Fairy Ring Facts
by Michael McGroarty
A beautiful lawn does not come without some effort. Depending upon what
type of soil you have, the amount of effort will vary. For instance
when raising trees and shrubs, sandy or a gravel base soil is great.
Landscape plants like well drained soiled. A lawn on the other hand is
different. Lawn grasses grow constantly throughout the growing season,
and need an ample supply of both nutrients and water.
The most basic of lawn care tips includes regular watering and
fertilization is required to keep a lawn beautiful. If you’re
lucky enough to have a lawn that was originally planted in good rich
topsoil, you won’t have to work near as hard as somebody like
who has a lawn that is planted in sandy gravel. The soil at our house
has little nutritional value, nor does it have the ability to retain
any amount of moisture. By mid May my lawn starts drying out. It is
very difficult for us to keep our lawn looking nice.
Lawns are one area where a little clay in the soil is a good thing. Of
course standing water is not good, but having soil that has the ability
to retain some moisture is helpful. If you happen to be installing a
new lawn, here's a news flash from my lawn care tips that will make all
the difference in the world: Add lots of organic matter before you
install your new lawn if you have sand or gravel type soil. The easiest
way to do this is to find some good rich topsoil and spread that over
your existing soil.
Because most lawn grasses grow so vigorously, they need additional
amounts of nutrients added in order to stay looking nice. Just use one
of the four step programs offered by the fertilizer companies. Most of
these programs also include weed control along with the fertilizer.
Here in the north we basically have two concerns with weeds in our
Crabgrass can be a problem, and I do consider it a weed. In order to
control crabgrass you must use a pre-emergent herbicide that will
prevent the crabgrass seeds from germinating. In order for this
herbicide to be effective you must apply it early in the spring while
the soil temperature is still below 45° F.
Broadleaf weeds such as Dandelions are another problem, although fairly
easy to control with a broadleaf weed control. Most broadleaf
herbicides are mixed in with the fertilizers, and must be applied when
the grass and weeds are damp. The wet foliage will cause the herbicide
to stick to the weed, giving the herbicide time to be absorbed by the
weed. Once absorbed the herbicide translocates through the weed plant
and kills it completely.
These types of herbicides are considered
they seem to know the difference between a grass plant and a weed.
That’s why they only kill the broadleaf weeds and not the
itself. However, many people have different kinds of thick bladed grass
in their lawn such as quack grass. Quack grass is on the ugly side, and
can really detract from a lawn. The problem is, it is still in the
grass family, and “selective” herbicides leave it
because it is a card carrying member of the grass family.
So what’s a person to do?
In order to get rid of these thick bladed grasses you must use a
“non-selective” herbicide, and
herbicides don’t care who they kill. Well, at least
true in the plant kingdom. When you use a
herbicide you must understand that everything that you spray is going
to die, but it really is the only effective way to rid your lawn of
undesirable thick bladed grasses. This type of treatment is effective
if you have isolated areas that contain wide bladed grasses.
You’ll have to spray all the grass in the area, then reseed
good quality grass seed.
My herbicide of choice for this type of spraying is RoundUp®.
believed that RoundUp® does not have any residual effect, which
means that it does not linger in the soil. That means that the new
grass seed or the young grass plants will not be affected by the
herbicide. Being a non-selective herbicide you must be careful when
spraying, making sure that the spray does not drift onto other plants
or lawn areas that you do not want to kill.
To keep the spray from drifting, adjust the nozzle so that the spray
pattern is narrow with larger spray droplets. You do not want a fine
atomized spray if there is danger of spray drift. It also helps to keep
the pressure in the sprayer as low as possible. Pump the sprayer a
minimum number of times, to keep the pressure low. You just want enough
pressure to deliver the spray, but not atomize it to the point that it
can be easily carried by the wind. Buy a sprayer just for herbicides
and mark it as such. You never want to spray plants with a sprayer that
has been used for herbicides.
Once you have sprayed the area you want to kill, wait three days before
doing anything else. After a period of three days the grasses that you
sprayed may not look any different, but if they have been properly
sprayed, they will die. It takes three days for the herbicide to
translocate throughout the entire plant, then the plants will die. So
even though the weeds and grass plants look fine, you can start digging
and chopping and not worry about them growing back. If you start
digging and chopping before the three day period you will interrupt the
herbicide, and the weeds and grass you were trying to kill may come
If you happen to be installing a new lawn, make sure you spray all the
weeds and thick bladed grasses before you start. Once you have the lawn
installed, you sure don’t want to go through all the trouble
killing areas of your lawn and reseeding. If you make sure that all of
these undesirables have been killed before you start, you’ll
way ahead of the game.
When selecting grass seed, you should always use a blend that is
recommended for your area. Here in the north a popular blend contains
fine bladed perennial rye grass, fescue, and blue grass. Keep in mind
that it takes blue grass seeds 28 days to germinate, while most
perennial rye grasses germinate in 5 or 6 days, so you never want to
plant a lawn that is 100% Kentucky blue grass. Before the blue grass
seeds have a chance to germinate, every kind of weed imaginable will
already be actively growing in your lawn.
With a blend, the faster germinating grasses come up quickly, and act
as a nurse crop for the slower germinating seeds. Having a blend also
gives you some protection in case some new pest comes along that
attacks certain types of grasses.
People often ask if they have to have their lawn hydro-seeded in order
for it to be nice. The answer is no. Hydro-seed is not some kind of
magic formula. It is nothing more than a fancy way to apply grass seed.
A hydro-seeder is just a machine that mixes water, grass seed,
fertilizer and mulch into a slurry that is sprayed onto your lawn. The
ingredients are exactly the same that you would use if you seed by
hand, with the exception of the mulch. And contrary to popular belief,
hydro-mulch is no better than good old fashioned straw. In my opinion
straw is a much, much better mulch. The primary advantage to hydro-seed
is that the grass seed is thoroughly soaked before it is applied, which
assures germination. That’s a huge advantage if you're
along a freeway where it is not practical to wet the seed after it has
been applied. At your house, it really doesn’t mean much.
seeding works just fine.
With either method, you still have to water just as much once the
seeding is done. Many people are led to believe that hydro-seed
doesn’t have to be watered as much as hand seed. This is a
misconception. If you fail to water hydro-seed once it is applied, it
will still germinate and little tiny grass plants will appear. But just
a few hours without water on a hot day, and those little tiny grass
plants will wither and die. This is a big problem because once the seed
has germinated, it is spent. All the water in the world will not make
that spent seed produce another grass plant.
Hydro-seed has its benefits, but for the residential lawn
not all that important. Why do I claim that straw is a better mulch
than hydro-mulch? Think about how the hydro-mulch is applied. It is
mixed with the seed, fertilizer and water as a slurry, and sprayed on
the lawn. The mulch has not been applied over top of the seed which is
how mulch is supposed to be applied, it is all mixed together. Some of
the seeds are under the mulch, and some of the seeds are on top of the
mulch. Mulch can’t do much good when the seeds are resting up
top of it. They might as well be sun bathing!
Now think about the process of hand seeding. The seed is spread on the
soil, then you should take a push broom and drag it backwards over top
of the seeded area. This applies a very thin layer of soil over most of
the seeds. Then you spread the straw over top of the soil. The pieces
of straw are scattered in all directions, with many of them
criss-crossing each other.
Remember the movie, “Honey I Shrunk the Kids”? The
where they are walking through the lawn and the blades of grass are
huge compared to them? This is what it’s like to be a grass
under a mulch of straw. Those little tiny grass seeds are lost under
the straw, and that's exactly what you want to protect them from the
intense rays of the sun.
As the sun works its way across the sky the grass seeds actually
receive filtered sunlight. Enough sun to warm the seeds so they grow,
but also enough shade to protect the tender young grass plants. As the
grass plants grow, they also raise the mulch with them to a degree,
providing additional shade for the seeds that haven’t
yet. The shade that straw mulch provides also helps to retain the
moisture around the seeds. Grass seeds will never get this kind of
protection from hydro-mulch.
Another trait of hydro-seed is that as the slurry dries, it becomes a
blanket over the lawn. In the event of a heavy rainfall, running water
tends to get under this blanket and carry it away, leaving big areas
with no seed at all. They make a glue that you can actually add to the
hydro-seed mix, but my experience has shown that the glue will hold the
hydro-seed in place a little longer, but when it does wash out much
larger areas wash because they are glued together.
With hand seeding, each seed is independent, and they fall between the
nicks and crannies of the soil. In the event of heavy rain, the running
water must be severe enough to wash the soil away before the seeds can
be moved. I’ve installed hundreds of lawns using both
for the difference in cost I’ll take the hand seeded lawn any
Michael J. McGroarty is the author of this article. Visit his
most interesting website, www.freeplants.com
and sign up for his excellent gardening
newsletter. . www.freeplants.com/resellers.htm
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