Wednesday, March 27, 2013

How To Add Compost To The Lawn: A Step-By-Step Guide

I am so honored to announce my most recent guest contribution over on The Ask HR Green Blog, an illuminating online blog geared towards Virginians seeking to live greener, more eco-friendly lives. If you haven't taken a look yet, I highly recommend browsing through their informative content. Also be sure to read my contribution on how you can add compost to your lawn soil for healthy and optimal turf growth. Thanks to all for reading and I hope you'll incorporate composting into your own personal lawn care routine! Would also love to hear your comments below.

How To Add Compost To The Lawn: A Step-By-Step Guide

-- Philip

How To Fix a Bare Spot On Your Lawn

I think we can all agree. Bare patches on the lawn are not the most attractive sight. They are something of an eye sore and can even spread if left untreated. So how can you effectively deal with those ugly patches of dead grass? The first step is to find the cause, then to treat and amend them. See below for my insight on the typical causes of bare spots as well as how you can treat them.

What causes the bare spot?

  • Lack of water. This is the first thing to check if you have dry patches on the lawn, as a lack of water is the most likely cause. Push a spade down into the soil and move it back and forward so that you can see if the soil is dry. If you have a sprinkler system, turn it on and check that all the sprays are working and that the lawn is getting well watered. Adjust the direction if necessary to ensure adequate coverage of the dry spot.
  • Lawn diseases. If there are birds pecking at your lawn, then it may be infested with some kind of pest; try to find out what and then treat it appropriately. Fairy rings are circles of mushrooms that kill the grass around them, and various other fungi can also cause dead spots.
  • Over-fertilization. Many homeowners in the US add far more fertilizer to their lawns than is necessary. Not only is this wasteful and a significant contributor to storm runoff, but it can also be a likely cause of dead spots. You might even be using the wrong fertilizer for your soil’s needs, in which case a soil test may be in order to help determine the appropriate fertilizer for you.
  • Other possibilities. Dog urine can also kill your grass - you know this is the cause when the brown patches have bright green edges. Scalping is another cause that occurs when too much of the grass leaves are removed during mowing (you never want to remove more than a third of the grass blade’s length at once) and lack of sunlight can also kill off spots on the lawn.

So how can you treat the bare spot?

Once you've determined the cause of a bare patch, you can start remedy it by nipping the cause in the bud. If the patch was caused by any sort of chemical spill or by dog urine, flush the area well with water and remove all the damaged grass. Next I recommend spreading compost in the hole. Then proceed to add new seed or lay new sod. If you are planting seeds, water them well and cover lightly with straw to warm and protect the seeds; with a new piece of turf (sod), cut it to fit and make sure you have dug down enough so that it is level with the rest of the lawn. Water well and do not walk on it. 

Repairing the brown or dead patches of a lawn is not a difficult job. All it takes is a little bit of analysis and troubleshooting. And after you repair the spot with new seed or sod, be sure to apply plenty of water until it is actively growing – then you can water the usual amount once again.

-- Philip

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

10 Steps to a Greener, Healthier Lawn

Check out my new guest post on green lawn care! Thanks so much to my friend Claudia Fugate for hosting. Take a look for tips on how to fertilize, compost, water, mow, and more - all in a green, sustainable, and eco-friendly fashion. I hope you enjoy and thanks for taking a look!
10 Steps to a Greener, Healthier Lawn

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Guest Post: Lawn Thatch and Organic Remedies

Lawn Thatch and Organic Remedies - by Claudia Fugate, Gardening Naturally With Claudia
About the Author:
Claudia Fugate
Master Nursery and Landscape Professional
Garden Writer and Speaker: See my blog site for more About Gardening Naturally
Phillip was kind enough to ask me to guest post today.  Thanks, Phillip.

Many times we notice that the lawn is just not that bright green we expected.  Sometimes the watering does not perk up the lawn.  Bare spots do not fill in.  The fertilizer did nothing to make the turf thicker, greener.  The problem many experience is lawn thatch

Thatch is the both living and dead material that lies between the green blades and the soil. The depth of 1/2inch is considered excessive.  And that excess can inhibit water to reach the roots.  Thatch can keep nutrients from your fertilizer application to reach the roots, and the stress of the turf from the reduced water and nutrients can allow pests and diseases to set in. 

Ironically, a lawn that has been overly-maintained can be susceptible to thatch.  Too much water and too much nitrogen from fertilizers can cause the grass to grow rapidly.  Then mowing puts down clippings that microbes in the ground cannot decompose quickly enough. The result is thatch.

Several lawn care practices can reduce the likelihood of thatch.  Water deeply and infrequently.  Most turf needs about 1” of water a week.  And mow often enough to never remove more than 1/3 of the blade of grass.  Removing more that 1/3 of the blade at any one time causes too much moisture to be lost and the turf gets stressed.  Mowing the lawn should never be scalping the lawn.  The roots will dive deep into the soil when the grass is longer.  More top growth, more roots, and more roots mean more moisture and drought tolerance, and more nutrients can be taken into the lawn.

Compaction of soil removes oxygen and water.  No air and no water, no plant will survive.  By adding organic matter to the grass, the micro organisms and worms and other soil dwellers will draw down into the ground the beneficial organic material.  This is as simple as raking about ¼ - ½ inch of compost into the lawn.

If the lawn is severely stressed, a spray of dry molasses will add carbohydrates to the soil and the microbes will move more nutrients to the root zone. The micro-organisms will break down the thatch layer in the process. Horticultural Molasses is available in the marketplace. With a formula of 2-3 tablespoons per gallon of water, most sprayers can be used.  

Finally, core-aeration may be needed if the yard is very dry and compacted.  Drench the lawn with plenty of water prior to this process.  Moist soil is much easier to manage when pulling these plugs.

Leave these pellets on the lawn.  As they break down, they will be another source of organic material.  I recommend following this core-aeration with a layer of compost raked into the yard.  The holes that were opened will allow air, water, and the organic matter of the compost to get down into the soil.  Nutrients, air, and water -  just what this yard needs. 

Thanks so much to Claudia Fugate for the terrific post! For more interesting content on organic gardening, landscaping, and a variety of other topics, be sure to check out her blog Gardening Naturally With Claudia.

Getting Ready For Spring

Okay fine. Spring hasn't sprung quite yet. But it sure is getting close. It won't be long before we hear the buzzing bees and singing songbirds of spring, not to mention all the gorgeous colors of flowers blooming all around us. Of course, spring also means it's time to start thinking about our lawns. In particular, we need to think about how best to repair the damage that may have been done over the winter. Let's take a look at solutions to some of these common problems.
For many homeowners, winter can be a significant burden on the lawn. Snow in particular can put extra strain on your grass, often leaving behind bare spots and layers of thatch. Many homeowners have a tendency to either ignore these challenges or simply outsource the work to lawn professionals. But you'll find that tending to these issues yourself can be both rewarding and satisfying.
Bare spots can be fixed simply by applying new seed to the affected area. But before you go about reseeding, it's always a good idea to perform a soil test first. See what nutrients might be missing or lacking in the soil and then you can amend its composition. Then it's time to buy the new seed. Thatch is also very common coming out of the winter. De-thatchers are what you'll want here. Or you can use a specially-designed rake for a more hands-on approach.
Take the time now to amend your lawn so that it is prepared and can experience healthy new growth during the upcoming season!

Welcome, Fellow Lawn Enthusiasts!

Hello all and welcome to my new blog! For those of you who don't already know me, my name is Philip Brown and I write about lawn care and management. Now that spring is finally coming around (of course it certainly is taking its time to get here), I'm getting very excited about getting my hands dirty once again. And I'm in the process of putting together some interesting lawn care posts as we speak, so stay tuned for what should be some great stuff!