been applied. At your
house, it really doesn't mean much. Hand seed works just fine.
With either method, you still have to water just as much once
the seeding is done. Many people are lead to believe that
hydro-seed doesn't have to be watered as much as hand seed.
This is a huge misconception. If you fail to water hydro-seed
once it is applied, it will still germinate and little tiny
grass plants will appear. But just a few hours without water
on a hot day, and those little tiny grass plants will wither
and die. This is a big problem because once the seed has
germinated, it is spent. All the water in the world will not
make that spent seed produce another grass plant. Hydro seed
has it's benefits, but for the residential lawn it's not all
Why do I claim that straw is a better mulch than hydro-mulch?
Think about how the hydro-mulch is applied. It is mixed with
the seed, fertilizer and water as a slurry, and sprayed on the
lawn. The mulch has not been applied over top of the seed
which is how mulch is supposed to be applied, it is all mixed
together. Some of the seeds are under the mulch, and some of
the seeds are on top of the mulch. Mulch can't do much good
when the seeds are resting up on top of it. They might as well
be sun bathing!
Now think about the process of hand seeding. The seed is
spread on the soil, then you should take a push broom and drag
it backwards over top of the seeded area. This applies a very
thin layer of soil over most of the seeds. Then you spread the
straw over top of the soil. The pieces of straw are scattered
in all directions, with many of them criss-crossing each
other. Remember the movie, "Honey I shrunk the Kids"? This is
what it's like to be a grass seed under a mulch of straw. As
the sun works it's way across the sky the grass seeds actually
receive filtered sunlight. Enough sun to warm the seeds so
they grow, but also enough shade to protect the tender young
grass plants. As the grass plants grow, they also raise the
mulch with them to a degree, providing additional shade for the
seeds that haven't germinated yet. The shade that straw mulch
provides also helps to retain the mositure around the seeds.
Another trait of hydro-seed is that as the slurry dries, it
becomes a blanket over the lawn. In the event of a heavy
rainfall, running water tends to get under this blanket and
carry it away, leaving big areas with no seed at all.
With hand seeding, each seed is independent, and they fall
between the nicks and crannies of the soil. In the event of
heavy rain, the running water must be severe enough to wash the
soil away before the seeds can be moved.
I've installed hundreds of lawns using both techniques, for the
difference in cost I'll take the hand seeded lawn any day.
About The Author
If you have questions for Mike McGroarty visit his website,
http://www.freeplants.com and post them on the message board
where you can learn lots of gardening tips and communicate with
other gardeners. While at his website you can learn how to
start your own profitable backyard nursery. If you would like
a copy of Mike's booklet, "The Secret of Growing Landscape
Plants from Scratch", send .00 to: Garden Secrets, P.O. Box
338, Perry, Ohio 44081
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