Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lawns

Lawn Growing Tips

* under construction...completed June 15 2012

* photo taken on Sep 10 2011 in Columbia, MD


* photos taken on Aug 27 2011 @ Scott Arboretum @ Swarthmore College, PA




- Control grubs with Milky Spore rather than toxic chemicals. Its safer and much longer lasting.

- Gophers, voles and moles are animals that can burrow in lawns and sometimes eat the roots. They can be controlled by concentrate that includes Castor Oil which is a natural extract but taste so bad it will make the gophers want to find another lawn to tunnel in. Water in after application. Such extract is sold by High Country Gardens which ships all over the U.S.

- Using pre-emergent Crabgrass control during early spring is much easier than trying to get rid of Crabgrass once it invades and overtakes a lawn.

- Seed lawns during early autumn, pre-emergent Crabgrass control can kill grass seed if both are applied during spring.

- Use other groundcover ( not lawns ) on sites with deep shade or tree roots

- Cool Season Lawns generally go dormant during hot summer weather, then green up in fall. If you do irrigate during summer, give a deep watering of 1 + inches, once a week.

- Mow grass at heights of 2.5 + inches, to shade the roots, promoting drought tolerance and sharply decreasing ( up to 80 percent ) the germination of weeds and crabgrass.

' A lawn generally needs 1 pound of Nitrogen per 1000 square feet. If you get fertilizer on sidewalks and roadways, sweep it up to prevent the run off from damaging nearby watersheds.

' 3 smaller fertilizer applications ( around Sep 1, Oct 1 & Nov 1 ) will prevent alot of the fertilizer from running off and being wasted as would happen with larger applications.

- Phosphorus is mostly needed to root establishment on new lawns. Older established lawns do not need much of it. Low phosphorus fertilizers prevent phosphorous runoff which damages streams and lakes by causing massive algae blooms.

- Applying fertilizer to frozen ground is pointless and applying during hot summer weather or while drought dormant can burn the roots and ruin the lawn.

- Close to 5% of air pollution in the U.S. comes from lawn mowers. Using dwarf turf grasses requires less maintenance and helps prevent air pollution.

SEEDING NEW LAWNS

- best time to seed is early spring or early autumn.
- seed Tall Fescue at rate of 8 or 9 pounds per 1000 square feet.
- Remove existing vegetation ( Roundup 10 + days in advance recommended ) and prepare a level seed bed to 3 inches deep ( till soil and add topsoil if needed ).
- Cover lightly with a light mulch of compost ( up to 0.25 inches deep ). Peat moss ( avoid peat moss however on soil that is already acidic ) or straw can also be used.
- light mulch of peat moss, straw or compost will increase germination.
- water with sprinkler 2 times daily until grass is established.

OVERSEEDING EXISTING LAWN
- Cut lawn short ( 1 to 2 inches ) then rake ground to loosen soil and increase seed to ground contact.
- use light mulch of peat moss or compost where there are areas of open ground large enough to not be shaded by existing grass.
- water with sprinkler 2 times daily until grass is established.


MOWING

The height of mowing is extremely important for a healthy lawn. Cutting a lawn too short will a) reduce photosyntheses ( the plants means of producing food for growth ) by reducing leaf surface b) increasing sunlight hitting the soil, thus increasing evaporation and scorching the roots. Lawns cut too short are far less drought tolerant and turn brown earlier during heatwaves. c) increase growth of weeds as many weeds such as Crabgrass need sunlight to germinate. d) weaken the turf, making it more shallow rooted and disease prone. * A LAWN CUT TOO SHORT IS NOT A HEALTHY LAWN!!!

Letting a lawn grow too tall, such as over 4 inches, may also cause problems. Many turfgrasses tend to fall over when uncut for too long, especially when growing in less than full sun. Turf falling over will often mat down and also decrease photosyntheses weakening the turf. Also if left too long before cutting, you'll end up with alot of straw when you do cut, also blocking sunlight from the turf and weakening your lawn. Letting your lawn grow too tall, then cutting more than 1/3 at once, will stunt your turf.

* an early spring cut with the blade set shorter will remove alot of the dried leaf blades left over from winter and renovate the turf. This cut should be done before the turf fully greens up. Your early spring lawn fertilizer application can be spread immediately after. All following cuts should be done at the normal recommended height unless during extreme heat in the middle of summer, you can let it grow a bit taller before it goes seasonally dormant.

* Grass clippings usually decompose rapidly as they are nearly 80% water...unless excessive enought to cause thatch, leaving the clippings will fertilize the lawn naturally. You will not need to fertilize your lawn because your recycling nutrients, however I'll still fertilize during early spring and autumn since I'm a fanatic about showing off a healthy natural lawn and some nutrients will eventually be lost due to leaching, especially where rainfall is heavy. Having a bit of clover mixed into your lawn is also beneficial as clover are among many plants in the Legume family that manufacture nitrogen in their roots thus enriching the soil. I've seen many lawn/clover mixes and most often they are very healthy. Too many artificial lawn chemicals, especially insecticides will kill of healthy organisms and earthworms, slowing decomposition of lawn clippings thus increasing thatch. A chemically addicted lawn with no earthworms, will be in larger need of aeration.

Cutting your lawn when it is not wet gives your lawn a better cut as the turf won't flatten and mat down from your lawn mower tires. Make sure the blades on your lawn mower are sharp as dull blades will tear rather than cut the grass blades. This will weaken your lawn as the torn blades will need to recover before the lawn can grow again. A lawn cut with a dull mower will likely not be the lushest lawn on the block, due to the browned or grayish tips. Frequently change your walking patterns when cutting your lawn, so you don't get tire ruts or lines of knocked down grass.

It is important to keep your mower in good repair. Empty gas from mower if you know it will sit for over a month, as the gas will eventually begin to break down or worse get condensation water in it or turn gummy. Old gas or water at the bottom of the gas tank or a carburetor damaged from such, is a frequent reason a lawn mower will either not want to start or not start at all. During the last cutting of the year, run your mower until it runs completely out of gas. Do not refill until spring. Clean oil is also important to keep the lawn mower running smoothly. No oil, old oil or oil that gets contaminated with dirt, will shorten the life of your engine. After your last cut of the year, drain out the oil. Remember to refill the oil before your first spring cut. Keep the air filter clean, or the engine will not get enough air and as a result perform poorly.

I prefer a good old fashioned push mower with wider wheels ( thus less tire ruts or grooves ) without all the extra features. More luxury features usually mean more repairs down the road.

WATERING

A healthy turf grass of Fescue of Bluegrass should be watered during the growing season deeply once a week if natural rainfall of 1 or more inches does not occur ( setting out a rain gage during storms and irrigation is a great way to confirm that your lawn is getting the correct amount of water ). During periods of extreme heat during summer, the lawn may naturally go dormant and turn brown. Watering excessively during a heatwave may make your lawn somewhat greener but can also encourage disease problems and hike your waterbill. Excessive watering will also encourage shallower roots, making your lawn less drought tolerant in the future. Think of your lawn as the dude that does steroids and needs to keep taking steroids because his body stops producing testosterone naturally. Overwater your lawn - you will have a lawn that needs more water to survive. Typically if a lawn goes dormant during a heatwave or drought; it will green up quickly after cooler wetter weather as long as the turf was healthy and vigorous to begin with. Lawns that are scalped ( cut too short so that the soil is baking in the sun ), invaded with weeds or damaged by grubs will not recover well after no matter how much water they get. Turf typically shows signs of dryness once it starts turning a blue tint or shows footprints after you walk. The best time to water a lawn is during sunrise, evening is also good if only once weekly. A lawn that is too frequently wet before dusk that stays wet overnight can become more disease prone. Early autumn is an important time in the life of the lawn. During early autumn, cooler weather will trigger cool season grasses to grow vigorously, store food and prepare for winter. Though autumn in much of North America means moister conditions, fall drought can occur. Autumn drought can be detrimental for turf grass as it interrupts one of its most important growth cycles. A weekly deep irrigation during autumn is essential for cool season grasses if drought conditions do occur.

TRADITIONAL TURF GRASSES

BELLA BLUE GRASS
A dwarf blue-grass sold by High Country Gardens that reaches only about 3 inches in height thus needing mowing very rarely to not at all. Very attractive; it greens up very early in the spring and remains green late into the fall. It requires only 0 to 1 mowing per year. Bella Blue Grass is very tolerant of foot traffic.
It thrives in anything from full sun to moderate shade ( much more shade tolerant than Kentucky Blue Grass ). It is also deep rooted ( up to 3.5 feet deep ) and drought tolerant ( using about 30% less water than Kentucky BG ). It requires 30 to 40 inches of precip per year.
It is sold as plugs which are planted 6 inches apart.
Bella Blue Grass hardy zones 4 to 8 and thrives in much of Canada as well as the U.S. as far south as central California to northern New Mexico, southern Kansas to Tennessee to Virginia. Thrives on any well drained soils ( do not plant on swampy sites ).
BENTGRASS A low, creeping turf that spreads across the surface by runners. It very often annoys homeowners in cool climates, when it invades fescue and bluegrass turf forming patches. Bentgrass is nearly impossible to rake or dethatch, as the runners will pull up. Bentgrass is usually kept at 0.5 to 1 inch in height. It is the shortest turf grass however is generally useful only for golf course putting greens.
BLUE GRAMMA GRASS
A warm season grass that thrives in zones 3 to 10 and requires 15 to 30 inches of average yearly precip. It requires only minimal or no fertilizer.
Thrives in full sun.
Very heat and drought tolerant due to deep root system.
Moderately tolerant of wear and tear.
It does not need to be mowed often, only 0 to 4 times per year.
It can be grown from seed and plugs installed 4 to 6 inches apart.
The seed sown 4 pounds per 1000 square feet germinates easily and fast. The seed should be sown during late spring once temperatures at night exceed 60 F.

'Hachita'
The most vigorous clone. Forms a beautiful, dense, soft lawn if cut once monthly during the growing season. Looks great interplanted with spring bulbs.

BERMUDAGRASS
Prefers mild to warm winters and hot summers.
Thrives in full sun and requires moderately moist to moist conditions.
Very heat and drought tolerant due to deep root system.
Very tolerant of wear and tear. Bermuda Grass is cut at a height of 1.5 to 2 inches, it does dormant during cool to cold weather and grows most vigorously during hot weather. It is considered a warm season or southern grass.

BUFFALO GRASS
A warm season grass that thrives in dry continental climates with between 10 and 30 inches of rainfall per year. During the summer, it requires only 2 inches of rainfall per month to remain green. Buffalo Grass also grows very thick, crowding out weeds.
From late autumn to mid spring, it goes dormant and will turn light beige in color.
Hardy zones 3 to 9. Thrives in full sun to partial shade on any soil that is well drained and not excessively sandy ( it actually enjoys heavy clay ). Buffalo Grass requires only moderate fertilization.
Very drought tolerant; you can save on 980 000 gallons of water in a year by replacing just 1 acre of Kentucky Blue Grass with Buffalo Grass. Just 2 inches of water per month will keep a Buffalo Grass lawn luxuriant green during summer.
Grown from cuttings, they are usually grown from plugs that can be planted from 6 to 12 inches apart. It is usually much more economical to grow Buffalo Grass from plugs than from sod. Planted from plugs during late spring; the lawn will usually fill in by fall. Plugs can however be planted as late as early autumn though may not completely fill in until the following year.

'Cody'
Resistant to chinch bugs.

'Legacy'
Greens up earlier during spring and remains green later in autumn.
Very vigorous and fast spreading, the plugs can be planted as much as a foot apart.
It is luxuriant deep green in color but retains it's extreme drought tolerance.
It produces almost no pollen, is rarely bothered by pests or disease and is very tolerant of heavy foot traffic. Among the best of all turf grasses for the U.S. Great Plains and Canadian Prairies. It was developed at the University of Nebraska.

'Prestige'
Selected at the University of Nebraska, this cultivar is more tolerant of heat and humidity than the others. It forms a very disease resistant, soft, fine-textured, luxuriant green lawn and is the best thriving clone for the south-central and southeastern U.S.

'UC Verde'
Hardy zones 7 to 11, this cultivar is specifically selected for hot climates of low elevations in the Desert Southwest. It forms a thick, soft, bright green.
Stays greener over a longer season than other cultivars where it is adapted.

CENTIPEDE GRASS
Prefers hot humid climates.
Prefers full sun to partial shade. Very heat tolerant and moderately drought tolerant.
It is not very tolerant of wear and tear.

FINE FESCUE
Prefers cool summers and cold winters. Tolerates high altitudes.
Thrives in partial shade. Very drought tolerant.
Moderately tolerant of wear and tear. It is generally kept at about 3 inches in height.

KENTUCKY BLUEGRASS
A cool season grass that goes somewhat dormant during hot summer weather.
Prefers cold winters and cool to moderately hot summers though unlike the Fescues, this turfgrass does stress in extreme heat.
Thrives in full sun only! ( DO NOT plant in shade ). It is moderately drought tolerant ( requires 48 to 60 inches of rainfall per year to look at its best without irrigation ). Very high maintenance; Kentucky Blue Grass will require more than 16 mowings per year to look good.
Moderately tolerant of wear and tear.
Kentucky Blue Grass is grown from seed.

PERENNIAL RYEGRASS
Prefers mild winters and moist cool summers.
Thrives in partial shade. It is moderately to very drought tolerant but may go dormant.
It is moderately wear tolerant during spring and fall but not very wear tolerant during summer.
Establishes rapidly. It is generally kept at a height of 3 inches.

ST. AUGUSTINE
Requires hot humid climates.
Thrives in full sun ( some varieties tolerate partial shade ). Very heat tolerant and moderately drought tolerant.
Moderately tolerant of wear and tear. Considered a warm season or southern grass, it is dormant during cool to cold weather and grows vigorously during hot weather. St Augustine Grass is best kept at a height of 2.5 to 3 inches.

TALL FESCUE
A non-running turf, individual plants spread by tillers ( new shoots ) however slowly. Bare patches are generally filled in by overseeding. Tall Fescue prefers cool to cold winters and mild to hot summers.
Thrives in full sun to partial shade. Drought tolerant due to deep roots but may go dormant.
Very tolerant of wear and tear. Tall Fescue is generally kept at a height of 3 ( 4 during heatwaves ) inches.

WHEATGRASS ( Agropyron )
Generally only grown in dry harsh climates such as the Great Plains. It is kept at a height of 3 ( 4 during heatwaves ) inches.
ZOYSIA GRASS
Prefers cool to warm winters and hot humid summers.
Thrives in full sun but will tolerate partial shade with less vigor. Very heat tolerant with good drought tolerance.
Very tolerant of wear and tear. Zoysia Grass is considered a warm season or southern grass. It is kept at a height of 1 to 2 inches.

No-Mow Lawns

Carex pansa ( California Meadow Sedge )
Also called Dune Sedge. An excellent, evergreen turfgrass substitute, reaching just 4 to 6 inches ( unmowed height ) and spreading but not aggressively by rhizomes.
It can be mowed however is rarely needed though mowing 2 or 3 times yearly does tend to make it grow thicker and neater. This turf-like plant, thriving especially well in coastal parts of central California makes an excellent base plant for a natural meadow. While it may eventually spread to 3 feet across from a single plug, it should be planted much closer together when used as groundcover.
Hardy zones 8 to 10 in full sun to partial shade on sand to very well drained soil. While it may go dormant during summer drought, it doesn't take any more than 2 or 3 deep waterings per month to keep it lush and deep green.

* interesting link on Carex pansa http://www.baynatives.com/plants/Carex-pansa/
http://drystonegarden.com/index.php/2011/10/carex-pansa/

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