Whether you have purchased a home, are building a new home or just feel the need to update the extremities of your home, this page has everything you need to help you look after your lawn and the surrounding garden. Planting, growing and maintaining lawn and garden foliage is a demanding but rewarding experience. But to get it right you need all of the help you can get. But don’t panic – we are here to support you. Consider us as your guiding hand through this challenging outdoor adventure.
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If you have just started caring about your lawn and want to make it just perfect, this scheme will help you to understand where to start from:
Step # 1 Learn About Types of Grass
First of all, let’s be clear – grass is not just grass. In fact, there’s a lot more to grass than that. Home owners grow many different types of grasses in their gardens, and each of these grass varieties has different growing and maintenance requirements. Many factors go into the selection of a type of grass for a particular lawn for an individual garden, least of which is the climate and zoning. The “warm-season” grasses are ideal for the southernmost states in the U.S., whereas “cool-season” grasses predominate in the North and in Canada.
Common cool-season grasses include:
Among the common warm-season grasses are:
Here are some examples of other factors you should consider when making your selection of grass type (in addition to climate and zoning):
- A shaded area can prevent a green lawn but some grasses such as Fine fescues are the most tolerant of shade so are ideal for planting where foliage covers the ground on a regular basis
- Lawn areas that suffer heavy foot traffic require a tough grass – Kentucky bluegrass is ideal for this
- Smooth-stalked meadow grass provides excellent wear tolerance and has a good tolerance to drought and fungal disease
- Bentgrass provides a base to the lawn and good winter greenness. Bentgrass varieties are used for establishing and overseeding attractive, hard wearing greens on golf courses.
Step # 2 Soil and Hardiness Zone
When planning your garden – be it merely making some small changes or designing an entire garden from scratch, it is important to know what your climate zone is so that you are free to choose your plants accordingly. Knowing your zone and choosing plants to match this zone can mean the difference between success and disaster in your garden for some years to come. Don’t make gardening an expensive lesson.
The United States Department of Agriculture has developed a Plant Hardiness Zone Map that breaks North America into eleven zones based on the annual minimum temperature, zone 1 being the coldest and zone 11 being the hottest. This zoning helps you to determine what plants to nurture in your garden.
You should also bear in mind that there are microclimates within your own garden, depending on the amount of sun, wind, and water specific areas receive, so plan accordingly. Zone, however, is only one important consideration before siting your plants. Sure, it’s a zone 5 plant, but lavender will do very poorly in a boggy clay soil, so remember to consider the soil too.
Before you plant anything consider what you are intending to grow. Examine where the plant is from and see if your soil type and the zoning is conducive to good nurturing in your garden environment.
Typically, in the southern part of the United States “warm-season” grasses are generally actively grown from mid-April to mid-October. These grasses such as Bermuda flourish in the warm weather. Conversely, in the central and northern United States you are more likely to see people growing “cool-season” grasses. These types of grasses grow the most in the moderately cool temperatures of spring and fall. Kentucky bluegrass is an example of a cool-season type of grass.
Step # 3 Choose Your Grass Type and Design
Designing a lawn and a garden is a comprehensive process. There are many things to consider. For instance did you know that growing a new lawn takes a considerable amount of water? The good news is there are some simple things you can do to significantly reduce the amount of water your lawn areas need – saving you money and time spent mowing.
Irrespective of what kind of garden you’d like, there are a wide range of low maintenance light drinkers – both in terms of lawn and foliage that will suit your garden environment.
In terms of foliage if you group plants with similar watering needs together you will both find it easier to maintain and less water intensive. By choosing local native plants you may also be able to attract lots of local wildlife which gives your garden an additional element. And if you plants tress and shrubs you will be creating a shade environment which naturally reduces evapaoration and protects lawn areas.
Speaking of lawn, when you are designing your lawn component of the garden you should consider the following points:
- Add compost to the soil before planting any lawn
- Choose slow growing, water efficient lawn varieties and find the law variety that matches your soil type
- Try not to plant lawn on slopes or in hard to reach places that are difficult to water and maintain
- Water your lawn for longer, but less often, to encourage deeper roots and drought tolerance
- Aerate the soil occasionally with a garden fork as this helps the water soak in
- Save your lawn clippings to use as mulch on your lawn or garden
- If your soil is sandy, design your driveways and paved areas to slope slightly towards a lawn or garden bed so that rainwater can drain with ease
- Design your lawn area with a curve so that it acts as a kind of water retaining bowl
- Only water your lawn if it’s showing signs of stress, such as turning brown or visibly wilting
Step # 4 The Ways to Plant
A key question for gardeners is which is better – to seed or to sod? The answer depends upon what you ultimately expect from your garden. With sod you’ll get an instant lawn, however it is more expensive to install and maintain initially. Seeded lawns take a little longer but are cheaper in the beginning. Both types will flourish if you maintain and water them correctly so your decision really comes down to two important factors – speed and expense.
If you have irrigation it is recommended against using straw on a new lawn because straw serves two purposes:
- To retain moisture
- To prevent erosion
At first, water your new seed 2-3 times daily during the daylight hours to keep the soil moist – this encourages germination. A week or two after initial germination change the watering regimen to only once in the early morning – this encourages root growth. After about a month, your new lawn may be ready to mow for the first time. Before you start make sure it is dry so as to not to damage it. Once you’ve mowed the grass for the first time, re-seed any areas that have been washed out or haven’t come in. Now fertilize the lawn. Within the next month you will begin to see the lawn look more established, but be patient as it usually takes a full season of growth to establish a seeded lawn.
An irrigation system is a very good idea if you are going to sod your new lawn because sod needs to be watered as soon as it’s installed. This first watering should completely saturate the turf and the soil below ensuring that the sod does not dry out. After the initial soaking, you should water the lawn 2-3 times during the daylight hours for moderate to heavy periods. Approx. a week after installation, lift up a corner of the sod. You should see small white roots protruding from the underside of the sod. Over the next weeks these will begin to attach the sod to the soil. Maintain your watering program. Keep checking the sod in this way until it begins to feel like “Velcro” when you lift it. The initial process should take 2-3 weeks, and then you will be ready for your first mow. You should fertilize the lawn around one month after installation.
Step # 5 Lawn Care
Why is it that some gardens in your neighborhood offer up a display of beautiful green lawns, while in other gardens the greenery always seems to be losing out increasingly to brown spots. Essentially the secret of having a green lawn lies in providing sufficient nutrients and minerals to lawn, practicing effective lawn weed control and following an appropriate and adequate mowing routine.
Maintaining Your Lawn
Everyone expects different things from their lawn but everyone has one common requirement – a lawn that is low maintenance. But if you can adjust your expectations to be happy with taller grass, a mix of other plants in your turf, such as clover, and midsummer periods when your grass temporarily turns brown, you can achieve a low-maintenance lawn.
But why the need for tall grass? There are several reasons not to cut your grass too short. First, grass grows from the crown, not the blade tips. This trait makes grass ideal for lawns because they keep on growing despite the regular mowing off of their upper stem and blades. Secondly, keeping grass on the longer side also allows it greater surface area to carry out photosynthesis resulting in healthier plants. Thirdly, taller grass grows slower than shorter grass which eliminates up to 20 percent of the mowing you do annually. Finally, by keeping your grass tall you can prevent 90 percent of all weeds from germinating.
Contrary to 20 or 30 years ago, it is now recommended that you leave clippings on the lawn. By using a mulching mower and leaving clippings where they fall will not only save the labor of collecting and composting them, but reduce the need for adding fertilizer to your lawn.
But what about watering tall grass? To decide how much water to apply, you should consider several things: the depth of your grass roots, your type of soil and water’s ability to penetrate it and, of course, the weather. First, check to see how deep the roots of your grass are. Add an inch to the average root depth, and this will give you a target for watering depth. Root depth depends on how much time you have taken to improve your soil and on what type of grass you are growing. Some grasses, such as tall fescues, have roots that can reach one foot deep. Others only grow to half of that, even in the best of conditions. As your grass develops deeper roots, you should adjust your watering target so that you continue to encourage roots to go deeper.
Watering your lawn and garden is an absolute necessity in most areas of the United States. Even if you have never watered your lawn or garden before, the fact is that if you receive less than 1 inch a rain a week, you really should consider a water system or regime of some sort. Although in extreme cases, lack of water will cause your plants to shrivel, turn brown and die, even a small lack of water can affect the growth and vibrancy of the lawn.
Watering your lawn does not require any expensive equipment, as long as you have a garden hose, you can water your lawn productively. But naturally, any equipment that you do purchase can make your job all the more easy. A popular method of watering lawns and gardens is to get a fan type nozzle for your garden hose. This does mean that you will have to stand out and water the garden yourself, which can be a drawback if the garden is large, but the fan shape of the sprayer will cover more area than a traditional garden nozzle.
For irrigating your lawn there are also a variety of sprinkler devices you can use. Oscillating and fountain type of sprinklers both hook directly to your hose end and work well for a small to medium sized lawn. You can purchase timers that connect to your hose that will turn the water off after a set amount of time too meaning that you don’t need to stand and watch for the duration of the process. Permanent sprinklers with pop up heads or fixed riser spray heads are convenient if you have a large yard to cover. Ultimately you should choose the method that is most convenient for you and works best with your lawn.
Whichever method that you choose, you should make sure that you are not over watering, which can be just as damaging as under watering. This is really a matter of trial and error. As you become more familiar with what your lawn requires you will quickly work out the right amounts of watering required.
Automatic Sprinkler Irrigation Systems
Automatic sprinkler irrigation systems save valuable time for busy people who still like to maintain the best looking lawn and garden in the street, even if they are time poor. A carefully designed sprinkler and drip irrigation system will actually save on water consumption and allows you to ensure that your garden is receiving adequate hydration, but is no reliant on you being there to do so. A good sprinkler system and a set of well placed drip irrigation devices will extend the life of your plants, the appearance of your garden, and ultimately the value of your home.
Many people believe that automatic garden irrigation systems waste water, because the garden will get watered whether it needs it or not. However, a well designed, modern system will actually save water. This is because by setting the controller to distribute the exact amount of water across the components of the garden you will never actually over water (and you will never forget to turn off the hose either!)
A few simple tricks can help you maximize the efficiency of your watering system. For example, always irrigate your lawn and planter beds separately, because trees and shrubs have much larger root systems than grass, and only need around half the amount of water. Also, set the system to water early in the morning before the sun comes up, to minimize evaporation and water loss caused by the wind.
In terms of automatic sprinkler irrigation systems there is a wide range of products that you can choose from, including sprinkler parts, drip irrigation devices, controllers, sensors, control valves, backflow preventers, drains and other components. It would be worth your while spending a little time doing some research, to determine exactly which combination of products and will best suit your individual needs so that you can choose the optimum package for you.
Fertilizing Your Lawn
Your lawn takes nutrients out of the soil that it is bedded in and uses these nutrients to aid its growth. If your soil lacks these nutrients your lawn will ultimately suffer. So while fertilizing makes your lawn greener it also provides a top of any nutrients that your soil is lacking helping grass to grow. When the nutrients are available, the lawn develops healthier roots which invariably grow deeper allowing the lawn to draw upon water and nutrients in the soil. Furthermore, deep roots reduce thatch and browning. Finally, fertilizer contains nutrients that grass needs to resist disease and drought.
Fertilizers also offer the additional benefit of including chemicals to inhibit or kill weeds. The three primary nutrients in a fertilizer are Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium. Each element has its own affect upon grass. Nitrogen stimulates grass growth and greening. Phosphorous stimulates the development of roots and seedlings. Potassium promotes disease and drought resistance.
As the weather changes, so too does your lawn have changing needs. In the heat of the summer, your lawn needs water and little else. In order to survive the cold weather, your lawn needs to have healthy roots and so a fertilizer to promote root growth should be applied before the cold weather sets in. At other times of year your lawn needs nutrients to enable growth and greening. Weeds also have their own growing seasons so you should fertilize at the beginning of the various weed growth seasons.
Where you live, the type of grass you have, the condition of your soil and the weather all affect your choice of fertilizer and when it should be applied. You also have a choice of organic fertilizer, liquid fertilizer, which is sprayed on, or time released granules which are distributed with a spreader. All of these factors result in the many choices of fertilizer. And of course you can always purchase your fertilizer via a wholesaler online, meaning that the more you buy the cheaper the deal.
Keeping the Weeds Out
Of all the gardening tasks, keeping the weeds out is the task we detest the most. There are a lot of very efficient ways to weed your garden however. Naturally, however, the best way for weeding remains getting down on your hands and knees, and pulling them by hand or with the assistance of a small hand tool.
Getting up close and person with your weeds allows you to pull even the tiniest of weeds. It’s better to get them out while they are still small and there is only tenuous root growth. The weeds that are in between your plants and close to them, are robbing your plant of moisture and nutrients. And while some weeds can be eliminated by snipping them at the base, most will require pulling out all of the root system which is why hands work best.
When working close to the plant, be careful not to disturb the plants root system. Some weeds can be pulled out easily, while others break off when you give them a tug. This is a defensive device of the plant and allows it to survive and grow new stems and leaves. Make sure to get it all. Be cautious to avoid getting too close to the roots of your plants.
Weeding should be done early and often and undertaken early in the day. This is because it is both cooler for you, and a little easier on your plants, as the roots are often disturbed. Any weeds left on top of the soil will more easily dry out and die in the hotter midday sun.
Mulch is a great asset in any garden, when it comes to keeping weeds down and saving you time. Weeds that succeed in poking through a thick layer of mulch are easier to pull out. Organic mulch needs to be put down thickly to keep the weeds down and should be re-applied regularly. Plastic mulch keeps all weeds out, and for a long time but it is not environmentally friendly so returns no nutrients back to your soil. You can also use paper as a mulch and leaf recycling bags.
Weedkillers and herbicides are in common use on lawns, in flower gardens and in vegetable gardens. For some applications they are the fastest and most efficient, if not least expensive method of eliminating weeds.
Thatch & Dethatch
Thatch is a tightly woven layer of living and dead stems, leaves and roots that accumulates between the layer of actively-growing grass and the soil beneath it. Thatch is a normal component of an actively growing turf grass and can increase the resilience of the turf to heavy traffic which is why it develops more readily on high-maintenance lawns.
To determine if your lawn has a thatch problem, cut out a small, triangular-shaped plug of turf several inches deep and examine. Note the spongy layer of material above the mineral soil. If this layer is more than 3/4 to 1 inch thick when you compress it, you should consider having your lawn dethatched.
When thatch has accumulated to an excessive thickness, it is best reduced by mechanical means. Dethatcher machines known as vertical mowers, dethatchers or power rakes have vertically spinning blades which pull some of the material to the surface as they slice the thatch layer. Mechanical dethatching should be done in either late summer or fall when cool weather prevails. You should not try to dethatch when the soil is wet. In addition to dethatching, the lawn should be aerated and limed if necessary. Lime and aeration stimulate bacterial decomposition by improving air, water and nutrient relationships.
You can also topdress your lawn after dethatching with topsoil similar to the soil underlying the turf which helps even out bumpiness and fill in holes left from dethatching and/or aerating. Do not topdress with a different type of soil as a dissimilar soil will not mix well enough with the underlying soil. Other maintenance practices which discourage thatch build-up are frequent mowings to maintain the grass at a height of 2 1/2 inches, keeping clippings on the lawn, reducing nitrogen fertilization and amending the soil with phosphorus, potassium, and lime according to a soil nutrient analysis.
Step # 6 Lawn mowing
Step # 7 Learn About Lawn Problems
If you have been working feverishly on your lawn-fertilizing, watering, aerating, mulching, maybe even applying lime to the lawn to neutralize the soil but your grass is still not as green as your neighbours then do not despair. Even the best lawns have had their problems.
Try these tips to see if you can make some improvement despite common lawn problems:
To pinpoint a problem area conduct a soil test. Take random samples of soil from your lawn by digging down six to eight inches and removing organic matter-including grass blades, roots and stems. Mix the soil and send it to a soil-testing lab at your local garden centre. They can help you identify problem areas with your lawn and offer solutions.
If your lawn feels soft and spongy, chances are you’ve got thatch. Thatch can be good or bad. If you’ve got a thin layer, it helps prevent ground compaction and holds moisture in the soil. But too thick of a layer acts like a sheet of plastic that holds back water, nutrients and air. You can use a dethatching machine or a core aerator to pull up excess thatch and plugs of soil. If you decide to aerate, you can rake the plugs back over the lawn as a top dressing. That will start a mulching action that breaks down thatch.
You may have noticed some bare spots in your yard. Most likely these spots are as a result of shade, traffic or disease. If your area is well-shaded, try planting a more shade-tolerant variety of grass or a ground cover, or aerate the area to protect it against heavy traffic (traffic compresses the soil). To protect your grass from disease, follow good practices, such as watering infrequently but deeply, mowing your lawn often enough to cut only the top one-third of the grass plant, and using a fertilizer with a high percentage of slow-release nitrogen.
If you’ve noticed your grass has a little different color, it’s probably dehydrated. Signs of a dehydrated lawn include grass that’s bluish-green in color, curling grass blades and foot printing. John Deere recommends watering your lawn an inch a week to help keep it green, healthy and strong.
Step # 8 Disease Control
Plant health can be threatened by diseases, insects, weed competition, animals, changes in the environment or poor care. Diseases and insects often attack plants despite good growing conditions and care. Diseases cause leaves or fruits to be distorted, spotted and decayed and can result in the loss of leaves or leaf discoloration. These organisms are spread by the wind, rain-splash, insects, infected seed or transplants, and by the movement of infested soil. These infections often have a yellow to light green, brown or black margin or “halo” around the original diseased area.
Damping-off is a disease caused by soil fungi that attack germinating seed and seedlings. A seedling collapses and dies when it is attacked at soil level. Damping-off can be avoided partly by planting seeds in warm, well-drained soil in a sunny spot and by proper culture (correct planting depth, spacing, watering and fertilization).
Fungicides will prevent common leaf and stem blight diseases of carrots, cucumbers, Irish potatoes, melons, pumpkins, squash, peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants. To control these diseases, select a recommended fungicide and cover all plant surfaces. Some diseases, such as Fusarium and Verticillium wilts, are best controlled by planting resistant varieties.
Taking proper care of plants will help to keep them strong and more resistant to disease. Follow good fertilizing and watering practices. Control weeds and insects. Use mulches to control fruit rots and blossom-end rot of tomato and pepper (dark, sunken area on bottom of fruits). Do not work in the garden when plants are wet. Cultivating, pruning or harvesting under these conditions spreads bacteria and fungi from infected to healthy plants.
To help disease control in your garden you should grow varieties that are disease resistant and use seeds or other planting materials (bulbs, tubers, sets) that are disease-free and have been treated with a fungicide. Rotate vegetables by planting them in different locations in the garden each year. Avoid planting any of the vegetables in each of the following families in the same location more than once every three years. For example, cabbage and turnips should not be grown in the same location for two succeeding years. This is true for the entire cabbage family: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, radish, kohlrabi, rutabaga and turnip.
Step # 10 Use Special Furniture for Lawns
There are many companies building lawn chairs and lawn tables nowadays. We have a wide choice indeed but we need to select wisely if we want quality lawn furniture. Three main categories of lawn furniture are available. They have chairs, tables and boxes. The chairs are usually all very lovely. The Western Red Cedar wood from British Columbia in Canada is one of the best materials. They slow dry the lumber for six months before applying sealer.
Of every item of furniture that is build, screws glides to the bottoms of the legs. This is an excellent feature because it keeps the legs of the lawn furniture out of rain puddles and it diminishes chances to damage a deck by dragging furniture across it.
Rust is avoided with lawn furniture if stainless steel hinges, screws and piston brackets are used. All the lawn furniture is equipped with stainless steel hardware. It can be used for generations. To protect the wood and enhance its natural beauty, you have to keep your lawn furniture clean and oiled.
If you want to spend the summer in quality lawn equipment you know one company that does a very good job. Of course it is always a good idea to compare products and prices of other companies before buying anything.
Step # 11 Enjoy Your Lawn
There are many ways that we use and enjoy turfgrass. Each is a specialized discipline that requires different kinds of turfgrass, different management strategies, and unique equipment and tools.
Sports Turf: Soccer, football, baseball — think about all the sports that are played better on lush natural turf fields. Natural turf playing fields and playground surfaces provide cushioning and a sure footing — causing fewer injuries than artificial surfaces or bare soil. Many college and professional sports stadiums are changing from artificial to natural turf surfaces for better playability.
Golf Courses: Over 2 million golfers play 479 million rounds of golf a year in the United States — on turf. Hybrid bermuda grasses developed at the Georgia Experiment Station in Tifton, Georgia cover more golf courses and athletic fields than any other turfgrass varieties in the world.
Home Lawns: Well maintained home lawns can help reduce annoying insect pests while providing a place for family fun and entertainment. Well maintained lawns can add 15% to the selling price of a home.
Commercial Landscapes: Well landscaped turf and ornamental areas are an important amenity in office parks, retail areas, and managed housing areas. Turfgrass areas around parking lots and buildings increase security and visibility and have a cooling effect.
Bowls is a game that can be played by anyone aged from nine to ninety. It is generally an exhausting game and during a match a player plays for around three to four hours without a break. During these games they can walk two or three miles and bend up and down about 100 times.
The Game is played on a Bowling Green. The surface is generally grass but in some of the hotter, drier countries artificial surfaces are increasingly being used. In countries with long winters, like the UK and Canada, many indoor bowling centres have sprung up where the game is played on a carpet like surface.
A bowling green is normally square and the official rules usually suggest that it shall be not less than 34 metres and no more than 40 metres in the direction of play. It is surrounded by a shallow ditch which in turn is surrounded by a bank, which should be not less than 230 mm above the surface of the green. The green is normally divided into six “rinks” allowing six games to take place concurrently. The rinks should be not less than 5.5 metres nor more than 5.8 metres wide. Surface wear is spread by moving the rink settings laterally and by changing direction of play every two or three days, playing either across the green or up and down. Rink extremities are marked off by boundary markers with the centre of each being indicated by a “pin” which also carries a number for the rink. The rinks are numbered 1 through 6. Players deliver their bowls from one end to another during an “end” then, when the end is complete, they turn around and play back again.
The bowls are different sizes with a mid sized men’s bowl being between 116mm and 131mm in diameter. They are made of a hard plastic material which is able to withstand the constant contact between bowls during play. During a game players roll their bowls up the green in turn trying to finish closest to a smaller white ball called the “Jack”.
The players must stand on a rubber mat when delivering their bowl. The mat is placed on the centreline of the rink and its position is chosen by the player who throws the jack to start the end. The players take turns to deliver their bowls. When all the bowls have been delivered the number of “shots” is counted. A shot is a bowl which is nearer the jack than any of your opponents bowls. At the conclusion of a typical end of bowls in a singles match each player has played four bowls.
Bowls is a highly tactical game, which indeed is one of its attractions. It is not always about “drawing” closest the jack. Players must constantly anticipate what shot their opponents may play. For example when a team has a few bowls behind the head the opposing team may see the need to place a bowl amongst these to cover the possibility of the jack being moved.
Gave up on a Lawn? Alternatives to Lawn Grass
The real threat of drought and water restrictions is a real problem for people everywhere across the United States. Homeowners are now looking for alternatives to grass that will adequately characterize and soften the look of their garden environment.
What is xeriscaping?
A relatively new concept as an alternative to lawn grass and as a solution to drought and the economic costs is the use of xeriscaping plants. “xeriscaping” originated with the Denver Colorado Water Department in 1981. A compound of the Greek xeros, dry, and “-scape,” as in landscape, “xeriscape” landscaping essentially refers to a creating a landscape design that has been carefully tailored to withstand drought conditions.
Xeriscape landscaping can take many forms. For some landscapers, this means grouping plants with similar watering requirements together on the landscape. Some practitioners of xeriscape landscaping totally eliminate lawn and some simply switch to types of lawn grass that demand less water, while others cut back on the expanse and expense of lawn. Some even use ground covers, shrubs and mulches.
But almost regardless of where you live in North America, you should start considering cheaper alternatives to lawns. Automatic irrigation systems and other lawn watering systems can end up costing you extra money in the long run so exploring Xeriscape alternatives is important.
Xeriscape landscaping offers an opportunity to experiment because in addition to extended patio areas and walkways a myriad of interesting xeriscaping themes and designs can be incorporated into the landscaping plan.
Xeriscape plants include:
- Echeveria (“hens and chickens”)
- Sedum, or “stonecrop”
- Rock garden plantings
- Wildflowers native to your area
- Purple fountain grass
- Yellow pampas grass
- Mexican feather grass
- Blue oat grass