Landscape Techniques FAQ
Lawn aeration is the process of creating air channels in your lawn so that air can freely pass into the soil and circulate around the grass roots. This aeration is achieved by either:
A) Removing small cylinder shaped cores about 0.5cm wide and 5-10cm deep (similar to the idea of coring an apple), this is known as core aeration.
B) Creating aeration channels by inserting solid spikes (such as the tines of a garden fork) into the soil.
Over time the soil that the lawn grows on can become compacted due to a number of reasons such as use for sports, walking, vehicles, parking and children playing. This soil compaction can have a negative effect on your lawn.
Not enough air or water: Compacted soil leads to a reduced amount of air held in the soil, restricted air flow and reduced water infiltration into the soil. If air and water can’t get down to the roots, you won’t have the thick, full lawn you want.
Not enough nutrients: If air and water can’t get down to the roots, neither can key nutrients your lawn needs to reach its maximum potential. When your lawn doesn’t get the food it needs, it also puts it at higher risk from drought and other environmental stresses.
Too much thatch: There are other factors besides soil compaction that may give you a reason to aerate your lawn. If your lawn contains a considerable buildup of thatch (the unsightly organic debris that builds up faster than it can be broken down) then you must aerate to help break it down. Aeration pulls soil cores up to the surface and brings microorganisms with them. These microorganisms break down the layer of thatch and return nutrients to the soil. Lawn aeration may also be necessary on heavy clay soils to help soil air circulation and water filtration.
Is your lawn composed of cool season grasses? If so, it may well take a beating from the heat to which it is subjected in summer. After all, by definition, cool-season grasses crave the cooler temperatures of spring and autumn. But there’s something you can do to undo summer’s assault. It’s called “overseeding lawns” “Overseeding lawns” is just what it sounds like. Namely, you’re sowing seed over existing grass, in order to fill in the bare patches. Therefore, overseeding lawns makes sense only if the existing grass is healthy enough and abundant enough to be worth keeping. If you currently have only 50% coverage, then you need to tear up the old lawn and start a new lawn from seed.
Preparations for Overseeding Lawns
Another step to take to promote contact between seeds and soil is core aeration, or “lawn aeration.” This step will help reduce lawn thatch, which stands in the way between grass seeds and the soil they’d like to call home. In severe cases, you may need to add a layer of topsoil before overseeding lawns. For instance, due to shallow tree roots popping up on the lawn, your topsoil layer may be too thin. Spread 1/4″ of screened topsoil over such an area, and rake it in.
The recommended rate for overseeding lawns is 4-5 pounds for every 1000 square feet that you need to cover. For the proper operation of overseeding lawns, use a spreader. Set the spreader to the recommended overseeding rate. At the same time, apply a starter fertilizer for better results. The grass seeds must be watered properly, in order to germinate. Use just a fine spray, as you don’t want to create a flood! The soil should be kept evenly moist, which may mean several waterings per day (depending on the weather), for several weeks. After the grass blades sprout, you’ll still need to water a couple of times per day. If you know your schedule won’t permit this, the time to look into automatic irrigation system is before overseeding lawns, not after.
The best time for overseeding lawns that have cool-season grasses is in September; the second-best time for overseeding lawns is in March or April.
Shaded lawns have different requirements from lawns that are grown in full sunlight. A shaded lawn may be in full sun for part of the day and full shade for the rest of the day or it may receive filtered sunlight that passes through the canopy of the trees and leaves.
Stress Effects of Shade on the Lawn
- Shaded lawns are subject to more stress than lawns that are grown in full sunlight. Reduced sunlight can be caused by the shading effect of trees, shrubs and buildings. Fallen leaves can also shade a lawn and prevent sunlight from reaching the grass blades.
- The first signs of stress is usually a result of less sunlight. Specifically, the amount of photosynthesis that takes place in the grass is greatly reduced. Photosynthesis uses the energy of sunlight to produce ‘food’ for the grass so that it can grow. In shaded lawns the rate of growth is therefore slower when compared to sunny lawns.
- A side effect of limited sunlight is that it results in the lawn being more subject to moss infestation as the turf is holding more moisture due to the lack of the suns drying effect. Moss thrives in damp conditions.
- The other main stresses on the lawn are caused by the roots of trees and shrubs which overhang the lawn. The roots of these trees and shrubs compete with the grass for both water and nutrients. Large trees can lose hundreds of litres of water a day by evaporation through their leaves. They replace this water by drawing it up from the soil and through their roots. The trees root system can deprive the grass roots from being able to take up sufficient water.
Trees can also prevent rain from reaching the lawn and soil as it can be intercepted by their leaves and branches and then lost through evaporation. Trees and shrubs also take up nutrients from the soil and so the lawn suffers because there are fewer nutrients that are available to the grass roots.
- The net effect of these extra stresses on the shaded lawn mean that it has slower growth rates, is more susceptible to drought and requires a longer recovery and re growth period after mowing.
- All lawns need some degree of sunlight for sufficient growth and if this level of sunlight is not available then the lawn will not grow properly and it will be impossible to establish and maintain the lawn. If this is the case then an alternative ground cover plant should be considered along with other alternatives such as bark mulch, synthetic turf and gravel.
Actions to Counteract the Stresses Faced By Shaded Lawns
- Choose suitable grass type(s),
- Certain grasses are much more shade tolerant than others. Fescues are commonly used on shaded lawns, especially red a chewing fescue.
- Water thoroughly (roughly once a week in the hottest parts of the year).
- Mow higher than lawns that receive full sunshine
- Only remove 1/3 of the grass height when mowing
- Prune trees and shrubs – reducing the shade level. Raise the tree’s canopy to 8 feet by removing the lower branches. Thin the density of the trees canopy by selective pruning to enable more light to filter through the spaces in the canopy.
Starter fertilizer benefits:
- Starter fertilizers are a small amount of fertilizer applied to the soil to meet the demands of the seedling for readily available nutrients until the plant’s root system develops. They also enhance the development of the emerging seedling.
- Phosphorus (P) is the key nutrient components in a starter fertilizer. Phosphorus is non-mobile in the soil, thus, undeveloped seedling roots have difficulty obtaining the necessary amounts for proper growth. Therefore, added phosphorus promotes vigorous root growth.
How Starter Fertilizer Affects Plant Growth:
The use of starter fertilizer enhances seed growth primarily because it places a readily available supply of plant nutrients (especially phosphorus) in a position where they are easily accessible to the limited root system of a seedling. Even though a soil may have high fertility, a seedling’s root system may not be able to obtain the necessary nutrients due to lack of size and density within the soil. Once a plant’s root system is established, it will be able to extract nutrients from the bulk of the soil. At this point, the soil serves as the primary source of plant nutrients. Since the plant now has a well-developed and extensive root system, it has more surface area to intercept nutrients and moisture throughout the soil.
Top dressing the lawn is the process of adding a fine layer of “home mixed quality soil” to the lawn surface. Top dressing benefits the lawn as it builds up the quality of the soil over a period of time:
- Sandy soils will be able to retain moisture better and so the lawn will be more resistant to drought.
- Clay soils will drain better thus improving root development.
- Regular Top Dressing will help to even out any lumps and bumps that are present on an uneven lawn, filling in any small hollows that may develop.
- Top dressing also stimulates the grass to produce new shoots and so results in denser grass cover which helps combat the onset of weed and moss infestation.
Top dressing is carried out routinely by professional greens keepers to ensure a top-quality finish. If you want a really top-quality lawn that can meet professional standards then you should top dress your lawn annually.
How do I top dress the lawn?
The key to applying the top dressing is to make sure that you get an even spread of the top dressing over the area and to make sure that the top dressing does not remain ‘on top’ of the grass. The top dressing should penetrate down to soil level. Before you begin you may find that on heavy or compacted soils aerating the lawn a few days before or on the same day will help your top dressing application.
When should I top dress the lawn?
You should top dress the lawn in September or October. Lawns which are based on poor soil will benefit from top dressing the soil each year. Lawns based on good quality soil should not need top dressing every year although if you want a really top class lawn then we highly recommend that you do so.
In certain regions and in certain years, water may be scarce as water reservoirs may not have adequate supply from rainfall. This can lead to a hosepipe ban in some areas meaning that use of a hosepipe-fed lawn sprinkler is not possible. An attractive lawn needs a lot of water. What are the options for watering the lawn when there is a hosepipe ban or when we want to try and conserve water?
- Water your lawn in the early morning as this is when least evaporation will occur (due to cool temperatures and low winds) and so results in greater water conservation. If you cannot water in the morning then the early evening is the next best time although this can result in the lawn being wet overnight. This can increase the likelihood of disease; indeed many fungus’s that can affect the lawn need damp conditions to produce spores.
- Make sure to reduce the layer of thatch that can build up in the lawn as this can both take in the water that was meant for the lawns grass roots as well as prevent the water from reaching the soil surface thus meaning that it can evaporate off the thatch without ever reaching the grass roots. Thatch can also cause water to run off into other areas, again preventing the water reaching the soil. You should aim to make thatch removal part of your lawn calendar and schedule it in for early spring or late summer. “lawn aeration.” This step will help reduce lawn thatch, which stands in the way between grass seeds and the soil they’d like to call home.
- If using a sprinkler ensure the pressure and direction of the sprinkler are optimized so that water is not being wasted by sprinkling it onto neighboring surfaces such as patios, paths, shrub beds etc.
- Make sure the soil is soaked in the root zone. This means soaking the soil to the depth that the grasses roots reach. You can determine whether the water is reaching the lawn roots by applying the sprinkler then leaving alone for 24 hours before digging up a small section of turf and soil to see how far down the soil the water has reached. If the water hasn’t reached the desired depth then extend the sprinkling time next time you water.
- Determine how often your lawn needs watering. The intervals between watering will depend on a number of factors including temperature, rainfall and soil type. Remember to try and keep your watering routine so that the lawn is watered thoroughly at longer intervals rather than watering sparsely at more frequent intervals.
Is It Important to Use Mulch in Your Landscape Beds
Mulching your landscape planting beds should be considered an integral part of your season landscape maintenance plan. The most obvious reason is the clean, groomed appearance it adds to your property. A nicely mulched landscape planting bed imparts a good feeling to visitors about the building/home they are about to enter. It is generally welcoming for the landscape planting beds to be tightly manicured.
Why Should You Use It in Your Planting Beds?
- Helps suppress weed growth
- Aesthetically pleasing
- Provides insulation to the soil
- Easy to install
How Much Mulch Should I Use?
Generally, 1-2 inches is the suggested depth that mulch should be applied. Any more than that could potentially cause problems to the existing landscape plants.
The Higher the Better!
Experts now recommend a longer turf grass for many different reasons. Here are a few of the most important:
- Promotes deeper root growth.
- Provides shade to soil which helps to reduce invasive weed germination.
- Reduces the chance of drought conditions.
- Cutting turf too short can shock grass plants and damage ability to sustain continual growth.
Deeper Root Growth
More and more evidence has come out directly connecting longer grass blades with it’s ability to handle deeper/longer root systems. The healthier the root system, the healthier the turf grass.
Providing Critical Shade to the Soil Beneath
If your grass is too short the sun can absolutely scorch the soil. This can severely hamper the turf’s ability to thrive because weed germination takes off in that sort of situation.
Avoiding Drought Conditions
Cutting the grass too short can really increase the possibility of drought conditions forming. When the grass is too short the combination of all the negative effects can lead to drought conditions. Those are tough to deal with so it’s best to avoid if possible
Damaging the Grass
If you cut too short you’ll damage the overall turf to a point where it can’t properly sustain new growth. No more than a 1/3rd of the grass length should be cut at any given time.
Ideal Cool Season Turf Length – 3” – 4.25”