Putting Your Lawn Into Rehab!
Lawns are an interesting phenomenon. We homeowners will dedicate small and large pieces of land to the planting, care and maintenance of only one desired organism. This botanical organism is prone to stress from naturally occurring events like sun/shade and rain/drought. In addition, the homeowner is trying to isolate this one plant from invasion by other plants and wind borne seeds as well as a Northwest bumper crop of moss and algae!
(Moles, voles, raccoons, dogs and cats are fodder for a separate blog!)
Before you throw your hands in the air and surrender your lawn to either the onslaught of marauding blackberry or pay enough to put your lawn professional’s kid through Harvard, lets break down the various aspects of caring for your lawn and maybe you’ll re-gain the confidence to bring it back from the land of the lost.
Your soil is a major player in the success of a healthy lawn. The germinating seed must have something to root into. When it roots into thatch, moss or hard-pan, the roots stay small which translates to stunted growth above ground. For those who just want to throw out some seed and hope for the best, remember my corny adage, “Why throw babies out where the adults can’t survive?”
Aerating the soil is a great first step. You can either rent an aerator or have a local landscape/yard care professional do the job for you. De-thatching is also recommended if it hasn’t been done in a few years. It is very important that the new seed has soil to root into and not a layer of thatch or moss. After de-thatching you should rake out the area. Aerating will leave numerous plugs of soil on the surface. Leave them there as they will break down when exposed to watering
If moss is a major problem, you can attack it either before or after aerating. Moss can be controlled with Ferrous Sulfate, (iron) which will kill it and turn it black. Rake out the dead moss and throw it in the yard waste bin. Another method for controlling moss is to add lime to your soil twice a year. This makes the soil less acid and more alkaline. Moss, as well as native plants do not like alkaline soil so keep the lime away from Rhodies, Azaleas, Camellias, Blueberries etc.
Note – I had a major problem with moss over ¼ of my front lawn. I started calculating the expense of trying to control it in this area and quickly realized I could put that money to better use! I cut out the scraggly thin lawn and planted a few native shade-loving plants and it looks great, moss and all!
Note 2 – Moss is a natural organism which grows abundantly in the Northwest. In addition to growing on the ground it will climb trees and call in a few friends like algae and lichen.
To some, this symbiotic relationship is not the most attractive but bear in mind it does not harm the tree at all. In fact, most attempts to eradicate it will end up doing more harm to the tree than the moss.
Choosing the right seed for your lawn is just about as important as the preparation. Blends of Perennial ryegrass work best in sunnier locations and Fescue blends are better for shade. At The Grange we carry blends for everything from full blazing sun to heavy shade. Our seed comes out of Northern Oregon and is ideal for this area.
Using a hand or push broadcast spreader is best to insure even coverage although smaller areas do well with hand spreading. Once the seed has been spread lay down another thin layer of compost to cover the seed. This will help keep moisture around the seed as well as protect it from birds.
For those who have “dog spots” (as I call them) one trick is to fill a 5 gal bucket ½ full with compost and about 2 handfuls of seed. Add water to make a paste. Scratch up the “spots” with a bow rake and make a “mud pie” from the bucket and pat it over the spot!
It is not critical to apply fertilizer at this time but if you feel the need, we recommend using an organic lawn food. Organics will not burn the new seedlings and work to help improve the soil.
Now the easy part is done!!
Watering…watering…watering. The new seed must be kept damp. This is why spring and fall are the best times to re-seed as the rains help to keep the soil moist.
Now, you’ve saved enough money to put your kid through Harvard!
Email any questions to me at Michaela@grangesupply.com