Posts tagged lawns

All about lawns

   It’s spring and attention is turning to lawns. Two things today about lawn care. The first is from Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith and the second came to me from Dustin Vande Hoef, communications director for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey sent the message to remind homeowners that spring is an ideal time to improve soil quality in our yards and that restoration of the soil can help retain water, prevent erosion and protect water quality.

 

This is from Claire Smith:

 

   Are you ready for some mowing?  Depending on the weather, your summer lawn mowing and maintenance can begin anytime in April.

Did you service the mower last fall?  If you didn’t have time then, you should take time now.  Beg or bribe your favorite spouse or relative to change the oil, kick the tires, replace the spark plug and air filter, and be certain the blades are sharp and not bent. 

If the ground temperature is 55-60’ you can commence any necessary re-seeding and repairs. Lawn repair kits that will contain seed and mulch can be purchased.  But remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is so do not succumb to terrific sounding no maintenance grasses and groundcover.   Apply the patch after you have removed the dead turf and loosened and amended the soil.

   Pizza or ice cream treats may create some enthusiasm to have the kids or grandkids help you rake and remove clumps of leaves and other debris left over from winter ice and snow. Initiate a game of pickup sticks (branches). Tamp down runways created by winter vole activity and fill in holes. 

  Hose off lawn areas along walks, drives and roadways that have been exposed to deicing compounds or your grass may not reappear.  Keep newly seeded and sodded areas moist to reduce stress on young and developing root systems.   Watering an established lawn is not necessary now.  Wait until May to fertilize.  Over watering and over fertilizing does more harm than good on your lawn:  strike a happy medium.  Excessive use of insecticides may reduce nature’s aerating machines, the earthworm. Monitor your lawn for any insect damage prior to spraying. 

   Proper mowing is a real key to a healthy lawn.  The suggested mowing height is 3-3 ½” Taller grass forms a deeper root system.  Stronger plants are more likely to fend off insects, disease and weeds.  Remove only 1/3 of the total height of the grass and leave the clippings on the lawn to decompose. Clippings add nitrogen, moisture and organic matter to the soil.  Varying the direction and pattern of mowing will reduce the wear and tear on the lawn.

   So, are you ready for some mowing?  Grab a bottle of lemonade and your hat and sunscreen. Hop on the mower and enjoy the spring weather and the start of a beautiful lawn.

 

From Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship:

 

    Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today encouraged homeowners to consider incorporating soil quality restoration efforts into their annual spring yard work.

   Often in urban areas, especially new developments, the topsoil has been removed and what is left is compacted.  Restoring soil quality helps yards and green spaces absorb and infiltrate rainfall, which reduces the homeowners need to water their yard while protecting water quality and preventing runoff.

   “Iowa is known for it’s great soil, and rightfully so, but we need to make sure we are taking care of that soil so that it is healthy,” Northey said.  “What made our soil so productive was the high organic matter content and porosity that absorbed rain and allowed roots to grow deep.  Soil quality restoration helps recreate those conditions that allow plants to thrive.”

   If you are establishing a new lawn, perform deep tillage (8-12 inches deep) before seeding or sodding to breaks up compacted soils.  Add compost to increase organic matter.  It is recommended that soils have 5 percent or more organic matter before sodding or seeding, which can be achieved by incorporating 1 to 3 inches of compost.

   If you have an existing lawn, consider aerating the soil and then apply a blanket of compost in the spring or fall.  An application of one-quarter to three-quarters of an inch of compost following aeration will help fill the holes with organic matter to amend the soil and allow existing turf to grow through the compost amendment. If your turf is patchy, add seed to the compost application to thicken up the vegetation.

   “Improving the soil quality in your yard will make your lawn healthier, require less water and reduce the need for fertilizer and pesticide applications,” Northey added.  “A better looking lawn and improved water quality in the state are possible when we better manage runoff through soil quality restoration and other measures that allow water to infiltrate.”

   There are a number of other lawn care tips to help care for your soil and promote infiltration of water and prevent runoff.

  • Begin mowing after the first of May and end near Labor Day.
  • Set the mower at three inches high. The higher the grass shoots the deeper the grass roots, making it better able to survive dry periods.
  • Use the mulch setting on your mower to leave the grass clippings on the yard. Don’t lower organic matter content by removing clippings.
  • Consider using native plants for accent in planting beds or in rain gardens to minimize the amount of turf grass.
  • Seed your lawn to a native turf mixture that has deep roots and thrives in Iowa’s weather conditions without extra care.

   More information about urban conservation, rain gardens and a soil quality brochure are available on the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s website at www.IowaAgriculture.gov

 

 

               

               

 

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Technically, it’s still winter

Several warm and sunny days this week might make us forget that winter is still with us, officially, at least, until Friday. Deb Engmark, head gardener at the historic Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, sent the following about this time of year:

Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

  

 

 

 

   From the Brucemore Gardens

 

   The lengthening of the days and the warmer temperatures make me want to go outside and get back to gardening along with the rest of the grounds crew here at Brucemore. We have pruned all the deciduous trees and grape vines. The lawns and garden beds have been raked and the orchard will be pruned this week. While failing to pull the greenery used for holiday decorating out of a still frozen container, a somber realization dawned on me: it is still winter and there is a good month left before the real gardening can begin, and before we know it, the whole growing season will have passed by in a blur of continuous activity.

 

In my haste to hurry up and get busy, I realized that I had almost missed it again—the experience, the wondrous process of late winter merging into spring. With every rain drop and ray of sunshine, change is taking place. We all know this but rarely take the time to observe and enjoy. This year I vow to observe and enjoy with total presence, and I will stay conscious and aware during every season and transition of the year. Through Cindy’s blog, (thank you Cindy) I will share my experiences and offer tips and ideas for you to use in your own gardens.

 

I encourage you and yours to participate wholeheartedly also. Come visit the Brucemore gardens and grounds to experience the seasons this year. Our gates are open during regular business hours, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and often from dawn to dusk. Stroll the grounds, formal gardens, pond, timber, and orchard. Stop by the children’s garden to pick up a monthly activity sheet, which offers suggestions for additional nature study opportunities.

 

I would love to hear what you are doing also!  Please feel free to send me any suggestions, ideas, or tips from your own gardens and explorations.

 

Deb Engmark

Brucemore Head Gardener

2160 Linden Dr. SE

Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52403

deb@brucemore.org

www.brucemore.org

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Winter Gardening – part II

The following is Part II of information on the Winter Gardening Fair 2009 by Linn County Master Gardener, Becki Lynch:

 

One week closer to the Fair!  I want to highlight some of the topics and speakers we are offering this year. 

 

First, we have numerous repeats of seminars about those beautiful perennials and other plants and trees that some could not get into last year – Daylilies, Lawns, Garden Lighting, Hillside Gardening, Pruning Trees and Shrubs, Ornamental Grasses, Using Herbs, Composting, and Prairie Gardens are just a few.

 

Second, we’ve added additional seminars specifically about Vegetable Gardening, a topic people requested last year in our evaluations.  Vegetable Gardening Problems and Solutions, Tomatoes, Peppers, and Salsa, Food Preservation, and The Kitchen Garden are all available.

 

Third, we’ve added a variety of new seminars that range from Bee Keeping, Tree Identification, Rain Gardens, House Plants, Tropical Plants, and Ponds, Gardening with Kids, to Everlastings – to name a few – Whew!

 

And finally, we have hands-on seminars that allow you to learn and participate directly in making garden related items:   The Garden Journal, Plant Propagation, Creating Nosegays, Terra Cotta Fountains, and Toad Houses are all examples.

 

And that’s not all – I urge all of you to go to www.extension.iastate.edu/linn to look at all the offerings available.   Simply click on Winter Gardening Fair on that page to see the full program, and instructions on how to register.

 

Overall, we have a selection of over 45 individual seminars, something for everyone!  The Fair will be held on February 7, 2009, with a back-up date of February 21, just in case of bad weather.  Hope to see you there!

 

Linn County Master Gardener, Becki Lynch.

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Lawn care fun

One thing I haven’t missed with this late spring is mowing the lawn, although that time will come soon enough with our regular rain and warmer temps.

Read on for a fun story my sister passed along about the nature of lawns:

The Gardeners

 

Anyone with a lawn or garden should get a kick out of this.

 

GOD: Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

 

ST. FRANCIS: It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

 

GOD: Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colorful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It’s sensitive to

temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

 

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

 

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

 

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it– sometimes twice a week.

 

GOD: They cut it? Do they then bail it like hay?

 

ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

 

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

 

ST. FRANCIS: No, Sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

 

GOD: Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

 

ST. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir.

 

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

 

ST. FRANCIS: You aren’t going to believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

 

GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural circle of life.

 

ST. FRANCIS: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

 

GOD: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

 

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

 

GOD: And where do they get this mulch?

 

ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

 

GOD: Enough. I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

 

ST. CATHERINE: Dumb and Dumber, Lord. It’s a real stupid movie about . .

 

GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

 

  

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