How to build a rock garden with weed prevention

Rock garden wallSAVE WITH ROCKS AND MULCH

 

A few years ago I travelled to England and my first comment when we arrived at our destination was where is all of the grass? Not one single house on the street had a lawn, rather they had a rock garden.

I was informed that being in walking distance from the Irish Sea the drifting salt water made it difficult to have vegetation growing on their properties.

Instead everyone had rock gardens. It looked great!

Rock gardens

 

Rocks gardens can look nice in the beginning but that can change quickly especially if not prepared or maintained properly. It’s not too often that we see entire properties transformed into rock gardens in North America though many people do enjoy the style and natural touch they can add to their properties.

Unfortunately, there are too many rock gardens that have been neglected or not installed well that are now overgrown and full of weeds, in some cases you are barely able to see the rocks or stones.

Why would you consider building a rock garden?

If a rock garden is properly prepared and installed, it can be a relatively low-maintenance required addition to your landscape which is easy on the budget.

Rocks also pair well with water so if you are thinking of installing a pond or waterfall a surrounding rock garden may just be the finishing touch you are looking for.

A rock garden can also help to improve drainage in your yard. Depending on the slope of your property and if positioned correctly it may even create a natural riverbed.

Rock gardens are often used as a focal point because unlike plants, rocks don’t die and look great year round.

Rock garden preparation

 

Building a rock garden

The tools and materials you use to build your rock garden will contribute to the amount of regular maintenance your garden will require.

An edger can be used to dig a deep edge that separates the garden from your lawn. You won’t have to replace as many stones overtime as they will settle in the edge and can then be put back in. It also makes it easier to cut any surrounding grass while avoiding hitting any rocks or stones with your lawn mower blades.

While landscape fabric is marketed as a magical way to prevent weeds from growing in your garden it will not prevent all of them. Laying down the fabric before adding soil to your garden will certainly help but while weeds cannot grow up through the fabric they can still grow down into the fabric.

Seeds that make it into your garden whether they made it there by wind, rain, insects or birds can still push their roots right on through it. You will still see weeds but not nearly as many.

When preparing the ground choose a good quality, weed free soil. If you are going to try cut corners by buying cheap materials, buying cheap soil for a rock garden is not a corner you want to cut, especially if you are planning to cover the majority of the garden with stones or pebbles.

Pulling weeds out between rocks is not only painful for your fingers as you are not likely to get a shovel or trowel in without disturbing the natural look of your rock garden but also often it is hard to remove the roots of a weed that is buried in rocks.

The weed will continue to grow back with a bigger and stronger root that will be even harder to remove.  Further in this post I will share some homemade weed killer ideas that can be applied to any weeds that may pop up or prevent the seeds from germinating in the first place.

A garden rake (hard rake) can be used to level and smooth out the underlying soil.

A large pry bar or wrecking bar and a fulcrum (wood blocks to use as pivot points) can be very helpful when trying to move and place a boulder. Moving large boulders is not a one person job they can be extremely heavy and while it may add a nice focal point to your garden it’s not worth throwing out your back.

Once the soil is prepared, you then will want to get any plants in the ground before laying any stone or mulch in the garden.

Rock garden plants

 

rock garden plants hens and chickens

rock garden plants hens and chickens

What plants can I use in a rock garden?

Really you could plant whatever you would like though some plants will look better and require less work to maintain than others.

Perennials, succulents and ornamental grasses are the best to use in a rock garden as you only have to plant them once and do not have to remove any stone that you would have to if planting annuals every year.

Among many plants that would work well in a rock garden, junipers, rock cress, sedums and hens & chicks are just a few. Hens and Chicks will also easily grow on rocks as you can see in the picture from my driveway.

Try to use a variety of plants with different textures that will compliment the stones and rocks you have used to achieve the natural look.

Keep in mind when choosing plants that some may need dividing to avoid growing too large and taking over your rock garden.

Dividing these plants will not be as easy as ones that are planted in a traditional garden as the rocks can make this a challenge.

If you don’t mind moving the stones or rocks away so you can dig then by all means go ahead, but keep in mind it’s going to be more work for you.

Homemade weed killers

 

While pulling weeds by hand is an effective, natural approach to weed management it is not very enjoyable and can be painful for your fingers when working around rocks and stones.

Just because the use of herbicides is banned in many places it doesn’t mean there isn’t something out there that you can use to get rid of the pesky weeds that may pop up in your rock garden.

Depending on the design of your garden and the materials that you choose to use, mechanically removing the weeds with a hoe or a trowel will not be an easy way to make maintain a weed free rock garden.

Corn Meal

 

Sprinkling corn meal over your garden can used as a pre-emergent herbicide as it prevents the germination of all seeds. Not just the seeds from weeds too so make sure you are not spraying around any seeds that are planted in any of your gardens, including your vegetable garden.  Corn meal is often referred to as the birth control of seeds.

Boiling water

 

This is pretty self-explanatory. Take a kettle of boiling water and pour it on the weeds, being careful not to burn your feet.  The water will scald the leaves and the roots as the water is absorbed in the soil.

Vinegar and dish soap

 

I am sure most people on Pinterest and Facebook have seen the Homemade Weed Killer recipe that claims to work great to kill your pesky weeds.

  • 1 gallon vinegar
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 1 tbsp Dawn dish soap

Well I know firsthand that vinegar works well to kill weeds by clogging the leaves’ pores and preventing the process of photosynthesis to occur, eventually killing it.

While the dish soap is used to help the vinegar stick to the plant instead of it running off into the soil, I wouldn’t recommend adding salt. Salt is toxic to our plants, trees and soil and this mixture can really work without it.

Also, this homemade weed killer requires the weed to be leafed out, meaning it will not kill any weeds after you have pulled them out and the root stayed in the ground or if you have just cut the grass.

The leaves need to be present so that it can be absorbed, the more surface area the better. Spraying them after you have just cut the grass or was unsuccessful pulling it out will only be a waste of your money.

With both the boiling water and vinegar/dish soap methods keep in mind that just because it didn’t kill the weed the first time you doused it doesn’t mean it isn’t working. I have seen many dandelions over the years, even very small ones which have had a 2 foot tap-root.

The roots are what you are aiming to kill with these methods and as some weeds will continue to grow back. A couple of applications may be required to get rid of these stubborn weeds.

Always make sure the leaves of the weeds are completely saturated. Both methods can be used on your lawn, driveway, walkways, paths and rock gardens.

A humid, sunny day with no wind is always the best time to spray any liquid herbicide, homemade or not. Pesticide drift may occur when it is windy and can damage surrounding plants.

Don’t defeat the purpose

 

While the general idea behind a rock garden is add a natural look to your property you can really design one however you please or have a professional do the landscape work for you. Weed prevention is a very important issue to address when planning your rock garden.

A rock garden overgrown with weeds isn’t the natural effect you were likely aiming to achieve. It is inevitable that there will always be weeds but by being one step ahead of them we can control how big of a problem we allow them to be.

Do you have any rock gardens on your property? What experiences can you share?

 

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Why just mowing the lawn is one step in property maintenance

just mowing the lawnTAKE CARE OF WHAT YOU OWN

 

What makes green grass you ask? I can tell you there is more to a beautiful property than just mowing the lawn.

It’s a bit of love and a bit of preventative maintenance that will bring out the greener grass that you crave all summer long.

Last week’s post talked about common problems that you may see in your lawn and as promised I am going to talk about a few more this week.

Spring lawn tips are great but maintaining your lawn all summer long takes time and money so get ready to put some effort into your property.

What is lawn maintenance?

Lawn maintenance is simply a term used to maintaining your outside property in order to bring the best out of your lawn and garden. Growing grass seems like an art and in a way it is because there are property services out there that specialize in growing grass and they are good at it.

You can do the same if you do your research and take pride in your property knowing that just mowing the lawn is not all that it takes. While trying to maintain healthy, luscious green grass there are many obstacles that may get it in your way when caring for your property, some being easier to overcome than others.

Some lawn problems are easy to prevent and there are some may just affect the appearance of your grass causing little or no lasting damage to your grass.

 

Just mowing the lawn

 

Just about everyone who owns property with grass will be mowing the lawn all summer long. It’s part of owning a home that you have to take on in order to keep your property looking good and up to standards for your city.

If you don’t plan on just mowing your lawn or hate property maintenance you could always call in for back-up as there are plenty of people who are willing to mow your lawn for a fee.

If you are particular about the way your lawn is done do it yourself or hire professionals property services because door to door kids who want to make a few bucks likely aren’t professionals. Just mowing the lawn is pretty simple but doing it right is another story.

 

Over-watering

 

watering the lawn

Most people after mowing the lawn like to give their lawn something to drink but too much of a good thing is never good.

While water is a growth requirement for most plant species too much water can be more harmful to your lawn than not watering at all.

As I mentioned in an earlier post 1 inch of water once per week is typically enough to maintain a healthy lawn and keep your property looking top-notch.

Your municipal bylaws may allow you to water your lawn every other day but this is often a lot more water than your grass will use. Over-watering will fill all the soils porous spaces with water, blocking oxygen from the roots. Roots deprived of oxygen will essentially drown and your lawn overall will have a shallow root system.

I was taught to never give any plant water faster than the soil can absorb it. When watering your lawn if you notice that the water is starting to pool on the soil surface your lawn likely has been over watered and it’s time to turn off the hose.

Allow the grass to dry out before giving another thorough watering. Overwatering is not only harmful to your lawn but also a waste of our resources but also any fertilizer applied to your lawn will be ineffective as it is likely to get washed away before making it to the roots.

Since this fertilizer is being washed away you are most likely going to fertilize again, which you wouldn’t have to do if you had given your lawn just enough water instead of too much. Newly seeded or sodded lawns will only require daily watering until they have established a strong root system.

 

Dormancy

 

During the hot summer months you may noticed your property started to look a little brown. In Ontario we typically see this in July and August as the grass is just not able to get the water it needs. You may find that just mowing the lawn isn’t going to cut it, you aren’t mowing as much or you give up completely because the lawn isn’t as green as it could be.

If you have a strong, established lawn, allowing it to go dormant is essentially letting the grass have a rest during the hottest summer months. Allowing your lawn to go dormant can save you money on your water bill but keep in mind it will put some stress on your lawn.

The grass may appear to be dead but in fact it isn’t, it will turn brown but will green up and grow new leaves when it is watered again. Timing a fertilizer application with the fall rains will help to kick-start the reappearance of a healthy green lawn.

As your lawn comes out of dormancy it is a good time to look for any weak areas in your lawn where you can over seed and take advantage of the fall rains for watering.

Dormant periods require mowing the lawn less often as I mentioned above although allowing dormancy to occur can contribute to more thatch building up in your lawn, so be prepared to do some raking.

While a dormant lawn may save you some time and in some places unavoidable, be prepared for some extra work that may be required to green it up again.

Newly seeded or sodded lawns should not be allowed to go dormant as they will not have established a strong enough root system to withstand the stress.

Check with your municipality because while watering bans are enforced in many cities and towns you can usually get a special watering permit after putting down a new lawn whether it is sod or grass seed. This permit should allow you to water your lawn as required to keep it from going dormant.

 

Rust

 

Have you ever walked around your property and found your shoes covered in an orange or yellowish powder? This is rust.

Rust will be seen more often than not during the hot summer months making dormant periods the perfect time for rust to settle in. A well-fertilized, well-watered lawn will be more resistant to rust though setting your lawn mower blades too low and cutting the grass too short can make your lawn susceptible to rust.

While rust is pretty easy to recognize and in most cases it is unlikely to kill your grass it is a stress for your grass and may increase its susceptibility to other pest and disease. Rust is a fungus so a fungicide can be used if your lawn is heavily covered though in most cases it is not necessary.

If your lawn is not dormant and you are experiencing rust, a fertilizer application and a thorough watering may be beneficial. If it is dormant and not actively growing then the fertilizer would just be wasted.

Collecting your grass clippings after just mowing the lawn when rust is present instead of mulching them on the lawn will help to slow down the spread of the fungal spores. Washing off the blades and deck of your lawn mower can also help to slow the spread of rust throughout your lawn.

 

Scalping

 

If you are noticing patches of discolouration on your lawn it could be possible that it is mechanical damage. If the blades on your lawn mower are uneven or you have some high spots in your lawn you may find that your grass is being scalped.

Have you ever dropped one of the wheels of your lawn over the edge of a flower only to see more dirt than grass left behind? Scalping will often cut your grass so short that it may kill it.

Protecting your lawn from scalping can be as easy as sharpening and lifting the height of the mower blades or leveling out ruts and high spots. If you have eliminated your lawn mower as being the culprit it is possible that you have an excess buildup of thatch in your lawn and it may be time for power raking and/or aerating. Again, just mowing the lawn is only one part of the process.

Scalped areas are slow to grow back so while it may be tempting to fertilize these areas it is best to wait until the area has recovered completely, nitrogen is more likely going to burn the area and offer no benefit.

An area that has been scalped can be raked out to remove any thatch and top-dressed with a layer of topsoil and grass seed. As I have mentioned several times before your best defence against having any problems in your lawn is to maintain a thick, well fed, healthy lawn.

While fertilizer may seem expensive having a healthy, luscious lawn that can crowd out weeds may save you some money trying to fix some of these problems later on.

greener grass

Maintaining a healthy lawn sounds like a lot more work than it really is but a lot less work than trying to fix a problem that could have been prevented.

There’s an old saying that fits this scenario very well, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure“.

What problems have you faced with your lawn while maintaining your property? How did you fix them?

 

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How to keep weeds and other pests off your lawn

weed free lawnWEED FREE CAN SAVE MONEY

 

A well fed and well watered thick lawn will crowd out weeds and be less susceptible to damage from pests and disease.

Our bodies require fuel and adequate nutrition to function properly and fight off infection well so do our plants.

In the first part of a two-week series I am sharing some tips on how to manage some of the problems that most commonly affect our lawns.

Everyone has to battle some of the common problems I will talk about below but we can try to limit the problems with prevention.

Last week I talked about how to keep the grass-green on your side of the fence and this week I want to talk about those pests that like to invade our grass such as the ever famous weeds.

I have worked on many properties over the years and have dealt with each of the following problems multiple times. While it can be frustrating to look out your window and see a blotchy, sick looking lawn there are ways to repair without having to cost you an arm and leg.

Preventative maintenance and proper care will get you a lot further in your quest for a perfect lawn.

 

Grubs

 

What are Grubs?

Grubs, commonly referred to as white grubs, are the larvae phase in the life cycle of various beetles. Most commonly white grubs are the larvae of Japanese Beetles, June Beetles and European Chafers.

To identify what type of grub you have or to determine if you have a grub infestation using a container or some sort. A large metal coffee can works great.

Remove both ends of the can with a can opener, push it down into the affected area of your lawn leaving a few inches above ground and fill with water. Any grubs in that area will eventually be floating in the water allowing you to have a look to see what kind of grubs you have.

 

grub damageGrub Damage

 

When grubs first begin to feed on your lawn will begin to turn brown and wilt. Once the number of grubs in your lawn grows you will begin to see dead patches throughout your grass.

Since grubs feed on the roots of your grass the patches of grass affected will lift off the soil very easily as it no longer has roots anchoring it in the ground.

The grubs themselves do not cause as much damage to your lawn as the animals that will tear your lawn apart looking for those grubs to eat.

Skunks and raccoons are often the culprits when you find your lawn dug up, depending where you live you may have other animals to blame.

While there are pesticides available for treating for grubs it isn’t always a necessary requirement. Milky spore is a soil dwelling bacteria that will attack and kill larvae of only Japanese Beetles feeding off your lawn.

It can be purchased as a powder and spread over your lawn and is not harmful to any other birds, pets or insects it may come in contact with.

Apply Milky Spore granules in the late summer or early fall when the grubs are feeding at the soil surface will ensure optimal results. Having a healthy lawn will again be your best defense against grubs.

Grubs love soil that is compacted and undisturbed, such as a lawn. Aerating will not only reduce compaction and allow water, mineral and nutrients to flow freely but will also help to prevent the presence of grubs and the damage that comes with them.

Damage done to your lawn can be repaired by laying sod or re-seeding the areas where the grass has died. Most grub damage will be seen in the spring so this is the best time to repair your lawn when the bulk of the damage will be done.

 

Over-fertilizing

 

Too much of anything is never a good thing and that is true again when it comes to fertilizing your lawn. Be sure to read the directions on the bag of fertilizer you have purchased for the recommended amount to be used.

If you have any doubt regarding how much fertilizer to put down just always remember that less is more. The most important nutrient in lawn fertilizer is nitrogen (first of the 3 numbers on the bag).

Too much nitrogen will burn your grass and encourages rapid growth and shallow roots that will contribute to the amount of thatch that builds up in your lawn.

Most fertilizers require a good watering after it has been applied to your lawn, timing your fertilizer applications before an expected rainfall will help to keep your water bill down.

Avoid fertilizing during really hot, humid weather as you chances of burning your grass are much higher. Fertilizer should only be applied when the grass is actively growing, applying fertilizer while your grass is dormant is only a waste of your time and money.

Also avoid fertilizing during the day when the sun is hot as it may also cause your grass to burn. Using a proper fertilizer spreader will ensure an even application of fertilizer over your lawn.

Dividing the amount of fertilizer you will use into 2 and going over your lawn twice aiming to make a checkerboard pattern will guarantee you don’t miss an area.

An uneven application of fertilizer will be noticeable as you will have what appears to be stripes on your lawn as the fertilized areas will grow more rapidly than the areas you missed.

 

 Dogs

 

A dog may be a man’s best friend but that is not the case when it comes to your lawn. Often dog owners find they brown patches in their lawn where their best friend went to relieve themselves.

The best and easiest solution to this is to obviously keep your dog off your lawn though that may not be possible for all. Watering down the area where they went either with a hose or even just a glass of water will dilute it as it washes away therefore not killing the grass.

Your dog’s urine is concentrated with urea which is a form of nitrogen which may burn your grass.The pH of dog’s urine may also be making this more of a problem for you and your wallet.

The higher the pH (more alkaline) the greater the chance that letting your dog go to the bathroom on your lawn will have a negative effect on your grass.

If this has been a major problem or concern for you having your dog’s urine tested to determine the pH may ease some of the work for you. A pH around 6.5 is ideal. The pH levels in your dog’s urine may also indicate other underlying health problems your dog may have or be at risk for.

Covering the area with about an inch of compost may also help to re-balance the soil pH and reduce the amount of burn damage caused.

 

weedsWeeds

 

What is considered a weed to one person may not be considered to a weed to someone else.

A weed is basically defined as an unwanted plant that takes light, water, food and nutrients away from your desired plants.

While there are some people who don’t mind the sea of yellow when the dandelions take over, there are many more people who can’t stand the intrusive plant.

Dandelions may be pulled out by hand if you have the time and doing this before they set seed will slow down the chances of more spreading throughout your yard.

Isn’t it amazing how quick those suckers pop back up after cutting the grass? It drives me nuts!

If your municipal laws allow for it a selective herbicide may be applied, selective meaning it would only kill the weeds not your grass. Mechanically removing the dandelions by hand is more environmentally friendly and cheaper, if you have the time to do it.

Always try to make sure you are remove the entire root so they just don’t grow back. I have seen many small dandelions that have had a 3 foot tap-root on them.

Sometimes the roots break and you will likely see that dandelion growing new leaves again in a matter of a few days.

 

Crabgrass

 

Crabgrass has a slight resemblance to  grass though it has much wider leaf blades and are also much coarser than the grass in your lawn. Crabgrass will also typically lighter in colour that the rest of your lawn.

Large or ‘hairy crabgrass’ as it is often called will have noticeable hairs on the leaf blades where as small crabgrass is a smaller plant and lacks the presence of hairs.

Crabgrass prefers undisturbed soil so a lawn is an ideal place for it to grow. You must be diligent in your quest to remove crabgrass from your yard as it will be an ongoing process.  One single plant can produce over 100,000 seeds in a growing season.

Applying a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring will kill off any  seeds that are just about to start germinating in your lawn. The frosts in the fall will kill off the actual plants but the seeds are able to overwinter and are just waiting to pop up once the snow is gone and it starts to warm up outside.

It is a common practice to apply a pre-emergent herbicide for crabgrass when the lilacs are in bloom. A thorough-watering after applying the herbicide will ensure it is most effective.

It is not likely that you will kill off all the crabgrass seeds in one application so re-applying will be a good idea to kill off the seeds that may germinate a little later than the others.

Read the directions on the product for guidelines on how long you should wait to reapply. Avoid using pre-emergent herbicide on newly laid sod or grass seed as it will kill it.

There are fertilizers that can be purchased that have a crabgrass preventer mixed in. This can be applied to your whole lawn but it should be applied to newly seeded areas and a few feet surrounding the new areas to prevent the seeds that are hanging around from the winter from germinating.

If your lawn is severely infested with crabgrass removing the existing lawn and replacing it may be the easiest solution as it is very hard to kill off once it has taken over.

Over-seed any bare patches in your lawn quickly before crabgrass and other weeds have a chance to make it their new home. Ensure you are watering your lawn thoroughly each time to promote strong growth of your grass’ roots.

Crabgrass has shallow roots and light frequent watering will encourage their growth. Adjusting the height of your mower blade to the highest setting and leaving the grass a bit higher will deprive the crabgrass seeds of the light they need for germination.

Pouring boiling water on crabgrass followed by covering the area with some compost and fill with grass seeds may be an option if it has not taken over your lawn.

The boiling water will kill the plant and by placing compost and over seeding the growth of new grass will help to smother out the weeds. Regular cleaning of your mower blades will help to slow down the spread of crabgrass and other weeds.

The grass clippings from the mower can be spread through your lawn distributing weeds all over the place. As you have read maintaining a healthy lawn is your best defense for preventing any damage and unnecessary stress for your lawn.

Unfortunately we have no control over the actions of others and at this point there is no pesticide available for neighbours who neglect their properties. Remember when I talked about renting a goat to get rid of weeds? I wasn’t joking. All you can do is take care of your lawn and hope that they keep their weeds to themselves.

Every year at Halloween I remind my kids to stay off other people’s lawns as the sidewalks and driveways are there for a reason.  There is no need to cut across the grass and add more foot traffic to someone’s lawn that they may be working hard to maintain.

Next week I will continue with this topic as they are a few other things to consider when identifying and dealing with problems in your lawn.

Have you overcome any major problems with your lawn? Do you have any tips to share?

 

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How to keep the grass green on your side of the fence

Green Grass Property CanadaGO GREEN THIS SUMMER

 

A lawn full of beautiful green grass that is free of weeds is something that many people strive for, while others are just happy to see green, even if it is a combination of weeds and grass.

To the left is a backyard photo of a lawn that I’ve maintained with my business for the past 5 years.

As you can see in my photo above the grass is green and lush and well-maintained. Now that you’ve started your spring garden in containers it’s time to think about your lawn.

I follow all the tips I will be sharing with you today and throughout the next few months so make sure you are subscribed here so you don’t miss any of my upcoming landscaping and gardening posts.

Spring clean-up has begun and whether you are ready for it you should prepare for some hard work with beautiful results. I’ll be sure and try to help you save some of your hard-earned money this season rather than waste it on playing guessing games around your property.

To maintain a healthy green lawn maintenance needs to begin as soon as the snow has melted and the ground isn’t too soft that you can walk on it without leaving ruts in your lawn.

A healthy lawn with regular maintenance will end up saving you money in the long run. Proper installation of your grass and maintenance will help to avoid having to deal with the expenses of repairing neglected weed infested lawns or damage caused by pest and disease.

Having a nice lawn also boosts your curb appeal if selling your house is in your near future start taking care of your lawn now!  Many homebuyers get their first impression of the house from the outside, the first thing they see when they drive up to your house.

 

Types of grass

 

What grass should I plant?

If you are installing a new lawn, whether it is a new property or you have decided to remove the existing lawn choosing the proper seed for your location and climate is key.

If you live in a climate that experiences cold winters and mild summers, cool season grasses including Kentucky Bluegrass, Fescues or Perennial Ryegrass will be a better suit for you.

Warm season grasses such as Bermuda grass or St Augustine grass will do better in warmer climates with warm summers and mild winters. There are also varieties that do better in sun and others that do better in shade.

 

Seed or Sod

 

While laying down rolls of sod gives you an instant green lawn it is a lot more expensive than spreading grass seed over your yard.

A roll of sod 2’x5’ can cost $2.50 or more per roll while a bag of grass seed can be purchased for under $10.00 a bag or even cheaper if you watch flyer sales in the spring and summer.

When purchasing grass seed keep in mind where you will be seeding and how much sun the area gets. I would recommend taking a look at the various types of grass suitable for your property online and doing some research before heading out to the store to make your purchase.

A seed mixture is often your best option as you can reap the benefits of various varieties to give your lawn a good start.

 

Overseeding

 

In the spring it helps to spread some grass seed on an existing lawn not only in areas that appear to thin or have little to no grass at all but also a light seeding across the entire lawn. By doing this your grass will do some maintenance of its own as a thick lawn will crowd out more weeds than a thin, bare looking lawn.

Grass seed can be put down with fertilizer, preferably a starter fertilizer to encourage growth once the seeds have germinated. Avoid using a ‘weed and feed’ product for at least a month after seeding as the ‘weed’ will kill the grass seed.

What is thatch?

Thatch is a tightly woven layer of organic matter that builds up between the green vegetation and the soil surface of your lawn. It contains dead and living shoots, stems and roots that build up faster than they can be decomposed.

Grass clippings of a frequently mowed lawn usually don’t contribute to thatch as they are broken down quick enough to not cause a problem.

A thin layer of thatch, approximately ½ an inch can actually be beneficial helping to protect the grass from extreme fluctuations in temperature and soil moisture. Too much thatch though can hinder the growth of a strong, healthy root system.

 

De-thatching

 

Again once the ground has dried up, using a good fan rake can do the job of removing the thatch in the grass of an average sized property.

If you have a larger property there are also lawn mower attachments that may be used to help with the de-thatching process. If you are unable to get access to a de-thatcher and have more than an inch of thatch it may be worthwhile to have a landscape company come in once to do it then you can work towards minimizing the amount thatch that builds up.

 

Compaction

 

Compaction can be minimized by limiting the amount of foot traffic and/or machinery your lawn is exposed to while it is wet. When soil is compacted water and nutrients struggle to get to the roots as there are few or no air pockets in the soil in which they can freely move.

Water runoff from a big rainfall can also be minimized if you have a well maintained non-compacted lawn as the water will be able to drain into the ground faster.  A compacted lawn will only have the excess water sitting on the surface as it will be unable to absorb it and the chances of that water flooding your basement will be greater.

 

Aeration

 

If you are trying to repair a lawn that has become compacted, aerating will be an important step. Aerating your lawn is the process of using a machine to make several holes in your lawn by digging out soil from the ground. Aerating will improve drainage as well as making air and nutrients more accessible to the roots.

If you are lucky you may have someone come door to door in the spring and summer who will aerate your lawn for cheap. Go ahead and pay for this service if it’s something you need to get done unless you plan to aerate on your own.

 

Fertilizing

 

Proper timing of fertilizer applications will ensure that your lawn is getting the proper nutrition it needs to maintain a healthy lawn. The length of your growing season will determine how many times you may be able to apply lawn fertilizer.

One application in the spring and one in the fall may be enough but you may even be able to put down 3-4 applications if needed but spaced out enough not to overfeed and burn your grass.

A fall application of fertilizer is essential for newly installed lawns to promote strong growth of the roots giving your grass a better chance of surviving its first winter.

Over-fertilizing may not only burn the grass but it will encourage too much growth too fast and can increase the amount of thatch that will settle in your grass.

Only apply fertilizer while grass is actively growing likewise with any plant. If you are applying fertilizer when the grass cannot use it you are essentially wasting fertilizer and your money.

Definitely do not fertilize if your grass has gone dormant because again it is just a waste of money. Fertilizing after a good rainfall is ideal but avoid fertilizing before it rains as it will just be washed away.

I have seen some good reviews regarding the use of granulated sugar as an organic fertilizer. I have yet to try this myself as the fear of attracting even more ants than the abundant amount of ants that already have set up camp on my property is a concern.

If you do not have an ant problem you may consider researching this option. Spreading sugar as fertilizer would eliminate some of the chemicals that are leached into the earth and groundwater but if you have ants knocking at your door don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

Cutting grass

 

Don’t be the neighbour that everyone wants to rent a goat for because you never cut your grass. Take pride in your property and show it off so others on your street follow suit. Keeping the properties pristine in your neighbour is certainly good for home value.

Just like cutting our hair regularly frequent cutting of your grass will help to encourage your grass to grow. While the grass at the local golf club looks great it is often cut shorter than how short a typical lawn should be cut.

Cutting your grass too short will increase the amount of water required and if cut too short may even kill your grass. Even though I am tempted at times to give my lawn a nice short cut I resist the urge and 3 ½ inches in the absolute shortest I will cut my grass. Always using sharp mowing blades will also help to prevent any damage that may leave your lawn susceptible to pests and disease.

If you are cutting often then mulching the grass clippings rather than bagging them will add some nutrients to the soil. If the clippings are short enough you won’t see them in the lawn and they can break down quick enough to not cause you problems.

 

Irrigation

 

Watering your grass only when it needs water is the best way to avoid over-watering. If you have had a significant rainfall you may not have to water your grass at all.

If you have had little rain or have installed a new lawn the best time to water is before dawn or early in the morning. Avoid watering at night because the grass will stay wet longer with the addition of the morning dew and may cause fungus or mold to grow. If you water mid- day or in the afternoon you risk losing a lot of the water to evaporation.

About 1 inch of water is the recommended amount that your lawn should receive each time it is watered. Frequent watering of less than an inch will cause shallow roots and grass that isn’t as strong enough to fight off pests and disease.

If you are not sure if you are watering thoroughly enough place an empty tuna can in the area you are watering. When the can is full it is time to move the sprinkler to another area.

Be sure to look into your municipal laws regarding watering as many have a schedule based on your house number as to what days you are allowed to water your grass.

Odd house numbers being allowed to water on odd days of the calendar and even house numbers on even calendar days is a common schedule many have in place.

The time of day when you are allowed to water may be restricted as well. If you are caught watering on an off day for your house you may be slapped with a fine so it is best to follow the schedule to avoid unnecessary fines coming out of your budget.

If you have clay or compacted soil and are not restricted to how often you can water your grass you may find that your lawn may not be able to absorb an inch of water all at once.

If this is the case you may want to limit watering your grass to 1/3 inch a day but do it 3 consecutive days in a row otherwise you will have a lot water runoff which is literally watching your money go down the drain.

Having your lawn aerated as mentioned above will help to eliminate this problem for you.

Doing your research and making the proper choices for your climate and growing season will set you up for having better luck maintaining a healthy lawn.

Your luscious green grass may even have your neighbours asking what your secrets are. If you aren’t able to start your lawn maintenance right from the get-go of spring arriving I will share some ideas how to repair your lawn later in the summer and fall in some upcoming blog posts.

If you are interested in my services certainly send me an email to Mr.CBB if you live in Ontario and I’d be happy to come out to your property to share with you what landscaping needs I can offer you.

Is a green lawn important to you?

Do you have any lawn care tips you would like to share?

 

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How to start your spring garden using odd containers

Spring garden seedsTIME TO GET YOUR GARDEN READY

 

Now that spring is around the corner it’s time to get your green thumb ready to start your summer garden.

Growing your own garden is rewarding because it can save you a good chunk of money in your grocery budget.

Another bonus is that you get to sit down in the comfort of your home and enjoy putting food on your table that you had a hand in growing.

 

Growing your own food is like printing your own money—Ron Finley

 

Start your garden seeds

 

My favourite time of year is coming where I get to start working on landscaping projects for my customers and to get my own vegetable garden ready.

Looking outside today it is extremely hard to believe that spring is on its way, but it will be here soon enough. Around this time every year my Spring fever starts to kick in and I can`t wait to see the beautiful green grass that is hiding under the dreaded snow.

As long as Old Man winter keeps making his presence known I will just have to deal with it and wait but in the meantime I’ll get started on my garden seeds so I’m ahead of the game.

While it looks like spring is still far off, if you are planning to start your seeds indoors to grow your own garden this year don’t let spring sneak up and find you unprepared.

If you do find that you are behind in starting your seeds don’t fear you can always purchase ready-made plants or search online for people who are giving away free plants. Sometimes people grow too many spring seedlings and are happy to pass them on.

Save up supplies around your home to simplify the gardening process!

It`s easy enough to go to a store like Wal-Mart or Lowe`s and buy a seed starting kit but the costs can add up especially if you purchase a new one every year.

There are many things you likely have around your home that can be recycled and reused to start your spring seeds indoors.

 

Recycling and biodegradable pots

 

soup can gardening 1Start saving up your empty egg cartons instead of recycling them. Mr. CBB showed us in a post last year how to prepare egg cartons to sow your seeds. 

The lids from the egg cartons can also be used for planting seeds that can be easily thinned out and divided after the seedlings have emerged.

A newspaper and a soup can go a long way in saving you some money on start-up costs.

Wrap some newspaper around a soup can then fold up the newspaper on one end and using a small piece of tape the hold it together to form the bottom of your pot.

Removing the soup can and filling with potting soil gives you a biodegradable pot. When it’s time to plant outdoors put the whole thing in the ground or container, paper and all. You can use a smaller can as well if you would prefer them to be smaller.

toilet paper roll gardening 2Empty toilet paper rolls can also be converted into biodegradable pots. Make 5 or 6 slits in the bottom of the toilet paper roll about 1 inch up from the bottom and then fold them all in to create a bottom.

I hope this gives you a few more ideas on other methods of recycling items in your home to use for growing your seeds indoors.

 

Ice-cream cones

 

Purchasing the ice cream cones may cost you a dollar or two to buy if you don’t happen to have some in the cupboard.

Using ice-cream cones the plants can be planted directly into the ground, cone and all.

It can be a fun way to start your seeds if you are doing it with your kids. Just be sure to remind them once they are full of potting soil not to eat them. Sounds strange but don’t put it past them, they are learning after all.

 

Plastic containers

 

If you are one of the unfortunate ones like myself who has to buy water to drink do what can you with all of those empty water jugs. You could throw them into your weekly recycling bin or you could use them as a ‘pot’ for growing some of your garden plants.

We are on a well system where we live and were advised that our water is not safe for drinking. I do not have the space in my kitchen for a water cooler so I tend to accumulate a few plastic water jugs throughout the year.

I am planning to use the water jugs to grow some of my spring plants once I move them outdoors. I want to do my garden a little different again this year to show others how easily you can grow your own fruits and veggies regardless of the space that you have.

Because certain plastics can breakdown when exposed to extreme temperatures and sunlight if you choose to use water bottles using them for plants that do not need full sun would be in your best interest.

Other items around the house such as empty milk jugs and laundry detergent containers can be modified to grow a plant in your garden.

If you decide to recycle any plastic containers be sure to check what the number (ranging from 1-7) is on the bottom of the container that indicates what the plastic is made out of.

Anything with a ’1′ is made out of PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) and has the potential to break down and leach into your plants if exposed to heat and sunlight for a long time.

Anything that has a ’2′ is made out of HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) a much more durable plastic that will not break down and or leach any chemicals into your plants even when exposed to the elements.

 

Spring planting

 

How do you decide what to plant in your garden?

Obviously it is worth your time and money to grow things that you will actually eat. Take a look at your diet and your grocery list and see what you can grow for yourself.

What fruits and vegetables do you eat regularly?

While some fruits and vegetables grow better and often taste better grown in cooler weather that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t grow them throughout the spring and summer.

Make a garden list and once you have purchased your seeds read the information on the back of the seed packet that tells you how long before the first expected frost you should sow the seeds.

Creating a schedule will help so that you do not miss the best time to start your plants. How many seeds you plant depends on how big of a yield you would like from your garden.

Growing different varieties of the same plant such as growing beefsteak tomatoes and cherry tomatoes will ensure that you are reaping the benefits of your garden throughout the entire growing season.

The number of days until maturity (when the vegetables of fruit are ready to be harvested) can vary greatly among varieties of the same type of plant.

Many stores have their seed packet displays set up already so shopping early will ensure that you have a good selection of varieties to choose from.

Don’t be afraid to check the dollar store as well as they have a large variety of seeds typically selling 3/$1.00. Alternatively you could also seed swap like our friend Karen at Lil Suburban Homestead who has a garden that will blow your mind. If you love honey you must check out her bees.

 

Thinking outside the box

 

Now that you have an idea of what you want to plant you have to think of a few things before you can dive right in. Start thinking about how and where you are going to grow your plants by answering these questions below.

  • What requirements does the plant need?
  • How much space the plant will need?
  • How much light or lack of light is needed?
  • What temperature and soil conditions are needed?

As I pointed out in an earlier post last year gardening does not have to be limited to having a traditional garden. Growing a garden in a small space is definitely do-able with a little creativity and planning.

 

Growing space

 

How much space do the plants require to properly root and grow?

Spacing plants doesn’t have to be a tedious job if you do some research. Vines such as zucchini can be grown in pots as long as the soil is deep enough for the roots to grow properly and there is adequate space for the plant to branch out.

A zucchini plant will need a bigger area to root and grow than a tomato plant would.

Can you hang some of your plants?

Many plants such as tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, lettuce and an assortment of herbs can be grown hanging up. I used the Topsy Turvy to grow my tomatoes and it worked out perfect. If you do not have a lot of space on the ground think of ways that you can go up to plant your garden.

I shared pictures before of how I grew my own pot potatoes in a recycling bin You can easily use a cleaned out garbage can or an old rain barrel would also work as long as you aren`t using it to collect water to water your garden and save on your water bill.

Spring is coming….I promise.

While it seems like spring may never come at this point, it will eventually so don’t put off starting your seeds indoors as you want to be ready to get your plants outside when spring finally does make an appearance.

Many people use the May 2-4 weekend as their start time to begin planting and I am crossing my fingers that winter will be long gone by then.

If you have to keep your seedlings and plants indoors a little bit longer than that is what you do. It won’t hurt the plants to be in their cell packs, or egg cartons for a little longer inside.

  • Have you started to plan your garden for this year`s growing season?
  • Do you have any advice or ideas that you would like to share with those who are thinking of growing their own garden?

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