Gardening Articles for week ending
25th AUGUST 2007
Written by Wally Richards.
LAWN CARE TIME
For many gardeners the lawn area is the biggest garden on
their property and being the biggest or nearly so, it should
be the best feature on the whole of the section. If the lawn
is shabby looking then it will detract ones attention from
the most beautiful garden that it borders on. A great lawn
makes a shabby garden look good. You will have noticed the
immediate improvement, of all the gardens, after you have
finished mowing the lawn, its a fact of gardening. By mowing
the lawn to a reasonable height you have cut all the grasses
and weeds even, making a belt of green that will look great
for a few days.
The trick is to make it look great right up till the next
Weeds grow faster than the grasses and they are the first
problem to be corrected but before we start manicuring our
lawn we should take a wander over the lawns and note what
Weeds maybe a problem and the reason that they are is simple,
the lawn is not thick enough with fine grasses thus weeds
are allowed to establish. Two things are needed, firstly remove
the existing weeds and then oversow with new lawn seed to
thicken up the existing grasses.
There are chemical weed killers available that can do the
job quickly for you such as Turfix, Woodyweed Killer and Hydrocotyle
Killer as well as commercial ones. I am not an advocate of
using these harmful chemicals but common sense and a busy
life will dictate whether you use them or get down on the
hands and knees and cut every weed out. With some weeds such
as hydrocotyle and creeping oxalis this would be a near impossible
task. There are also granulated chemical lawn weedkillers
that can be used as an alternative. The main points are; keep
children and pets off a chemically treated lawn for several
days afterwards if possible. Use Raingard with the liquid
weedkillers as it will give you better results enhancing the
effectiveness of the chemical. Do not use any weedkillers
on a young lawn under 6 months old as some types will damage
the young grasses.
The following day give the treated lawn a good watering if
it does not rain. Two days after treatment mix Magic Botanic
Liquid at 20 mls per litre and with the aid of a Lawn Boy
spread the mix over the treated lawn. This helps clean up
the harmful chemicals used. If you have grass weeds growing
in the lawn such as paspalum then firstly mow your lawn and
then wait a few days and you will notice that the grass weeds
grow taller than the preferred grasses so you can use a wand
to wipe the tops of the offending weeds with Roundup.
Another trick when using weedkillers on lawns is to add Thatch
Busta to the spray, this also increases the effectiveness
of the spray and helps break down the dying weeds faster as
well as clearing the thatch that has built up on the soils
surface. (Thatch is debris and lawns with brown top in them
have a ongoing thatch problem greater than normal)
In choosing a lawn seed mix for patching, over sowing or a
new lawn avoid all mixes that have brown top. Choose instead
a fine rye and fescue mix of uncoated seed, Superstrike is
one brand that comes to mind.
To thicken up the grasses you need to oversow the lawn and
this should be done every spring and autumn until you have
the lawn you desire. To do this hire a motorised Scarifier
and run it north/south and east/west across the whole lawn.
It cuts grooves in the lawn which are great for the new seeds
to fall into. After spreading the new seed, lightly water
the lawn to wash the seed on to the soil and then roll the
lawn. Rollers can be hired from hire shops that you fill with
water to give the weight needed.
On your inspection of the lawn you may find areas of moss
growing and this also, like the weeds, needs to be cleaned
up. The way to do this is with Moss and Liverwort Control
which is jet sprayed into the moss with a pressurised sprayer.
A couple of weeks later spray the area with Thatch Busta to
clean up the dead moss. (Do not mix the two together as you
can with Thatch Busta and a weedkiller)
You may also find on your inspection bare patches or areas
where the lawn is browning off or even strips of grass that
lift when mowing. This is the damage done by grass grubs that
have over the last few months been eating the roots of your
grasses. Some gardeners make the wasteful mistake of treating
the lawn for the pests when it is the wrong time to do so.
You should always lift some turf and examine the soil for
the white grubs. If good numbers are found then use a treatment,
if not you are just wasting your time and money. At this time
of the year most grass grubs will be pupating, down deep and
no matter what you pour on the lawn you not going to kill
them. Between May and July the grass grubs were nibbling away
at the grasss roots and with the cold weather and short
daylight hours the grasses were only slowly growing and damage
often not noticed. Now when those grasses are trying to grow
there is insufficient roots to sustain the growing grass and
the grasses die. The horse has gone so why close the gate?
You need to resow the damaged areas and plan to use a treatment
for the pests when it is going to be most effective. Treatments
can be chemical such as Pyrifos G or the safer more natural
control of Neem Tree Granules. (Pyifos G is more effective
and less expensive than diazinon.)
Grasses are plants and they do need feeding and once again
what you feed will determine how good your lawn is going to
be. Common lawn fertiliser does more damage that good, it
is a flash in the pan food that can burn the lawn if not applied
correctly and it also harms the soil life.
Slow release lawn foods are better even if they are chemical
as they give a prolonged feeding time for the grasses. The
best is an organic slow release called Bio Boost which at
this time is only available through a few garden centres or
outlets in 25 Kg bags. Inexpensive at under a dollar a kilo
it is ideal for both gardens and lawns.
Slow release lawn foods should be applied twice yearly, spring
and autumn though some with faster release times require a
3 monthly application; spring, summer and autumn.
Another thing that really annoys me is gardeners that are
advised to use sulphate of iron for moss control. Sure it
makes the tops of the moss go black but it does not kill the
moss, which within a few weeks is back with vengeance. Don't
waste you time and money of this treatment, instead use a
propriety moss killer such as Moss and liverwort Control.
On the other hand if you do not like worm casts in your lawn
then use the sulphate of iron as a drench to acidify the top
layer of soil and the worms will not come to the surface.
Sulphate of iron will also darken up the green of your grasses
which makes them look good. All that is needed for this is
a light solution spray of the iron. Another
treatment some gardeners find effective is Cold Water Surf
watered into the lawn brings the worms to the surface where
you can pick them up and put them into your gardens where
you want them. Some say it will bring grass grubs to the surface
also, where the birds can eat them. I await your reports as
Mowing height makes the difference between a great lawn and
a poor lawn, the height should be between 25 to 50 mm and
never more than one third of the height mowed off in one mowing.
Did you know that your perennial grasses love to be mowed
or browsed by animals?
It is true, the grasses gain strength from correct mowing's
and over millions of years have evolved to this purpose. When
the tops of the grass is cut or eaten, part of the root system
dies (as above so below)
the dead roots go to feeding the soil life and thus recycled
to feed the grasses. As the tops grow new roots are formed
below and this cycle is repeated with every mowing.
For much more information on lawn care you may like to read
my recent book, Wallys Down to Earth Gardening Guide
where two chapters are dedicated to lawn care.
Problems ring me at 0800 466464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz