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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Lawn Management 101

One of the more costly aspects of home ownership is yard maintenance. And sadly, the previous owners of the house were obviously were not big fans of beautiful lawns and land management.

And it also turns out that the soil in this area is particularly poor for growing much of .... anything. Notwithstanding the challenge, it's every (normal) guy's dream to have a plush green lawn - like the one you see on the Scott's lawn commercials or the one you see when visiting Fenway Park. Of course, in most parts of Connecticut the challenge is daunting and nearly unachievable. The reason for this is the types of soil we are forced to live with.

You either have the famous "Connecticut Clay" or sandy loam. Clay has a distinction for poor drainage. Loam is the opposite it barely holds enough water to sustain life. In both cases, the answer is to have truckloads of topsoil brought in and till it into the existing soil before seeding.

Before spending the money on bulk soil purchase, I experimented by buying about 15 bags of topsoil and chose a few locations to see if the grass would take with one or two inches of soil placed over the existing loam. The results were good. I used Scott's seed and somewhere between 14- 21 days I had new grass growing.

Of course the backyard has a bizarre look to it - almost as if there are islands of lawn inside a sea of dirt. The picture above was taken on May 8th. And doesn't show the lawn in its worse state by any means.

Another experiment of mine was using the Scott's PatchMaster for tackling round areas that either grubs or got knows what got to. My rating on the materials is a B- to C. It's actually a pain to work with and the results are far less than the bag promises to deliver. The only good thing that can be said of the product (and this is no reason to purchase it) is that birds and turkeys don't raid the seed as they do with normal seeding applications since the patch works as both an insulator and masks the actual seed (all two seeds per square inch that is).

Defeating the purpose of the purchase, but adapting to its positive attributes, I plant regular seed and throw some of the Patchmaster on topic to keep the birds from finding it. So what's the worst thing here? I guess I make use of the PatchMaster I have and never buy it again. Pretty simple.

New Found Villains

Country living has introduced me to new lawns foes.

First, I learned about the invasion of the moles. Moles are small little creatures that seem innocent enough at first. Then after you see how much damage they can cause by tunnelling to death, they move at light speed and turn your lawn into a three dimensional maze. Pretty frustrating.

When visiting Agway, I asked the lady behind the counter how to get rid of the moles. An older woman standing at the counter recommended using a shotgun. I could sense that I wasn't alone in my mole frustration. And the lady wasn't kidding about the shotgun.

The problem was more of an early spring annoyance. I tackled the problem through poison peanuts, Grub-Ex, and a mole trap. Sadly, the mole trap did nothing except nearly trip my poor sister-n-law who was playing with the kids in the backyard a few weeks ago.

The second villain is the the worst of the bunch. The wild turkey.

The wild turkeys are not easily vanquished. They are luck Tuskin Raiders - as Obi Wan Kenobi once said - and I'm paraphrasing - Raiders are easy scared off at first, but return in larger numbers.

I spoke to the folks at DEP about my wild turkey problem. They agreed that wild turkeys are not easily deterred. They offered two solutions - purchase a dog, and offer a hunter to come over and shoot them. Yeah, no kidding.

I was informed that hunting is a reasonable way to keep the population down, and that shooting them is within my right during the right season. I was sort of surprised that DEP would recommend killing animals, but I think that up unto that moment I was blending DEP and animal rights activists as one in the same. I guess I was wrong.

For the most part, I did a good job shooing away the turkeys. That is until two days ago when a wild turkey flew up onto my back deck - a good 20 feet off the ground, stood a top of my new grill, and proceeded to stare in at me through the window. My wife and younger child were amazed at the audacity of this beast.

For weeks I chased him out of the yard - of course he would sometimes hang out just beyond the boundaries of the lawn in the woods. He and his three friends were having a field day kicking up my straw where my new seed was growing. And there is nothing worse than seeing these beasts kick up your straw 40 feet from you.

So as I begin to create my beautiful lush lawn - full project deferred until fall, I'm aware that there are quite a few battles that lie ahead.

The battle to find decent topsoil to overcome the sandy garbage left behind by the builder.

The battle against the fowls of the air.

The battle against the wild turkeys.

And lastly, the battle to keep wandering children out of the growing area. Ugghh. I'm almost ready to tar the whole darn thing.

In any case, I found a great site that has a short video on growing grass; it can be found here. Here is another site that requires flashplayer. And this site located here that breaks down lawn watering.


Publia said...

I think you need a dog, a cat who goes outdoors, and some Scott's fertilizer products, as well as a firm commitment to living with nature. That is the easier and better way to go.

The King said...

What about the crabgrass?