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Welcome to New Zealands Plant Portal. Wally Richards Weekly Garden Tips & Advice.

Gardening Articles for week ending

25th AUGUST 2007

Written by Wally Richards.

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 mowing.
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 is 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 soil’s 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 grass’s 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 PGGWrightson 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 to this.
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, Wally”s Down to Earth Gardening Guide where two chapters are dedicated to lawn care.
Problems ring me at 0800 466464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Email wallyjr@gardenews.co.nz
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz



Problems ring me at 0800 466 464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz

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