Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lawn Renovation Part 1

Neighbor Dave has a terrible problem with Creeping Charlie so I have been giving him advice on how to get rid of it. For most of us here in suburbia, a lush green lawn is the sign of a well kept home and garden.

The best way to keep weeds, diseases and insects to a minimum is to use good horticultural practices. This will save you time and money in the long run, because the best defense is a good offense.

1. Always mow at the correct height. I told neighbor Dave over the weekend that he was mowing his lawn too short. "We don't live on a golf course, so your lawn doesn't have to look like a putting green!" The University of Illinois recommends most bluegrass lawns to be cut at about 2-3" high. This does several things. It keeps the soil shady and reduces weed seed germination and helps to retain moisture in the soil.

2. Keep your mower blades sharp. This makes a clean cut when you do mow and keeps the grass from looking raggedy.

3. If you do water, water early in the morning and water deeply but infrequently. Watering early allows the grass to dry off before the sun hits it. The drops of water can act like a magnifying glass and burn the grass. Also, watering at night encourages fungus growth. Watering deeply encourages the roots to grow deeper and makes for a stronger turf that can better withstand drought.

4. Proper fertilization: The University of Illinois recommends 2-4 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 sq feet per year. Fertilizers come labeled with 3 numbers. These represent the percentage of nitrogen (first number), phosphorus (sec0nd number) and potassium (third number). The nitrogen is for growth, the phosphorus is for flowering and the potassium is for overall plant health, in a nutshell. You should fertilize 3-4 times a year. If you are going to apply 1 pound of nitrogen each time of a 20-1-3 fertilizer and you have 7,000 sq. ft. yard you would need to apply 35 pounds of total fertilizer for each application. (1/.2)*7000/1000)

Are all types of nitrogen the same? No. Look for fertilizers that have water insoluble or slowly available types of nitrogens. These nitrogens do not leach out of the soil or evaporate into the air so they are better for the environment. Also, our soils are already high in phosphorus, so look for fertilizers that have a low second number. Neighbor Dave and I are using a completely organic fertilizer made from composted poultry manure. Organic fertilizers are high in insoluble and slowly available nitrogens, so the nitrogen is always available to the grass when it needs it.

Next posting we will look at how Dave's fight with the creeping charlie is coming.

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