Instant Lawn? Hardly!

Monday, March 9, 2009

I suppose you could file this blog post under the subject heading of "Extreme Gardening." Needless to say I am back at work this morning, recovering from a brutal three-day weekend.

Brutal? Three day weekends? Since when did three-day weekends become brutal? Most people believe they are heaven on Earth -- and for the most part -- they're right on the money.

But when you spend the entire three days working on gardening and other yard projects -- every muscle in the body begins to ache. And then, muscles that you didn't even know that you had also begin to ache. And then -- you have aching muscles on top of aching muscles.

Yeah -- it was one of "those" weekends.

When the wonderful wife that is Venus and I realized that we were in for a weekend of bright sunshine and moderate temperatures this past weekend, our minds began to wander to the backyard. We haven't been out there much. With all of the recent rain, it's been little more than a mud pit. Even Venus' jaunts to the lettuce garden have been fraught with peril -- and the shoes she's been using to access the lettuce planter box are now PERMANENT outside mud shoes.

But, when we noticed last week that the sunshine following the rain was drying out portions of the backyard, we thought that we just might be able to access a good part of it by Saturday without sinking to the center of the Earth. And sure enough, although parts of the yard were still "sticky" from mud, we at least had some dry trails to use.

And we used them.

First project? Normal yard care. I made sure to fertilize the lawns in the front and backyard and at the rental before the rain started to fall two weeks ago. That turned out to be a great move. I started this section of lawn from seed last July as an "experiment." And it was an experiment gone vastly wrong.

First, you don't start lawns from seed in the heat of July. It just doesn't work. Secondly, lawns started from seed look "spotty" during the first year or two until all the grass can fill in. Even this lawn has some "empty" spots -- but I must admit it doesn't look half bad.

Notice the brown, clay dirt beyond the lawn? The dirt that is the rest of the backyard? That is "this year's" little lawn project. And, if all goes well, by this time next spring, I should have a pretty good lawn covering the backyard.

While the "rollout" lawns (sod) that offer "instant lawn" are the rage of the day now, especially with new developments, I have never been a big fan of them. I'm not necessarily against "instant lawn" mind you. But those lawns are not very strong and will invite various diseases and pests.

These blights are spread by, SURPRISE, neighborhood gardeners. Most homeowners do not care for their own front and backyards anymore. They hire someone for $60 a month to take care of normal yardwork instead. I've never been able to understand that -- and while gardening is an honest job -- gardeners can and do spread diseases of the lawn.

How does this happen? Quite simple really. If you've ever used a mower before -- then you know that the underside of most mowers catch quite a bit of grass. Not all of it goes into the grass catcher. Some of it sticks to the underside of the mower, or maybe to a wheel, or maybe the underside of a grass catcher.

And all it takes is one, small blade of infected grass to hit your formerly disease free lawn. Once that blade hits -- you're in trouble. Even if a gardener doesn't care for your lawn -- all it takes is a blade of infected grass from the neighbor who DOES use a gardener -- for it to spread to your lawn. And these diseases do spread quite easily.

Those diseases -- which mainly strike the "instant sod lawns" -- range from dead spots to yellowing. Sometimes those spots can be caused by insects. But other problems can result from viruses like Leaf Spot, Melting Out, Fusarium Blight and others. Unfortunately, this means you need a host of chemicals and other controls to keep the lawn free of dead spots -- and those get expensive.

But lawns planted from seed are immune to most of the bad stuff going around. And right now, the lawn is looking pretty darn good.

It didn't always look this way -- and the photos will clearly show that there are small patches of dirt and other areas that either need more seed or just time and care to "fill in." But the lawn has been filling in fairly well now since last July, when half of it up and died because it simply got too hot.

For the longest time -- this lawn was nothing to look at and be proud of. Imagine if you will -- dirt patches larger than patches of lawn. It did look like that at one point last summer. As a matter of fact, I felt more than one urge to dig everything up and start over with sod -- admitting that lawn planted from seed was a big, fat, failure.

But now? Well -- for now anyway -- I'm beginning to think that starting from seed was a pretty smart idea. Plus -- it's a lot cheaper than sod. This small patch of lawn would have run about $150 or more if I had used sod. But with seed? This required a $15 investment for the seed, another $10 for seed-starter fertilizer -- plus another $10-$15 for peat moss to cover the seeds.
Not a bad investment -- so far...


Carri-The Queen Bee said...

Haha- 60 bucks for a gardener? That's cheap! I have a gardener- I have way too much to take care of by myself. Well, we got a gardener when we had the baby, and it was just suppose to be temporary, but neither of us wants to get rid of them. There's just something nice about coming home from work on Friday, seeing my lawn mowed, and knowing that I get to enjoy my weekend :) One way to get around the spread of disease and weeds is to have them use your own equipment.

Bill Bird said...

Queen Bee,

I've got infected spots all over the lawn at the rental (our first home), even though I never allowed a gardener to touch it.

However, gardeners worked the lawns on either side of my house, and I know that's the only way it could have spread. In those new cookie-cutter housing subdivisions, you share lawnspace betwen homes. And that's how I'm guessing that I got it.

Oh well, it's a rental now....

ady miller said...

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