Now gluten-free!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Lazy Lawn Care

I grew up in the country where the lawn was just the area of weeds that you mowed. Now that I'm a suburbanite, I've had to adapt to at least a few expectations about keeping one's lawn up to snuff. In a little over ten years, I've learned a few lazy ways to keep your lawn looking nice, even above average, while breaking minimal sweat:

1) Don't cut your grass so short. Leave your mower deck up at it's highest, or maybe second-highest position. The grass stays greener with less watering, and better shades out weeds if you let it grow long. Grass that looks "too long" is really just grass that's uneven. You don't have to mow any more often to keep long grass looking just as neat as short grass.

2) Get a mulching mower. Really, do you actually enjoy bagging all those grass clippings? Knock it off and just mulch. Over the course of the summer, this is the near equivalent of one whole additional application of fertilizer. Of course, this means you do have to mow a little bit more often, so that the mower can effectively pulverize all the clippings. But I don't think that's any more work than bagging a ton of grass after it gets too long to mulch. Side discharge mowers are low-labor, too, but if you can avoid visible grass clippings altogether and get the fringe benefits of mulching, why not?

3) Fertilizer: good timing is more important than quantity. Given the fertilizing benefits of that mulcher mower, and the greener, healthier-looking grass you get by letting it grow a little longer, quit doing all that labor-intensive fertilizing. There really is only one important time to fertilize. Sometime in early to mid-May (before the lilacs bloom) put down a coat or two of that spring fertilizer with the crab-grass preventer in it. This will greatly minimize crab-grass later in the year (crab grass is an annual, not a perennial), and the spring fertilizer is not as harsh as the stuff they sell for summer application. It doesn't "burn" the grass when you accidentally get a little too much in one spot. If you're going to go to the trouble of treading all over your lawn with a spreader, you might as well be killing two birds with one stone by both fertilizing and stopping the crab grass. As for that "weed and feed" stuff they sell for later in the year...that's time and effort you could much better spend lifting a beer. It's too easy to burn your grass with it, only does a so-so job of killing broadleaf weeds, and does nothing about crabgrass. If you need to kill some weeds, it's better to get the liquid weed-killer that you mix with water, and one of those cheap pressure-driven pump-up garden sprayers, and spray directly only on the areas that need it. No, don't buy the liquid ready-mixed in those spray bottles. You'll use it all up right away, when the concentrated stuff will last you a couple years for the same money. Besides, ever try to cover your whole yard while bending over and constantly pumping that spray trigger with your hand? Ouch!

4) Watering: Don't go overboard. If you've got the money for a monstrous water bill and an irrigation system, fine. But I have to haul out sprinklers when I have to water, so I keep it to a minimum. When it's needed during those long, hot, dry days in July and August, I do just enough watering to keep the grass reasonably alive, and not too brown. Then I use one of those little yellow "tractor" type sprinklers that will move itself from one end of the lawn to the other. Water sooner than later, before the grass goes dormant, and don't waste your time watering in the middle of a hot sunny day when half the water you spray just evaporates in the heat. They say early morning is best, because watering in the evening and leaving a lot of moisture in your grass overnight can encourage fungus growth, but I'm not a morning person, and I don't water enough to keep fungus alive...only grass. And, again, that's grass that's left longer, not mowed short. Longer grass stays greener with less water.

5) Planting and over-seeding grass: timing is everything. Look, it's up to you. If you gotta fill in that bare spot NOW, and you really want to fuss with planting new grass seed in the spring or summer, and babying it constantly for weeks on end, go right ahead. But can you just wait for fall? And I mean late fall! Wait until you're done with all your mowing and raking, and you're not going to be bothering the lawn anymore until spring. Then, just before the snow flies, spread some grass seed around in the thin spots. If the spot is totally bare and hard-caked, you should probably till the soil up just a little bit with a rake, but otherwise just let the snow-pack drive that seed in all winter long, and let the snow melt and early-spring rains provide all that extra moisture grass needs as it's just getting started. Presto! You'll have grass there the next spring, and it'll fill in all on it's own within one season if you'll just have a little patience.

6) Got trees? Especially pine trees? With thin, weedy, slow-growing grass underneath? The secret is not fertilizer, it's lime. No, not the fruit; garden lime (pulverized limestone). Farmers know about because it's great for neutralizing on barn floors. Besides neutralizing that kind of acid, it also neutralizes the acid in your soil caused by decomposing tree leaves and twigs. Fertilizer in those areas is counterproductive, only raising the acidity of the soil even further. And lime is way cheaper than fertilizer. Spread some of that under your trees at the same time you throw that grass seed down in the fall (and make the grass seed a shady-area mixture). Presto! Next year you'll have happy, healthy grass there.

In my experience, that's about all you need, in a northern climate, to keep the neighbors saying "nice lawn", so long as they're looking at it from a comfortable distance.

Don't ask me for gardening tips. I don't do gardening. All that crawling around in the dirt, pulling weeds by hand, bending over below your waist...yech! I grow grass because you can take care of it with power tools! Be a man! Mowers, weed wackers, and those motorized leaf vacuum/chipper/shredder units are all good for raising your garage's all-important "cylinder count". Maybe sometime I should write another one of these on keeping small engines running smoothly and tinker-free from season to season. It ain't a labor-saving device if it doesn't start on the first or second pull!

No comments:

Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin