GARDEN DEVA'S LAWN CARE GUIDE
GARDEN DEVA’S ORGANIC LAWN CARE GUIDE
Well looked after, healthy lawns can be a major asset to a garden, providing cooling, reducing pollution and sinking carbon. Hot summer winds are cooled by passing over the lawn before entering the house, creating a natural and free air conditioner.
Did you know that 100m2 of lawn provides the same cooling effect in summer as running 4 air conditioners?
It IS possible to have an eco-friendly lawn.
We don’t need a huge area -that’s what parks are for - but a small, sustainably grown patch actually doesn’t use huge amounts of water.
We believe that organically grown lawns are less work than those which have been treated chemically. They tend to have stronger root systems, less pests and diseases and require less water. They also tend to need less mowing because their growth, though strong and sustained; is slower compared with the unnaturally fast rate of their chemical cousins.
By using a sensible and moderate fertiliser regime and natural pest control, you will not be polluting our waterways and your children and pets will not be rolling around on your lawn absorbing chemicals. If you employ a lawn contractor, please consider copying this article for their use.
1. Apply seaweed liquid to lawn for a boost and to reduce heat stress. Hose on packs are convenient and refillable. There are now many seaweed products on the market:
Try: No Frills Seaweed tonic, Eco C Weed, Maxi Crop Seaweed Fertiliser or Seasol.
2. Raise mower height to 40 - 50mm to avoid scalping turf roots in summer. The longer grass acts like a mulch, helping to shade its own roots and retain soil moisture. The result is a more dry tolerant turf.
1. Aerate your lawn with a pitchfork or a coring machine. Obviously avoid doing this if you have sub surface drip irrigation (!) and whatever your retic system, be mindful of the position of your polypipe.
2. After aerating and watering, feed lawn with an organic slow release fertiliser such as Eco Growth’s Eco Prime Emerald Lawn Fertiliser (brilliant stuff – we could see the difference in our lawn in 3 days) or rake over 20-30mm of soil conditioner or screened worm casts.
3. Be alert for army worm – see LAWN PROBLEMS below. Check for weeds. Deal with them quickly before they seed.
4. If you have a lawn contractor, ensure he or she washes down their mower before they come to your place. Weed seeds are often transported into gardens this way.
1. Give your lawn a treat and apply Maxicrop’s Lawn Rejuvenator.
2. Lower the mower height to 20-30mm. This will allow more sun to penetrate and warm the soil as the days become cooler. It will also reduce fungal attacks and waterlogging. Keep mower blades sharpened. This avoids ragged edges on the grass blades which increases evaporation and makes the grass more susceptible to disease.
1. Invest in a mulcher/mower or remove the catcher on your mower to allow those nutrients to return to the soil, adding valuable organic matter and ‘mulching’ your lawn. Only do this when the safety flap fully lowered and mow from the perimeter from the centre to make sure all clipping stay on the lawn area. Rake over if necessary to even out any clumps.
SEPTEMBER – OCTOBER
1. Aerate lawn again and if your soil is water repellent, like most of Perth - fork in Bailey’s Grosorb, OR River Safe’s SuperSorb. Water in well.
2. Feed lawn again. (see March entry) Now you’ve aerated and applied one of the above wetting agents, the nutrients and water will penetrate through to the roots where it’s needed.
1. Aerate and feed lawn again. Aerating stops soil compaction and allows nutrients, wetting agent and water to penetrate to the roots. If using a pitchfork, push it into the ground, and wiggle back and forward at 10 – 15 cm intervals until entire lawn is aerated. For large lawns, hire a coring machine or outsource to a lawn contractor.
WATERING YOUR LAWN
Unless you water your garden via bore water, Perth gardeners are subject to twice weekly water restrictions, with no reticulation allowed with either mains or bore water from 1 June to 31 August. Make sure sprinklers are working well penetrating your soil evenly. Check out this article for help with reticulation and flow rates.
With new lawns, ensure they are prepared properly with clay amendments and soil conditioner, and not just laying on top of sand and a sprinkling of Dynamic Lifter as some naughty contractors are wont to do!
SOIL PREPARATION FOR A NEW LAWN
SOIL PREPARATION: Thorough soil preparation is essential for a healthy lawn. The best time in Perth to lay a lawn is in autumn or spring.
1. Ensure all weeds are removed before preparing soil.
2. Mix 50mm of Lawn Concentrate from Greenlife Soil Co. into 100mm of existing soil.
www.greenlifesoil.com.au or use screened compost or soil conditioner and add your own clay amendment). We like Greenlife’s soils as they have already added clay.
3. Level lawn area using a lawn leveller (hire), ensuring lawn sits a little higher than paths or edges. Turf is about 25mm thick.
4. Lay the turf along edges first to avoid the perimeter drying out.
5. Firmly press the turf edges together to join and knit. Stagger your joins rather than lining piece lengths up together.
6. Water in well and treat with seaweed liquid to get your lawn off to a flying start.
7. Water every day for a week. (NB you will need permission from the Water Corp to do this)
8. Wait until roots have established first before mowing for the first time. To check, simply pull up a bit of grass and if it lifts off easily, it’s too soon. Give it a chance to bond with its neighbouring roll.
The first mowing should be at the longest setting to encourage new growth.
COMMON LAWN PROBLEMS and their solutions.
Dollar spot – is a fungus which infects lawns, particularly couch grass, mostly in autumn and spring, relishing moist, warm days and cool nights. The individual dollar sized straw coloured spots can join together to destroy large patches of lawn.
Dollar spot usually occurs in non-wetting soils when watering is too shallow and too often, encouraging the lawn surface stays wet and the soil to remain dry. Proper soil preparation and use of wetting agents like Grosorb or River Safe’s SuperSorb (granular) and Eco Hydrate (liquid) prevents this.
Dollar spot damage is usually more severe if there is a deficiency of nitrogen. Disease fungi are spread from one area to another by water, wind, mowers, other equipment or shoes. Healthy organically cared for lawns are rarely affected by this disease.
Fairy Ring – sounds like a lovely children’s garden but is actually another fungal disease which creates large round patches in the lawn, with the edge of these patches ringed by mushrooms or a bright green colour. The inner section of the circle is usually a different, duller colour or contains damaged turf.
Fairy Rings will be most noticeable in spring and autumn. Again, if you follow the above lawn program it is highly unlikely you will ever experience this problem. As with any fungal problem in the garden, ensure that you water in the morning not at night as water on any leaf surface is an ideal breeding ground for any fungus.
Army worm – is a type of caterpillar which is active in spring and autumn. If you start to notice brown or straw like patches through your lawn or the leaves on your runners simply disappear, this could indicate army worm. These pests move in a front, leaving lawn bare behind them.
Organic control - Wet towels or moist hessian sacks trap them and Dipel or Success (caterpillar sprays) will kill them. Put wet towels out at night where dead turf meets undamaged turf and spray a small section of unharmed grass. Repeat if necessary.
Or Eco Growth’s Eco Grub 3 in 1 for Lawns and Gardens. Please note, this is an organic insecticide containing essential oils, a fertiliser and wetting agent all rolled into one.
African black beetle – these grubs feed from September to May and eat the lawn roots, causing the grass to die in patches for no apparent reason. Sometimes the problem is not actually black beetle but simply non wetting soil, or dry patch. A good way to check if you have this pest is if the dead grass comes away easily when you pull it up. Another indicator you may have a problem is the appearance of birds on your lawn. The adult African Black beetle is 10-13mm long and shiny and black. It is their babies, the larvae (grub) which do the most damage.
Organic control – Eco Growth’s Eco Grub 3 in 1 for Lawns and Gardens.
Thatch build up – thatch is a layer of vegetative and dead material which accumulates as the lawn grows. Please do not confuse this with leaving clippings to mulch your lawn, which contributes to the soil and, if raked over and not left in huge clumps, will prevent thatch.
Thatch only becomes a problem if it is more than 13mm thick. Commercial contractors remove thatch by using a verti-mowers, which has blades set vertically to cut into the grass and soil. This process may be done every 2-3 years if required.
Happy lawn growing!
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GARDEN DEVA 0423 385 568