Why is my lawn such a struggle?Monday, September 10, 2012 at 8:22 am
Posted by Jonathan Green
Tags: grass seed , fertilizing , organics & soil testing
This year Mother Nature was very unforgiving. First we started with very little snowfall or rain during traditional winter months. This led to an actual drought in early spring. It was hard to believe that grass was turning brown due to a lack of moisture and grass seed was not germinating very well. Fertilizer applications also took longer than usual to green up the grass. Then the large amount of spring rains came. This made it difficult to get spring applications of crabgrass preventers and broadleaf weed controls applied at proper times. The excessive spring rains also washed out some of the crabgrass preventers so we saw a lot of crabgrass this summer. Many new white clover patches showed up due to the large amount of moisture in the ground. When summer months arrived so did severe drought and heat stress and fungus pressures. These combinations lead to all sorts of summer lawn problems.
Now is the time to evaluate what you need to do to have a great lawn. Is your lawn more than 50% weeds? Did fertilizer applications not seem to green up like they should? Is it “green” when you mow it and do you care if it is mostly weeds? We are sure you saw many lawns that still looked good all through this year’s weather. What did they do that you didn’t? It’s time to think about your lawn and what went wrong, evaluate and take some action.
Before you spend time, money and sweat for the best lawn in town, take a soil sample from a healthy area of your lawn and perhaps 1-2 samples from poor areas of your lawn to see what is going on. Contact your local county extension service for their soil test kit; it ranges from $15-20. They can evaluate the physical, biological and chemical aspects of your soil. If these soil properties are not at the correct level your lawn with struggle. Make sure you identify each area on each test so when you get the tests back in 10-14 days you remember what section of the yard the sample came from. Have you never taken a soil test? For those of you who have a pool, don’t you test the water weekly? You know it is not pleasant to swim in unbalanced, slimy green water, why have you not put the same effort into your lawn soil? The most common soil deficiency seems to be low soil pH value. Adding a calcium product like our Mag-I-Cal to adjust pH will make growing a lawn better.
How deep is your topsoil, 2 or 3 or 6 inches? Would your tomatoes grow well with only one inch of good soil? You should have at least six inches of crumbly topsoil in order for grass roots to penetrate deeply for water and nutrients. If you only have one or two inches of topsoil your lawn will struggle. Many folks tell us that they invested in one inch of topsoil and expect miracles. They also spread it over the existing poor soil. Get as much topsoil that you can afford and till it into the existing soil with a rototiller 5-6 inches deep. Add any other soil amendments to correct deficiencies indicated on your soil test. Now is also a good time to correct drainage problems.
When was the last time you seeded your whole lawn? Never? If you have lived in your house for a short period of time we understand. The cost of renovating your lawn may also be a reason some have not invested in a complete lawn renovation. However, the property value and curb appeal will pay back dividends in the future. Remember, the lawn quality can only be as good as the grass seed you sow, don’t buy cheap grass seed! Look for grass seed mixtures that contain endophytes like our Black Beauty grass seed mixtures. Endophytes are naturally occurring compounds that helps grass to deter insect damage. This will help you grow a healthier lawn and reduce the need for insect controls.
Let’s assume that your lawn has good soil health. Fall is a great time to aerate the lawn completely and relieve compaction even if you are not going to re-seed the whole lawn. Mag-I-Cal and Jonathan Green New Seeding Fertilizer should be applied with grass seed as your last step. Be sure to have good seed-to-soil contact for best germination and establishment results. Renting a slice seeder will give best results so the seed gets placed into the soil at the correct depth and it helps cut through existing thatch, crabgrass and other weeds. Lightly rake over the seed but do not cover it more than ¼ inches. Spread our Green-Mulch Seed Establishment Mulch over the grass seed to prevent erosion, hold moisture and help the seed to establish. Avoid covering the seed with hay that may contain many weed seeds.
Water the lawn regularly after seeding on the early morning hours for the first few weeks. As the seed establishes you can reduce watering to deliver about one inch a week from either rainfall or irrigation. However, on established lawns try to water 1-3 times a week deeply as needed. Water each area for 30-45 minutes or until runoff occurs. Check the depth of the water with a shovel an hour after you irrigate. If it the watering depth is not 4-6 inches deep water again a few hours later in the day to train the grass roots to reach deep for water improving drought resistance.
Once the lawn reaches about 4-5 inches in height mow it with a sharp blade but do not cut off more than 1/3 of the grass blade. How many of you mow your lawn too short to look like a golf course? Try mowing on your highest setting at 3-4 inches. This will help the lawn to compete against weeds and crabgrass and help the lawns drought tolerance. Try to recycle your clippings; they will add nutrients and moisture back into the lawn. Imagine the savings on water and fertilizer bills by following this idea!
Consider incorporating Jonathan Green organic products into your lawn program. Jonathan Green organics will improve soil quality and create a better environment to grow your lawn. Why not integrate our traditional lawn products along with organic products? There is no reason why they cannot be used together throughout the year. Organic lawn products add organic matter to the soil, increase soil microbial activity and improve the soils ability to hold moisture. The organic approach suggests you feed the soil and let the soil feed the plant. Using organics takes more time to adjust your soil this way, but is the best approach if you are not willing to add topsoil or compost to improve your soil quality.