Gardening Articles for week ending 27th OCTOBER
It has been a little while since we looked at the subject
of lawns and their care, so lets go over the main aspects
of having a great lawn.
The best lawns are a combination of fescue and the new fine
rye grasses with no brown top.
Brown top is a throw back to the days when there were only
course rye grasses available. A lawn with brown top in it,
will have on going thatch problems. Thatch is the debris that
builds up on the surface of the soil and creates a number
of problems if left to build into a thick layer. This layer
captures moisture and reduces the moisture level in the soil.
The feeder roots of the grasses tend to grow into the thatch
for both moisture and nutrients. Problem being is that thatch
dries out quickly in sun or wind leaving the feeder roots
to perish and likely a browning off of the grasses.
Lawns need to be de-thatched twice a year, spring and autumn
and in some cases more frequently.
This can be done by using a special rake, a scarifier machine
or by spraying the lawn with Thatch Busta.
The later is the easiest and what the Thatch Busta actually
does is feed the microbes that will break down the thatch.
By feeding them their populations increase incredibly and
an inch of thatch can be cleaned up in a month.
Weeds are a problem in lawns that do not have a thick mat
of grasses. When, by over sowing a lawn several times with
good quality lawn seed, you create a thick mat of grasses
that make it very difficult for weeds to establish and grow.
The few that do grow can easily be cut off below ground level
with a sharp knife. When we think of weeding the lawn we automatically
think of lawn weed killer sprays.
This is not good for two basic reasons, the recent increased
prices of most lawn weed sprays are now about $30.00 a bottle
which makes it an expensive job. The weed killers are dangerous
to our garden plants, they cause health problems to our pets,
wild life, our children, (if allowed to play on a treated
lawn), the clippings are dangerous to compost and the soil
life is also affected by these poisons.
Result is you pay a lot of money and create a number of problems.
(hopefully you do kill the weeds)
Recently I had an interesting conversation with a fellow gardener
whom told me how she controlled and made good, a very weedy
lawn without the use of the chemical sprays.
What she did was to use nitrogen in the form of sulphate of
ammonia over the lawn.
This was applied when the lawn was dry and the product was
broadcast by hand in the same way as one would sow lawn seed
by hand. North/South and then East/West. A lawn spreader could
be used instead if preferred. Now the nitrogen when it gets
a little moisture from dew activates and burns. It burns off
both weeds and grasses so for a time you will have a brown
lawn. The grasses come back and most of the weeds don't. Interestingly
it can also kill off inferior grasses, leaving the better
grasses to colonise the lawn. A month after application she
would give the lawn a good dose of garden lime to overcome
any damage done by the sulphate of ammonia.
Sulphate of ammonia is fairly cheap to buy especially in the
bulk 25Kg bags and one bag will do a lot of lawn. My gardening
friend told me that within several weeks her grasses had recovered
to make for the best lawn ever. Sulphate of ammonia can also
be used to spot treat those odd weeds that appear in lawns
by pouring a little into the centre of the weed or in the
spot where it is growing.
If you are to use this relatively safe method of weeding your
lawn then after every thing has browned off spray the lawn
with Thatch Busta as well as spreading the lime. This would
speed up recovery.
It would likely be a good idea to also oversow the lawn with
some fresh lawn seed. (No brown top in the mix)
Moss growing in the lawn is another
problem but this can easily be solved by spraying the lawn
with Moss and Liverwort Control. It kills the moss and often
prevents the re-appearance of it for sometime.
Sulphate of Iron is sometimes recommended, but the iron only
burns off the top of the moss which often re-appears again
soon after, dependant on conditions.
For feeding the lawn I would recommend Bio Boost. It is a
natural slow release food and can cost only about $1.00 a
kilo in the 25 Kg bags. (at this stage only available from
PGG-Wrightson or Fruit Fed outlets.) The same can be used
to great advantage on all gardens.
Now we come to the lawn pests of which there are three, grass
grubs, porina and root nematodes.
At this time of the year most of the grass grubs will be pupating
deep in the soil to emerge as beetles in the next month or
so. Controlling the grubs in the soil can be difficult whether
you are using a chemical or natural method so it is easier
to control the adults by means of water and lights when they
are on the wing. (I have the full explanation of this method
in my book Wallys Down to Earth Gardening Guide)
If you wish to treat the lawn for grass grubs it pays to lift
turf and check for the number of grubs near the surface and
if there is not a good number in a square foot then don't
waste your time and money.
Normally the best treatment time is about April to June.
Porina caterpillars are a native moth that live in the soil
in burrows, and in the early evening emerge and eat at the
base of the grasses often causing bare patches. They can be
detected by the hole that is the entrance to their burrow
or by the bird activity trying to rip open the soil for a
Easy to control by a spray of Neem tree Oil applied late in
the day to the lawn, which has recently been mowed.
Root nematodes is not something that is easy to detect as
they are small pests that attach themselves to the roots of
the grasses and suck. They do not kill the grasses normally
but will take away the luster of the growth. To determine
if you have the problem mark off about 5 to 10 square metres
of your best lawn and sprinkle Neem tree Granules over the
area. If after a month or so you notice that the grasses in
the treated area look lusher and better than the rest then
you do have the problem.
Treat then, the rest of the lawn. At the same time you are
likely to clean up any grass grubs near the surface and porina
in the treated area.
There are a number of things you can apply to your lawns to
make them healthier and better looking.
Firstly never cut more than one third off the height of the
grasses in one mowing and never mow lower than about 25 to
30 mm. (Talking about millimeters and centimeters a recent
article about straw potatoes should have read mm not cm)
Applications of lime, gypsum and dolomite every so often is
great value for your lawns.
Occasional sprays of Magic Botanic Liquid and Perkfection
will also build up the health of the grasses.
Ocean Solids can be also mixed and dissolved in water and
sprayed over the lawns for the advantage of the minerals it
Grasses are another plant, just like your flowers and vegetables
and when they are cared for they will reward you with their
Any Problems ring me at 0800 466464 (Palmerston
Web site www.gardenews.co.nz