Can We Talk About The Bay?

Hey all, just want to jump up on my soapbox a minute. Fall is coming, most are eager to get lawns re-established, over seeded, or just plain fed. This is great, especially since the “organic” industry is actually realizing that a healthy lawn produces great riparian assets, as well as absorbs harmful things a-floatin’ around the air we breathe. But lets get a handle on some things.  If you aren’t hungry, do you eat? If you are hungry, do you decide when and what to eat? And if you have a crazy craving for something, do you seek it out? OK, our lawns can’t just up and go to the store when it’s hungry, or turn on the spigot when it’s thirsty. So lets get some “Lawn Menu” of sorts in order, so I can eat my seafood in peace.

Lawns in Va. do best when they are actually hungry. You feed, they respond, and make us the envy of the neighborhood. But just how important is the extra “overage” of fertilizer? Lawns are getting ready to wake up again here in a couple of weeks. We have lost over an hour daylight so far, and by mid September, we will be minus two. Temps will still be warm in the day, but not as much direct sunlight, and the angle will be severely changed. Night time temps will be sometimes 20 degrees less than daytime. Your grass is hungry. So what have we done to prepare the “menu” for our beloved lawn?

The previous post we mentioned lime… Here in central Va. you more than likely have acidic soil, yeah I know, there are a few random pockets throughout the state that are alkaline, so there is the importance of getting your soil tested. But either way, rain is acidic, and we have had our share of toad chokers this Summer. Getting your soil pH close to neutral will help your lawn feed the nutrients it mostly deserves. A lot of folks think lime greens up a lawn. No, it doesn’t. There is always trace nutrients locked up in the soil, and when the pH is out of wack, the lawn does not feed.  Apply some lime, and wow, greens up pretty good, especially if you have been recycling your clippings, full of Nitrogen. So, we can create a menu option for our lawn to get it ready for the next 3 months of feeding, and it will take everything we throw at it.

Now for the Bay part. If your pH is out of wack, and the media is telling you to feed, feed, feed, and, then feed some more, and you have not set the table (correct pH ), then you are killing my beloved crabs. It’s not the cows…. It’s us. There are several websites you can go to that monitor the NPK loads in streams, rivers, and our Bay. You should see the numbers climb in the fall, it’s astounding, but I guess cows only poop in the fall. Yeah, like its their fault. We can clean our watershed drastically, by just realizing how a lawn grows. Tall Fescue, cool season grass right? So, we would feed in the cool season. Bermuda’s and Zoysia, warm season grass, so feed in the warm months before it goes dormant for Winter. Wow, what was that? If I want Bermuda, I would feed in the Summer? Wait, If I want Tall fescue, feed in the Fall………. Wait, something’s ticking in the old bean here… If I feed my Fescue lawn in, I dunno, say July, when the Summer feed with the bug killer in it comes out, then, I might just promote that dreaded creeping brown in the Winter Bermuda in my TF lawn. Yeah, but they make that stuff to kill out the Bermuda, right? No, never look at the label, you know, the part that says you can’t apply if the temp will reach 85 degrees…. What the heck? Yeah, now there goes my oysters…

Come on. Ask any Extension Agent in your area. Do what they say, forget the guy next door. Soil prep, oxygen, watering properly, feeding at the right time, pH corrections, sharp mower blades, and patience… Nice green lawn. There, I said it. Feel much better now. Preaching this is sometimes hard, but I have a lot of Karma to burn off. Ma Nature is talking to us, and not everyone is listening.

Thanks for visiting my site.

Lawn Readiness in Va. – August

Its time folks. Time to start re-evaluating the sad times you have in cultivating a lawn in Zone 7a. If you have a great stand of grass, this will bore you. If you don’t, then this may help you, unless you just have to do what the media tells you. Maybe this will dispel the myths of More is better.

NOTE 1 –     It’s August, Crabgrass and Bermuda are on the prowl. Typically Crabgrass will drop seed around Aug. 12th. So, if you have a bagger, then start bagging the “lawn” now, for about the next 3 weeks. DO NOT APPLY ANYMORE FERTILIZER!. August is your mechanical maintence month. Typically, the Crabgrass that drops seed now, will overwinter, and come up in March. It will be hardy, and it will be hungry. That will be an issue we discuss in, well, March. Right now, the more you bag, the less you will have to overcome in the Spring. So lets get rid of some problems now. Also, Crabgrass and Bermuda, are indicator plantsof compacted soil, so this month, I would core aerate and/or apply pelletized gypsum on the lawn area.

Note 2  –    But….First we need to assimilate the time frame for things to happen. Lets say you are going to overseed in September. This will be accompanied with a feeding of either a Starter fertilizer with an N-P-K of about 20-27-5, or a good dose of 10-10-10. For the seed to germinate properly, there should be good seed-to-soil contact with warm days and cool nights, with some daily dampness. If you can accomplish this, you will see sprigs in about 13 days. So don’t let the next note scare you, but 13 days minus 7 dead days minus 7 mechanical days puts you around August 20th to start, I’ll  ‘splain the math throughout this blog…

Note 3 –    At your start date, you need to apply a nonselective herbicide to your lawn, Yep, if it’s green, it’s dead type, like Round-up. See, you can plant 7 days later with this product, but you won’t. Then you need to get up as much dead material as possible. Round-up does not kill seed, so there will be things trying to pop up from time to time, but it will be manageable.

Note 4 –    Now, how about plug aerating? Do it after clearing your debris, apply the gypsum if you want, and while you are at it, apply your pelleted lime as well.. Lime the season before you feed and before the lawn wakes up in the Spring, so again in say late January. Lawn looks pretty crappy now right? OK, normally people don’t do this, but I would apply some sort of amendment on the bare areas now. Shredded Oak leaves are perfect. or some store bought lawn soil, but just enough to cover the old soil make-up. Now wait.

Note 5 –    OK, Mid September is here. (Pretend, OK?). The amendment, gypsum, and lime have done their thing. Your newly planted “soil” is at the peak of readiness. Your “plugs” have healed for the most part. Time to get the lawn planted. Apply your choice of the above mentioned fertilizers at the recommended rate on the bag. More is not better. Only one. Not both..Do Not Apply Any Fertilizer With A Weed Control Or Pre-emergent! Its all hogwash… There, you’ve been told… Apply the seed at the recommended rate on the bag as well. Turn off irrigation. All you want for the next 10 to 15 days is damp, maybe twice a day if it gets hot. Afteryou see the sprigs come up, then set the irrigation, or run your sprinkler, every other day… Hear me? You want at least 1 1/2 inches of water per week. Not every day, but every other day, deeper. You want to basically, leach the fertilizer down into your properly prepared soil bed, so the roots chase the food. See? Deeper roots, better tops. Water in the morning only so high school biology takes over.

Note 6 –    Do not apply any weed killers at this time. Yeah, your gonna see some things pop up, but either pull them or we can take care of in October. Remember to take the bagger off, you are going to be re-cycling (mulching) until mid October. Do not feed anymore until mid to late October, at which time we will discuss “Winterizers“, completely different animals. You are about to really impress yourself on this….

See you in September.