Lawn Care Tips
by Michael J. McGroarty -
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.
most basic of lawn care tips includes 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.
are one area where a little clay in the soil is a good
thing. Of 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, here's a news flash
from my lawn care tips that will make all the difference in
the world: Add lots of organic matter before you install
your new lawn if you have sand or gravel type soil. The
easiest way to do this is to find some good rich topsoil and
spread that over your existing soil.
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
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° F.
care tips continued . . .
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 foliage 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 completely.
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 itself. However, many people have different kinds
of thick bladed grass in their lawn such as quack grass.
Quack grass 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.
what’s a person to do?
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 undesirable 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
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.
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, but not atomize it to the point that it
can be easily carried by the wind.
sprayer just for herbicides and mark it as such. You never
want to spray plants with a sprayer that has been used for
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 start
digging and chopping before the three day period you will
interrupt the herbicide, and the weeds and grass you were
trying to kill may come back.
care tips continued . . .
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
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.
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.
care tips continued . . .
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.
contrary to popular belief, hydro mulch is no better than
good old fashioned straw. In my opinion straw is a much,
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 seeding works just fine.
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
seed has it’s benefits, but for the residential lawn it’s
not all that important. 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!
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
Remember the movie, “Honey I shrunk the Kids”? The part
where they are walking through the lawn and the blades of
grass are huge compared to them? This is what it’s like to
be a grass seed under a mulch of straw. Those little tiny
grass seeds are lost under the straw, and that's exactly
what you want to protect them from the intense rays of the
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
moisture around the seeds. Grass seeds will never get this
kind of protection from hydro mulch.
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. They
make a glue that you can actually add to the hydro seed mix,
but my experience has shown that the glue will hold the
hydro seed in place a little longer, but when it does wash
out much larger areas wash because they are glued together.
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.
Michael J. McGroarty is the author of this article. Visit
www.freeplants.com and sign up for his excellent
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