Splendour in the grass

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The secret to a luscious lawn is maintenance - aerate, top dress and overseed. Here's how.

If you love your lawn, you will want to keep it healthy and happy. The key is not to use chemicals to kill moss or high-nitrogen fertilizer to keep it green, but to practise regular maintenance. Here's a simple project you can do each spring to keep your lawn in top shape.

There is a reason grass on sports fields and golf courses always looks perfect - it is aerated and aerated and aerated.

If you love your lawn, you will want to keep it healthy and happy. The key is not to use chemicals to kill moss or high-nitrogen fertilizer to keep it green, but to practise regular maintenance. Here's a simple project you can do each spring to keep your lawn in top shape.

There is a reason grass on sports fields and golf courses always looks perfect - it is aerated and aerated and aerated.

Aeration is the best fertilizer. By using an aerator to pull tiny plugs of grass out of your lawn, you allow more air to reach the root system.

This in turn promotes a healthy lawn and results in vigorous growth.

You can rent a gas-powered aerator for $90 a day, but this is a heavy-duty machine that takes some strength to handle. For small lawn areas I find a hand-held aerator, such as the one made by Fiskars, works great.

Press down on the stirrup and the aerator pushes two three-inch plugs of soil out the ground. It can be a rather tedious and time-consuming process, but you'll quickly get into a rhythm and become more adept at it.

Make sure there is a hole every six or seven inches. The more holes, the better.

Once the whole lawn has been aerated, it will look like a mess. Don't worry, the soil plugs will soon break down and disappear.

Next, sprinkle sand evenly over the aerated ground and rake it into the holes.

The sand will not only relieve compaction, it will improve drainage and reduce soil acidity. Moss grows in soil that is acidic, poorly drained and compacted. To eliminate moss, you need to change the conditions - improve drainage, change soil chemistry (by adding lime to make it less acidic), reduce compaction and increase light levels by judiciously pruning a branch or two off shade trees.

The last part of this renovation project is to top-dress and overseed the lawn.

First, mix up sand with top soil to create a light and airy medium. Spread this lightly over the lawn to no more than a depth of 1/4-inch. Take perennial rye seed and sprinkle it liberally over the area. Rake the ground lightly after overseeding to scratch some of the seed under the soil. Walking over the area will press any loose seed into the soil to aid germination.

Grass seed germinates quickly when ground temperature is 18 C (65 F), but it will take off, albeit more slowly, when the soil is only 13 or 15 (55 to 59 F).

Liming should be done a week or two in advance of aerating and overseeding to allow the lime time to leach into the soil.




SPRING PROJECT

Degree of difficulty
Lawn maintenance is not a one-shot deal. Lawns require consistent and regular care to thrive. This project is easy to do, but needs to be repeated every spring and fall. On a scale of one to 10, I would rate the degree of difficulty as a five because it is somewhat labour-intensive.
Cost
If you don't have to buy a rake and aerator, this project will cost you only the price of some bags of top soil, sand and grass seed. Budget about $20 for every 300 square feet.
Time
It takes 60 to 90 minutes to aerate, top dress and reseed a lawn of about 300 square feet. Most of your time on this project will be taken up aerating. Top dressing takes less time than the aerating. Reseeding is light work that can be done in a very short time.
What can go wrong
You can start too soon when the temperature is too low to germinate the grass seed. You can use the wrong kind of seed. Often seed packets imported from other parts of North America contain a higher percentage of Kentucky blue grass, which does not thrive as well in regions with cool, wet winters.
What you need
You will need to invest in a hand-held coring aerator (Fiskars makes a good one for $29.99), a rake ($20-$30), garden sand ($5.99 a bag), top soil ($3 -$4 a bag), and perennial rye grass seed (a 3-lb. bag of Elka 3, Major League costs $11.99). You could rent a gas-powered aerator for about $18 an hour, $90 a day. However, bear in mind that this is a heavy-duty machine that requires some strength to handle.
Material sources
GardenWorks sells bagged garden sand for $5.99 and topsoil for $3.99 a bag (dig it yourself). Art's Nursery in Surrey sells 3-lb. bags of Elka 3 Major League perennial rye seed for $11.99. (a 5-to 8-lb. bag will do 1,000 square feet). Home Depot sells Fiskar's aerators, which work perfectly and are easy to store.
Suggested cultivars
It's important when buying grass seed to check the kind that makes up the bulk of the mix. For lawns in coastal gardens, perennial rye grass is the best seed along with creeping red fescue and Chewing's fescue. Kentucky Bluegrass is popular grass but is better suited to regions with hot summers and dry winters.

Organizations: Home Depot

Geographic location: North America, Kentucky, Surrey

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Recent comments

  • Huh?
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    'Common sense tells me to look at what our ancestors eat, drank, done.' However, our ancestors had a shorter life expectancy than we do but I agree with point your making.

  • Naturalawn
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    After a few years without chemicals my lawn is maintained with the thousands of worms that are now residing in it. They aerate the lawn for me as well as bring in wildlife. They are fed with all the grass clippings I don't rake up which the hungry buggers devour in a few days. The only thing I have to do is rake down the thousands of piles of nutrient rich worm casings (worm poop) that if left make the surface lumpy when roots grow into them. This in turn fertilizes the whole environment all over again (including the essential symbiotic organisms that they are now selling us in our foods. When my internals need a boost of probiotics I eat a sandwich after gardening with just a rinse of my hands(no soap). No off the shelf product I've seen can introduce the amount/types of SPECIES we need in our digestive tract that a good gulp of spring water (not from a bottle) will provide.

    Common sense tells me to look at what our ancestors eat, drank, done. We did evolve with the dirt and if we remove ourselves from it we lose it's protection.

    I can also walk bare foot and not worry about poisons in my lawn.

  • Huh?
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    'Common sense tells me to look at what our ancestors eat, drank, done.' However, our ancestors had a shorter life expectancy than we do but I agree with point your making.

  • Naturalawn
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    After a few years without chemicals my lawn is maintained with the thousands of worms that are now residing in it. They aerate the lawn for me as well as bring in wildlife. They are fed with all the grass clippings I don't rake up which the hungry buggers devour in a few days. The only thing I have to do is rake down the thousands of piles of nutrient rich worm casings (worm poop) that if left make the surface lumpy when roots grow into them. This in turn fertilizes the whole environment all over again (including the essential symbiotic organisms that they are now selling us in our foods. When my internals need a boost of probiotics I eat a sandwich after gardening with just a rinse of my hands(no soap). No off the shelf product I've seen can introduce the amount/types of SPECIES we need in our digestive tract that a good gulp of spring water (not from a bottle) will provide.

    Common sense tells me to look at what our ancestors eat, drank, done. We did evolve with the dirt and if we remove ourselves from it we lose it's protection.

    I can also walk bare foot and not worry about poisons in my lawn.