Taking us to Chelsea in 2007.
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Gardening Articles for week ending
17th February 2007
Written by Wally Richards.
SHAPING UP YOUR LAWNS
I am pleased to see that more gardeners are taking pride in their lawns.
It is the old story, great gardens are enhanced by great looking lawns.
Poor, scruffy, weedy lawns ruin the appearance of the best of gardens.
In fact one can go as far as saying that a great looking lawn will improve
the appearance of a mediocre garden. It would then make sense for
anyone landscaping a section, to firstly establish great looking lawns
before worrying too much about the gardens the lawn will border on!
Autumn is the best time to sow a new lawn as the autumn rains and cooler
temperatures make it easier for the grasses to establish. Spring planted
lawns do not have much time to establish before they are hit with the
summer conditions and unless regularly watered, they can fail.
Gardeners that plan to sow a new lawn or rip up a tatty lawn for resowing,
should start preparations now.
The first thing to do is to determine what the soil is like in the area
to be sown. Light, sandy soils need good friable top soil and compost
mixed through the soil. Heavier clay type soils need to be opened up by
using ample Gypsum, top soil and sand, incorporated. Gardeners that are
blessed with nice friable soil need only incorporate more compost into
The first step would be to kill off whatever is growing in the area to
be sown and then rotary hoe to a depth of at least 250mm.Then place
a layer of the materials you are going to add to the area (about 4 to
6 cm thick) and rotary hoe them in. Now we water the area regularly to
germinate the weed seeds that are going to be present.
Once these weeds are up they can then be killed off. A further layer of
introduce material may then be applied to the area and rotary hoed in
also. Water and allow the weeds to germinate so you can kill them off
while young. We are trying to establish an area of friable soil to a depth
of about 250mm that is free draining with ample humus for moisture retention.
If the area is prone to flooding you may wish at this stage to lay some
It is also at this stage when a pop-up irrigation system can be laid.
Complete these tasks and level off the lawn allowing a fall for water
run off, to prevent ponding later. Once again water to germinate any other
weed seeds. The above will be done over several weeks which should take
us into autumn and the time to sow your new lawn. The quality of lawn
seed you buy will determine the end result so no cheap lawn seed. Super
Strike lawn seed is one I can recommend as it comprises of only fine turf
grasses and no brown top seed. (Do not sow a mix with brown top in it
as the brown top is a grass that gives you thatch problems and looks out
of place in a fine rye and fescue mix)
Super Strike has a fine coating on the seed which only adds a gram of
weight per kilo of seed. Most other coated seeds can add up to 500 grams
of coating per kilo and you lose 500 grams of seed.
We will look at sowing and after care, later on in autumn.
For those gardeners that have a reasonable lawn which is prone to weeds
and is not as thick a mat as you would like, then you can use another
method for improving your existing lawn.
It is too early to start this, but what you do when the soil becomes moist
with autumn rains is to hire a scarifier and run that over your lawn,
north/south, east/west. This rips up the thatch and makes grooves in the
moist soil. You then spread a top quality lawn seed and gently water it
into the grooves.
This method will greatly improve your lawn, thickening up the grasses,
making it difficult for weeds to establish and creating a carpet of green.
You can do the same again the following autumn till you have the lawn
For those gardeners that do have a great lawn there is a reasonable amount
of work needed to keep it nice. Never mow more than one third off the
height of the lawn in any one mowing. Also mow so that the height of the
grasses are between 25 to 50 mm tall. Mowing lower weakens grasses and
allows weed establishment. Never use a lawn fertiliser on the lawn. Only
use a slow release fertiliser and preferably a natural one such as Break
Through or its commercial name Bio-Boost.
Ordinary lawn fertilisers damage the soil food web, weaken the grasses,
cause thatch problems and are like fast foods, give a boost then nothing.
You can apply the following products to advantage, soft garden lime, dolomite,
gypsum, diluted liquid animal manures, Magic Botanic Liquid, Perkfection
and Ocean Solids as a liquid feed or spray.
Grasses are just another plant like your roses, and for healthy plants
you need natural products.
Twice yearly applications of Thatch Busta will not only eat up thatch
in your lawn but will also improve the soil food web for healthier grasses.
This can be done now as long as you keep the lawn soil a little moist
after application. If you need to apply a weed killer always add the Thatch
Busta to the spray as it will make the spray work better and the weeds
will disappear faster. It will also off set the damage the chemical does
to the soil life.
If you have ‘dry spot’ which are areas where the grass is browning off,
it is because the soil has become too dry and will not accept water. You
can remedy this very simply by adding some dish washing liquid to warm
water in a watering can and apply this to dry areas.
A couple of gardeners have told me that they have porina caterpillars
in their lawns at this time.
This would be right as the young caterpillars would be active now and
they eat the grasses at the base, causing gaps and damaging the lawn.
A simple spray of Neem Tree Oil over the lawn late in the day after the
lawn has recently been mowed will stop the damage. A further spray of
the same about a month later should catch others that have hatched out
in the meantime.
Root Nematodes are another pest that attack lawns but being at the root
area of the grasses they are hard to detect. When nematodes suck on roots
they take energy from the plant and the plant looses its vigour.
After mowing the lawn you can sprinkle Neem tree Granules over the lawn
and water in. These break down, releasing the Neem properties which are
taken up by the roots of the grasses and thus stopping the nematodes from
ever feeding again. A few weeks after application you will notice a new
luster to the grasses and the leech's have stopped sucking. The same treatment
will also take care of any grass grubs feeding on the roots and porina
chewing on the grasses.
Another point with lawns are the lawn mowing contractors whom in many
cases want to mow their client’s lawns so low that they scalp the lawns.
This is really bad as it opens up the lawn to weeds and weakens the grasses.
The result is a lawn full of weeds that quickly becomes unsightly and
needs the mower man back to do it again, often.
Another point that some have complained about is that mower contractors
do not wash their mowers between lawns and as a result, they can carry
new weed seeds to your lawn.
Great looking lawns add a lot of value to your property and are a pride
to the owner.
Problems ring me at 0800 466 464 (Palmerston North 3570606)
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz
Garden Pages and News at www.gardenews.co.nz
Shar Pei pages at www.sharpei.co.nz
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