A Tough Turf Job?

I have struggled to maintain a healthy lawn for a number of reasons: lots of shade, the soil is likely too acidic, grubs, and lots of wet soil (there’s a layer of grey clay that runs through my yard, which Barney, my adorable golden retriever, finds irresistible…and he’s willing to dig to find it). Doesn’t sound very hopeful, does it? Last year when I had work done in my garden by JP Stone Contractors, they helped the lawn along in time for a late May garden tour by putting down compost and over-seeding. After a year, the grass has reverted to its straggly ways. Obviously, more drastic action is needed.

My lawn rehabilitation plan involves raking; a unit of compost or Grimm’s Lawn & Turf Mix (I used MacFarlane’s Bark “how much do I need” calculator); JB Instant Lawn grass seed for shade; micro-clover seeds, because it’s supposed to grow in the shade; and English daisy seeds to create a meadow-like effect in the sunnier parts of the turf. In addition to these “to do’s” and “need to have’s,” a friend suggested that aeration should also be done so that the top dressing of mulch gets down into the soil. I think I need to order up a few sunny days and take some time off work to get it all done in a timely fashion…and then I have to figure out how to keep Barney off the area until the grass grows in! Or, I could kill the existing grass, prep the soil, and bring in turf to start anew (click here for Oregon Turf & Tree’s turf calculator). Hmmmmm.

Which would you do?!?!?

To test the lawn for some of the most common problems, Garden Time TV offered turf tips on the April 19 show from Alec Kowalewski, an Oregon State University turfgrass specialist.

•    Mow the grass to the right height to help create a low-maintenance, drought-tolerant lawn. Trim only one-third of the grass’s height to protect roots from the sun (e.g., trim one inch off three inch tall grass).
•    Avoid over-watering by testing for moisture. Push a screwdriver into the ground. If it is difficult to push in, the soil is dry and you need to water. If the blade goes in easily, the lawn doesn’t need water.
•    Most turf grasses prefer soil with a neutral pH. An easy home pH test involves mason jars (2) and ½ cup each of water, baking soda and vinegar. Fill two jars about half full of soil. Add a half-cup of water to the soil in the first jar. Mix well and then add a half-cup baking soda to the slurry. If this mixture fizzes, the soil is very acidic. Overly acidic soil can be amended with lime. If there’s no reaction, add a half-cup vinegar to the second jar. If the mixture fizzes, the soil is highly alkaline and sulfur can be added to neutralize the soil.
•    If there are dead patches in the lawn, it could be caused by grubs feeding on the roots of the grass in the fall. To treat 1,000 square feet of grass infested with grubs, dilute two tablespoons of lemon-scented liquid dish soap in a gallon of water and spray it on the lawn. The grubs will come to the surface, where you can collect them (the neighborhood birds might help you with this unseemly task).