Posts Tagged ‘Lawn’

What to Do or Not Do About Lawn Moss

Icon Written by Wayne on July 1, 2009 – 12:01 am

Here, in Southwestern Lower Michigan, we can honestly state that moss will grow anywhere, at any time, and with little help from the home gardener. In fact, moss is one of the most persistent and annoying weeds that occurs in home lawns. Peter Landschoot, associate professor of turfgrass science at Penn State says:

“Moss is an opportunistic plant that grows in bare soil or where grass is weak and thin. Once moss has invaded the lawn, grass will not spread into those areas.”

To control moss, you have to consider the reasons why it began to grow in your lawn. Moss only grows in areas of the lawn in which grass does not want to grow. This is areas of shade, low fertility or poorly drained soil. The moss does not kill the grass, the underlying growing conditions are so unfavorable that the grass simply dies out. Attempts to get rid of moss are rarely effective unless a dense, actively growing turf can take its place.

If heavy shade limits good turf growth, steps must be taken to correct the situation. This means removing some trees and shrubs to increase sunlight and air circulation. Rarely will just removing limbs and thinning out branches be enough to impact soil conditions.

To improve soil drainage, you must add large amounts of rich porous topsoil soil high in organic matter. This does not mean going to the local yard and garden store and picking up a few bags of topsoil. We are talking about adding 5-6 inches of new soil, this translates into truck loads not bag loads of soil. The soil adamants must then be worked into the existing loam to a depth of 10-12 inches.

Providing adequate sunlight and drainage can be both difficult and expensive. Low fertility, on the other hand, can usually be easily corrected. The first step in controlling moss is to test the soil for nutrient content and pH. Simple soil test kits are available at most lawn care centers or at your local state extension service at little cost. You can increase the fertility by applying a well balanced lawn fertilizer, such as 13-13-13, while pH can be adjusted with ground dolomite.

You can always kill moss by spraying it with copper sulfate or iron sulfate mixed 2 to 5 ounces to 4 gallons of water and applied at a ratio of 1 gallon per 250 square feet. Unfortunately, new moss will grow back in short order. Similarly, you can mechanically remove the moss and plant the area in sod. This method is a quick fix if you want to hide the problem for a season or two.

An alternative, where shade is quite heavy, is to plant a shade tolerant ground cover rather than grass. This does not correct the problem either but it will improve the appearance of the area. One of the most common uses of English Ivy is to cover shady hillsides or around the base of shallow rooted trees such as maple or white ash.

Another solution, catching on in this area, is instead of trying to get rid of moss and grow grass is to get rid of the grass and grow moss. The Japanese have been using moss for years in the lawn and garden. The appearance of green moss is both vibrant and revitalizing when used correctly. Gardening with moss adds a degree of serenity and timeless beauty to any garden.

While the year round beauty of moss is obvious, it is the resiliency, reduced maintenance, and cost effectiveness that make growing moss appealing. Moss can tolerate extremes in temperature and moisture levels. Even during periods with severe cold, moss, unlike grass, remains a dark green color. Excessive heat or lack of rainfall, also have no permanent effect. Best of all no mowing, fertilizing, watering, and dethatching which means more time and money for the gardener to spend elsewhere.

I know on the surface this does appear extreme, maybe even a little bit crazy but it does work. If you are like me, only growing grass for the green color, moss could be just the answer. Be a little crazy and give moss a try.


Tips of the Month

Here are some basic tips on growing moss in your lawn and garden. Moss is very easy to grow once you understand its culture. Since moss obtains all their nutrients from the air they require only shade, acidic soil, and adequate moisture to flourish. They need a firm soil, with a high clay content in a shady location. It is also imperative that the area in which moss will be grown be kept clear of leaves and other debris.

Selection of the location for the moss lawn or garden is by far the most important consideration you need to make. Most mosses prefer a medium to fairly dense shade. Direct afternoon sun should be avoided. Full sun locations will never work for moss as it likes growing on shady, wooded hillsides. Northern or eastern facing slopes in the woods or lawn are by far the best choice for growing moss.

Before utilizing moss as part of your shade gardening plans, the soil should be tested. The pH should be between 5.5 and 6.0, if necessary, the soil can easily be amended with liquid sulfur or aluminum sulfate to lower the pH.

Place the moss in contact with the soil as you would sod, press firmly into position but do not use a lawn roller. Water the moss regularly for the first three weeks and then gradually reduce watering


Flower of the Month

Fern Moss

Fern Moss

Fern Moss is often called Splendid Feather Moss, Step Moss, Stair Step Moss or Feather Moss. It is a very versatile, low growing moss with a high transplant success rate. It thrives in shade, but will also tolerate partial dappled sunlight. The color is medium green. There are several species of fern moss all are perennial, relatively large 4-6 inches long, robust, often occurring in wide loose patches. It is abundant and often dominant in coniferous forests, occurring on ledges and in rich humus or decaying wood. Fern moss is often found in cool, moist ravines and mountain woods of the East. It will dry up quickly when the canopy cover is not adequate to prevent high evaporation. Growth is better in undisturbed areas than disturbed areas.


Web Site

Moss Acres is a source for those interested in growing moss. They are located in the northeastern fringe of the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania on a 54 acre wooded hillside. Where, according to their web site, moss has been growing for millions of years. From this site they package and ship moss for gardening enthusiasts throughout the Eastern and Midwestern states. When it comes to knowledge and experience with growing moss in the landscape, Moss Acres are the best.

Book of the Month

Moss Gardening: Including Lichens, Liverworts, and Other Miniatures
by George Schenk ()This book, is great for those of us who like the green mosses and lichens of the outdoors. The descriptions are thorough and well illustrated with full color photographs moss being used in the garden.

We found the book fun to read as well as informative although it is geared toward the small container grower.

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Getting Your Lawn mower Ready for Storage

Icon Written by Geoff on November 1, 2003 – 6:02 pm

We use to abuse our lawn mower, although, ashamed we freely admit it. Until the time we entered the property maintenance business, we took our mower for granted. Oh sure, we kept it clean and changed the blades regularly. We even managed to follow the manufactures recommended greasing and cleaning schedule. But when it came to preparing your lawn mower for off-season storage we failed miserably. 

There just are so many things to do in the garden in the Fall that our thoughts are not on grass and mowers but leaves and snow. Our Fall maintenance consisted of pushing it out of the way to make room for the snowblower. Sad but true, a trusty steed cast aside, forgotten until Spring. Then we wonder why it will not obey our commands and start. 

Fall is the time to do a few simple maintenance procedures listed in your mowers owners manual. That is, if you remember where you put it, that will keep your mower healthy. While it is always best 

Check the blade and engine mounting fasteners making sure they are all tight. Take time to remove and sharpen the blade or better yet replace with a new one. Clean built-up grass clippings and dirt from under the deck. Clean or replace the air filter taking care to oil it. On four cycle engines we drain and refill the engine crankcase with fresh oil. 

On self propelled model, clean grass clippings and debris under belt cover and drive belt and oil height adjuster brackets. Check the mower tires and replace any that are cracked or worn. Check all screws for tightness and replace any missing. 

You can drain the fuel tank or run it dry but we prefer stabilizing the fuel as there are no gasoline disposal problems. Fuel stabilizer can be purchased at any hardware store or automotive supply center. Simply add to the mowers fuel tank, start the engine, and run a few minutes to mix stabilized fuel through 

Service your mowers engine by removing the spark plug and spraying fogging oil into the plug hole. Slowly rotate the engine several times by hand to distribute oil. Install a new spark plug but do not connect spark plug wire. Blow or vacuum off the engine paying particular attention to the cooling fins. 

Wash the mower thoroughly and allow to dry. Spray all exposed surfaces with a wax or other protectant such as Armor All. Cover with a plastic tarp or other dust proof cloth. Store in a cool dry place, but near a stove, furnace or water heater. 

In the Spring you should be able to roll out your mower and with a few quick tugs be off to the lawn.

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Aerating Your Lawn

Icon Written by Geoff on October 1, 2003 – 5:55 pm

Aeration can be an important part of any lawn program. It allows water and oxygen to reach the grass roots. We only recommend aerating in the Fall, in cool weather lawns, for best results. Not only will you pull better plugs, in the Fall, but there will be little weed seeds blowing around to germinate in the exposed holes. Never aerate during dry summer months as you will not only get poor core penetration, but could damage an already stressed lawn. 

Aeration involves the removal of small soil cores from a lawn, roughly 3/4 inch in diameter by 3 inches long. These soil plugs will break down and add nutrients back to the soil. Unless your soil is heavy clay, aerating need only be done every 8 – 10 years. If you have heavy soil, your lawn gets a lot of foot traffic, or you notice a lot of standing water after a rain, you probably need to aerate annually. 

If you cannot decide if your lawn needs aerating, it probably does not at this time. In our opinion, aerating is an often overused lawn maintenance tool. It is also often oversold by aggressive lawn maintenance companies trying to earn a profit in an otherwise dead time of year. 

Power aerators are available, to the homeowner, at most rental stores. These machines use a rotating tillerlike action that pushes the corers into the soil and extracts small plugs, as the machines pull you forward. Avoid aerators that only pokes holes in the lawn without removing plugs, as they do little good and could actually add to soil compaction. 

Since aerating requires specialized equipment and is very hard work we recommend the homeowner contract out the work to a professional lawn service. They used large aerator, requiring a truck and several helpers. With these machines, the corers are vertically plunged into the turf to extract a sizable plug. 

Aerators penetrate your lawn best when the soil is moist, so you will need to water your lawn the day before aerating, unless it rains. When aerating, make several passes in both directions across your lawn. You can break up the cores with a rake if you want, but it is not necessary. 

Right after aerating is a good time to top dress your lawn and over-seed. Again, this is up to you and depends on how much time and money you want to put into your lawn. This is strictly optional and no matter what, aerating alone will increase your lawn’s health and vigor. No matter if you choose to top dress and over seed or not, water the lawn immediately after aerating.

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Caring for the Newly Sodded Lawn

Icon Written by Geoff on May 1, 2002 – 5:58 pm

Taking good care of your newly sodded lawn is vital, one mistake and you might as well throw it all on the compost pile. Fortunately, sod is also easy to take care of if you follow a few simple steps. 

New sod should be watered as soon as it has been laid. But how much water is enough? The best way to tell if you’ve watered enough is by taking a few steps onto the turf. If you make deep footprints, your sod has enough water. If the soil seems firm, lift a corner of one of the rolls and inspect it. The soil on the back of the sod should be damp, or wet. If the back of a roll is not damp, water an additional thirty minutes. 

Check your lawn at least once per day during the week after installation, to ensure that there is adequate moisture for the turf to flourish. During hot and/or windy weather, you may need to check for moisture more than once per day. Walk on the new lawn to inspect it. If the soil is soft, and you make deep footprints, or if water has puddled in areas, it is too wet. Unlike the first day of watering, you do not want to make footprints. At this point, you should stop watering for a day or two. Once you begin the watering schedule again, water less often. However, if you walk across your lawn to inspect it and find that the soil is very firm, lift a comer of the grass in several places. The soil should be damp– not dripping wet, or dusty dry. Areas where the grass has wilted, or turned a straw color, have not received enough water. 

Green sod that turns brown almost overnight is an obvious symptom of under watering. Fortunately, the roots and crowns of the grass plant are probably still alive. If immediate action is taken, new leaves will appear in seven to ten days. Another indication of under watering is cracks that appear between the rows of sod. Both of these signs of under watering can be corrected by watering longer than you have been currently, with more water. 

After about five days, the sod has soaked up water like a sponge, and you must reduce your watering habits. If you do not reduce the amount of water applied to your lawn, you risk drowning the sod. Only cattails and bull-rushes will grow in water-logged soils, not grass. Now is the time to begin stretching out the amount of time between watering. 

Mow your new sod when it needs it. You do not need to stay off it just because it has been recently laid. You do, however, need to pay attention to the height of your mower. It is very important to not water immediately before mowing, to prevent the mower sinking in and making ruts. 

Sod is ready to be used instantly. The catch is that early watering often makes the soil underneath the sod soft, and susceptible to ruts. Making deep footprints when the soil is soft will not hurt the sod, but will make for an uneven lawn in the future. If children play in your yard and turn a comer up, just pat it back down. 

Your new sod does not need any type of weed killers. Should a dandelion or other small weed pop up, pull it out, making sure that you pulled out the root as well. Pulling out roots will ensure that weeds will not return. Your new lawn does not need any fertilizer for at least two weeks. 

Conscientious long-term care is extremely important in maintaining your investment in sod. Good maintenance habits ward off disease and weeds. The following information will help you in long-term sod care. 

Mow your sod at 3 to 3 1/2 inches in height. Setting your mower even higher will result in fewer weeds and healthier turf. Clippings should not be collected, unless they are long and smother the grass. Clippings do not create thatch, but do recycle nutrients back into the lawn. 

Sodded lawns that have been growing one year do not have to be watered to stay alive. If you do not water in a drought, the grass will turn brown, go dormant, and will resume growing when rain falls again. Watering to keep grass green is a choice for you to make, but if you over water, you will cause serious problems for your grass. A lawn can be watered anytime, but early morning is ideal as there is usually very little wind. 

It is important to fertilize regularly, whether you hire the work done or do it yourself. Usually sod only needs an application of a balanced fertilizer such as 13-13-13. Contact a lawn maintenance company or visit a garden center to set up a fertilization schedule. 

A good lawn service, will take care of any weed problems. If you plan to control your weeds yourself, remember there are two types of weeds: broadleaf and crabgrass. For broadleaf weeds, like dandelion, we suggest you visit a garden center to discuss the many ways of applying broadleaf herbicides. Crabgrass herbicides are not needed if your sod is thick. A good web site to visit is the Scott Company’s which not only has helpful information but links to how to control weeds and other problems in your lawn.

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The Shady Lawn

Icon Written by Geoff on June 1, 2000 – 6:13 pm

We have recently discussed the merits of different traditional varieties of lawn grass seed (January Yard Talk) and the use of native grass (May Yard Talk). In this issue, we would like to address one of the hardest uses of grass in the home’s landscape, growing grass in heavy shade. 

To begin with, grass really does not want to grow in heavy shade. Just take a walk in the woods and observe how much grass you see growing. Sure, some grasses will grow in shade but, it is not natural for it to grow there. Fine fescue tolerate partial shade but, do not like this condition. Among the more commonly used varieties of the fescue are: Jamestown, Banner, Barfalla, Checker, Highlight, Koket, Shadow, Dawson, Ensylva, Fortress, Pennlawn, Ruby, and Aurora. Some perennial ryegrasses offer intermediate shade tolerance. Ryegrass varieties for shade include: Birdie II, Citation II, Fiesta II, Manhatten II, Palmer, and Regal. Poa trivialis L or rough blue grass can also be used in shaded areas. 

The best solution for the homeowner who wants a traditional well-groomed suburban lawn is to cut down all his trees and grind them up for use as mulch in his flower beds. Of course, if you live in an urban setting you will probably have to do this to your neighbors trees as well. While this will greatly insure that you have a beautiful lawn, it probably is not too practical. Some compromises will need to be made, particularly if you want to stay out of jail. Ideal growing conditions for lawns include sun, fertile, well-drained soil, and enough rain for the lawn to grow. 

The first and most important thing we need to do is to make sure the lawn is receiving enough sunlight. The grass may not get enough sun to manufacture food efficiently through photosynthesis to support the growing grass plant. Also, if a tree is casting shade, it may also be competing with the lawn for available water and nutrients, and may even block water from getting to the lawn during light rains. You need to evaluate the trees in your yard. If the trees are old, damaged, or of an undesirable species you may wish to have them removed. Poplar and Cottonwood trees are short lived and brittle, while Walnut and Cherry are messy and their roots and leaves leach out chemicals that can inhibit plant growth. Some varieties of Maples and Ashes have root systems that are very close to the soil’s surface, even growing on top of the soil. If you decide that the trees are worth maintaining, you then should have them pruned and thinned by a trained professional. 

This does not solve your problem if the trees shading your lawn are on your neighbors’ property. Hopefully, he takes pride in his landscape areas also and keeps his trees pruned. If not, you can always offer to pay to have his trees trimmed. Many large cities also have ordinances that might offer some legal relief. 

Often, shaded areas under trees are also very infertile. Unfortunately, most homeowners and even lawn services treat these areas like the rest of the lawn. You want to treat these areas with a low nitrogen fertilizer or, at least, a balanced one such as 13-13-13. We like to reduce the amount of the application and increase it’s frequency. We reduce the application to half strength and instead of applying 6 times we use 12 applications a year. Remember, most of your fertilizer is going to be absorbed by the trees. 

The soil in shaded areas quickly becomes compacted, particularly if it is along a walk or drive. While we generally only aerate a healthy lawn every 3-5 years, a heavy shaded area should be done yearly. This will improve the drainage and increase air penetration. We always follow aerating with a top dressing of a good quality grass seed. This is also a good time to apply a topdressing of organic matter such as mushroom compost although, any compost will help. In a heavy clay soil, you may wish to make two compost applications, you are trying to increase the organic content of the soil. 

Areas under trees need much more water than other areas of the lawn. Like fertilizer, most of the water is going to be taken up by the surrounding trees. This is one area where an underground sprinkler system more than pays for itself. Next to sunlight, nothing is more important than the timely application of water. Poa trivialis L, for example will grow very well in heavy shade with lots of watering, cut back the water and it quickly dies out. We never use Poa trivialis L unless the lawn has an irrigation system. To grow grass in the shade, you must make the commitment to watering regularly, this means even when you are out of town. Unlike grass growing in sunny locations, grass in shade does not go dormant during dry spells, it dies! 

For those of you with children, if you want good grass, provide them with another play area, take them to the park, or have them play at the neighbors. If you like picnicking in the shade, buy an umbrella. Grass in shaded areas just will not tolerate heavy traffic nor will it recover if subject to it. This includes the wanderings of the family dog. 

This probably sounds like a lot of work and it is. It can be very expensive and require sacrifices. Most of all, it takes a commitment on your part to keep doing the things that are required when they are required. If you quit for any reason, the grass is gone and you have to start over. It is just that simple.

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The Suburban Lawn

Icon Written by Geoff on May 1, 2000 – 6:15 pm

It is amazing the amount of time and money that is spent on the traditional bluegrass lawn. We have talked before about how much the average home owner spends to have a well manicured lawn. It has become almost a cult ritual every Saturday morning to fire up the lawn mower and pay homage to the Kentucky Bluegrass Icon before heading out to the country club for a round of golf. We fill our landfills with grass clippings, pollute our streams with fertilizer, and kill off our birds with pesticides so that our lawns have that iwell groomed look. 

Here, in the Midwest, if we were to quit mowing, fertilizing, and spraying, our lawns would soon become meadows and fields. Eventually woody plants would become established and over time the land would become forested again. We should face the fact that grass really does not want to grow where we want it to. 

In January’s Yard Talk we discussed the varieties of grass available to the homeowner, their strengths and weaknesses. Interestingly, as Stevie Daniels points out in The New American Lawn “Of the 14 species that the Lawn Institute claims are suitable for turf, only two are native — buffalograss, and red fescue. The typical lawngrasses — from Kentucky bluegrass to bermudagrass — are not native. 

While we are not saying the “All American Bluegrass Lawn” is bad, we are saying that there are alternatives. Just maybe we should quit beating our heads against the wall trying to grow something that really does not want to grow where we want it to and look at some of our native grasses. At the very least, we can return some of our greenscape to native varieties. If, every year, we planted orange trees, here in Zone 5, and every year they froze, we probably would soon say “Gee!, Maybe we should grow apple trees.” Why not the same with our lawns?

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Turfgrass Varieties for Cold Season Lawns

Icon Written by Geoff on January 1, 2000 – 6:17 pm

We have had several people ask us what variety of grass or species to use in seeding their lawn or, they have asked why their newly seeded lawn failed in one season. Another question often asked is whether they should use one variety or a mixture in seeding. All good questions but not easy to answer. This month we are going to try to address these and other lawn seed questions. Our discussions will be based on our experiences here in Southwestern Lower Michigan, Zone 5. What is discussed will hold true for all cool season lawns. 

Here in Michigan, only a few species of grass are useful for home lawns. The proper selection of grass species is one of the most important decisions to be made when establishing a lawn. Since a lawn is meant to be permanent, it is important to select a grass species adapted to the area. The species selected must also be capable of meeting our aesthetic requirements. Also, it is important that we set realistic expectations from our lawn. Not all environments are the same, even in the same neighborhood. How often we have heard ” Mr Smith across the street has such a beautiful lawn why does mine look so bad?” Well, maybe Mr Smith has only two trees in his lawn, an in-ground sprinkler system, or spends 40 hours a week working on it. Many lawn problems result from the failure to address these subjects during the grass selection process. 

Which grass is best for your lawns? The choice depends largely on characteristics of the grass and the intended site for it to grow. Grasses vary in growth habit, appearance quality, ease and rate of establishment, maintenance needs, adaptability to shade, wear tolerance, ability to recover from damage, cold hardiness, and susceptibility to pests and diseases. The initial consideration in lawn establishment is which grass species to plant. After selecting the species, consider the appropriate varieties within the species. As with most plants, each turfgrass species has a number of hybrids, each of which are subtly different genetically. Choose ones which are best suited for the areas to be seeded. Shady, wet, poorly drained areas or regions of the lawn with poor soil, pH extremes, drought susceptibility, all require careful selection. 

As a general rule, turfgrass mixtures and blends are better than using a single species or variety. Seed mixtures are combinations of two or more species of grass, such as Kentucky bluegrass and perennial rye grass. Blends of grass seed are combinations of two or more varieties of a single lawn species. Cultivars may offer a variety of traits that set them apart from others in the species, including resistance to diseases or other stress, or improved color or hardiness. When combined in blends, each cultivar offers a variety of features to contribute to a diverse stand of lawn grasses able to withstand a number of stresses and problems better than one cultivar by itself. Combining grass species and cultivars together helps create a uniform, yet diverse stand of grasses in a lawn. 

Our description of those species best suited for cool season lawns found in our region comes from Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet HYG-4011 Turfgrass Species Selection by William E. Pound and John R. Street. 

Kentucky Bluegrass – Kentucky bluegrass is the primary lawn turfgrass grown in Ohio. With proper management, Kentucky bluegrass forms a fine-textured, high-quality, long-lasting turf. This species produces rhizomes (underground stems) that give rise to new bluegrass plants. This ability enables bluegrass to rapidly recuperate from injury and fill in thin areas in the lawn. Kentucky bluegrass is winter-hardy and capable of withstanding temperature and moisture extremes. During hot, dry periods it tends to become dormant and lose color. If high quality is desired during the summer period, lawn irrigation is often necessary. Kentucky bluegrass requires moist, well-drained soil to develop into high-quality turfgrass. It will not tolerate extremely acid or alkaline soils or heavy shade. Germination and establishment rates are slow, and weeds may develop if seeded in late spring or early summer. Kentucky bluegrass requires a medium to high level of management with routine applications of fertilizer. Kentucky bluegrass performs best in full sun, some cultivars are adapted to shade. 

Recommended Kentucky Bluegrass Cultivar: 

  1. Blacksburg
  2. Princeton 104
  3. Midnight
  4. Eclipse
  5. America
  6. Asset
  7. Aspen
  8. Loft’s 1757
  9. A-34
  10. Able 1
  11. Freedom
  12. Glade

Perennial Rye Grass – Perennial ryegrass, like Kentucky bluegrass, is a fine-textured species with the potential to develop into a high quality lawn. Perennial rye grass has rapid seed germination and seedling establishment qualities. This species has a bunch-type growth habit, which enables it to grow densely . The cold tolerance and disease resistance capabilities are less than for Kentucky bluegrass. All perennial rye grasses require well-drained soils of medium to high fertility. The maintenance, fertility and pH requirements are similar to the improved Kentucky bluegrasses. Perennial rye grass has better drought tolerance than Kentucky bluegrass but normally requires irrigation to maintain quality during the summer. In recent years many improved perennial rye grasses have been commercialized. These improved cultivars have greater cold tolerance, better density, darker color and better disease resistance than the older, common rye grass selections. 

Recommended Perennial Rye Grass Cultivars: 

  1. Saturn
  2. SR-4100
  3. Pennant
  4. SR-4000
  5. Manhattan II
  6. Commander
  7. Dimension
  8. Palmer
  9. Pick 715
  10. Riviera
  11. Dasher II
  12. Fiesta II
  13. Repell
  14. Blazer II
  15. Omega II

Tall Fescue – Tall fescue has been used traditionally as a low-maintenance grass in areas where a coarser texture is not objectionable. This species is coarser textured than the other recommended turfgrass species. Tall fescue tolerates soils of low fertility, persists well under low maintenance and possesses good tolerance to insects and diseases. This species germinates and establishes quickly but slightly slower than perennial rye grass. When mature, tall fescue has excellent wear tolerance and, due to its deep-rooted nature, tolerates drought and will remain green throughout the summer without supplemental irrigation. Juvenile tall fescue seedlings are not cold-tolerant and will be prone to winter kill. However, well-established seedlings and mature lawns will endure most winters. Recently, a number of improved “turf-type” tall fescue cultivars have been commercialized. All tall fescues grow rapidly in the spring and require more frequent mowing than Kentucky bluegrass. 

Recommended Tall Fescue Cultivars: 

  1. Hubbard 87
  2. Guardian
  3. Shenandoah
  4. Crossfire
  5. Avanti
  6. Amigo
  7. Cochise
  8. Aztec
  9. Monarch
  10. Tribute
  11. Eldorado
  12. Phoenix
  13. Thoroughbred
  14. Rebel II
  15. Chieftain

Fine Fescue – Red, hard and chewings fescues are fine-leaved turfgrasses that grow well under conditions of shade, low soil moisture, low fertility, and soils with unfavorable PH. The fine fescues require well-drained, slightly dry soils, with minimum levels of management. Excess applications of fertilizer, frequent irrigation or establishment on poorly drained soils will result in a decline in quality and plant density. With correct management, the fine fescues can make an attractive turf of fair to good quality. Fine fescues are commonly used in mixtures with the other cool-season turfgrasses on low maintenance or shady lawns. 

Recommended Fine Fescue Cultivars: 

  1. Aurora
  2. Reliant
  3. Spartan
  4. Longfellow
  5. Scaldis
  6. Bighorn
  7. Victory
  8. Waldina
  9. Biljart
  10. Enjoy
  11. Flyer
  12. Mary
  13. Banner
  14. Shadow
  15. Waldorf

The decision on what mixtures and blends of Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fine fescues to use must be based on site conditions and use factors. Some suggestions are summarized below. 

Full Sun Areas: 

  1. Kentucky bluegrass blend (3-5 cultivars) Use 1.5 lb. of seed per 1,000 sq. Ft.
  2. Kentucky bluegrass blend/perennial ryegrass Use 3 to 4 lb. per 1,000 sq.ft
  3. Tall fescue blend (high traffic areas or hot, dry sites) Use 6 to 8 lb. of seed per 1,000 sq. ft
  4. Fine fescue blend (low maintenance lawn – infrequent mowing)Use 6 to 8 lb. of seed per 1,000 sq. ft
  5. Kentucky bluegrass/perennial ryegrass/fine fescue Use 6 to 8 lb. of seed per 1,000 sq. ft


  1. Kentucky bluegrass/fine fescue blend Use 4 to 5 lb. of seed per 1,000 sq. Ft.
  2. Tall fescue blend Use 6 to 8 lb. of seed per 1,000 sq. Ft.

Deep Shade: 

  1. Fine fescue blend (dry shade) Use 6 to 8 lb. of seed per 1,000 sq. Ft.
  2. Rough bluegrass (wet shade) Use 2 to 4 lb. of seed per 1,000 sq. Ft.

The following are blends and mixtures we have had good luck with: 

Sunny Blend 

  • 25 % Freedom Kentucky Blue Grass
  • 25 % America Kentucky Blue Grass
  • 25 % Blazer II Perennial Rye
  • 25 % Manhattan II Perennial Rye

Shady Blend 

  • 25 % Freedom Kentucky Blue Grass
  • 25 % Manhattan II Perennial Rye
  • 25 % Chieftain Tall Fescue
  • 25 % Flyer Fine Fescue

Another turfgrass we have not talked about is Poa trivialis L, a fine textured, light green turf with high shoot density. It spreads by stolons and does not form as tight a sod as Kentucky bluegrass. It is a long-lived perennial that is well adapted to wet, shaded areas. Its low temperature hardiness and fall color retention are excellent, but rough bluegrass does not tolerate drought or high temperature stress. Sabre, Laser and Colt are the recommended cultivars. They should be used in mixtures that are planted in poorly-drained, shaded sites. We have had very good results using this in high shade areas but it must be kept wet. If you let it dry out it will all but completely disappear. This is not for the average home owner. 

Another important consideration in selecting a turfgrass is how much time and money you want to spend on your lawn. We have put in lawns which looked beautiful until sold to a new homeowner who did not have the time or interest in maintaining it. Within a short period of time the lawn looked rough and ragged. Good lawns take a lot of work they just do not happen. Sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice the aesthetics in order to have a lawn you can manage.

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Non-Selective Herbicides in the Yard and Garden

Icon Written by Geoff on August 1, 1999 – 6:11 pm

We spend a large amount of time and effort removing plants that are simply not where we want them. Those plants that we admire growing in the wild as wild flowers become Weeds when found in our lawns and gardens. Why then should we weed? We weed because: 

  • Weeds grow very fast and compete with desirable plants for moisture and nutrients.
  • Weeds steal sunlight from less competitive plants.
  • Such plants as poison ivy and stinging nettles cause physical discomfort.
  • Some weeds have thorns and prickers.
  • Native plants cannot compete with foreign invaders such as Purple Loosestrife.
  • Weeds can host diseases and pests that can damage desirable plants.

We can remove unwanted plants by mechanical, cultural, or with a chemical herbicide. While we prefer the first two methods whenever practical, we recognize the value of herbicides as an alternate garden tool. This is particularly true in non-selective herbicides composed of isopropylamine salt of glyphosate. These herbicides, when used as directed, pose little or no threat to our health or to the environment as they react only on the amino acids found in the plant world. Glyphosates immediately breakdown on contact with the soil into harmless elements. They are also safe to use around wildlife. The glyphosate herbicide Roundup is the weed killer most zoos use in sensitive animal areas While we would not want to bathe or drink with this herbicide it is an extremely safe gardening tool. 

The most common glyphosate herbicide available to the home gardener is Roundup manufactured by the Solaris Group of the Monsanto Company. We will use Roundup’s name generically throughout Yard Talk while recognizing there are many other excellent glyphosate herbicides on the market. Roundup is a non-selective, systemic herbicide used to kill all types of weeds and grasses. When you spray Roundup on a weed, it’s absorbed throughout the plant, where it prevents the plant from making its own food. Once in the soil, Roundup breaks down into natural materials and will not move in the ground to affect nearby, untreated plants. Children and pets may enter the treated areas after Roundup has dried. Roundup can be applied as often as necessary. 

Roundup makes it easy to create new gardens, particularly in grassy areas. Simply mark out the desired garden contours, spray the area with Roundup, mulch with your favorite medium, wait 24 hours, and plant your flowers, shrubs, or trees. The dead sod will decompose adding nutrients to the soil. This is much easier than mechanical cultivation and raking up the debris. 

Home lawns can become thin and unsightly because of insects, diseases, severe summer stress, or old age. Sometimes, cultural practices such as, mowing, fertilizing, watering, aerating, and weed control just are not enough to give the lawns that needed look. This can be particularly true in older lawns that have not been seeded in years. Lawns can be upgraded by simply spraying the old turf with a non-selective herbicide and seeding over the dead grass with a newer grass variety or blends. 

Lawn mowers and string trimmers can damage trees by injuring the bark. This damage can provide an opening for insect and disease entry. Also, the damage may interfere with the plants’ ability to take on water and nutrients, this can stunt and sometimes kill the tree. You can protect your trees and shrubs by spraying a non-selective herbicide around the tree and then apply a mulch. 

A non-selective herbicide, such as Roundup, is then merely another tool for the gardener to use. Like the chainsaw, hoe, and hand trowel, it must be used safely and responsibly. When mechanical and cultural methods prove ineffective or inefficient, a non-selective herbicide may be the answer. It is a key element in no till gardening. Read the manufacturer’s directions carefully and follow them, as in most cases, more is not necessarily better. We would encourage you to also read the manufacturer’s MSDS sheets. If in doubt, seek the advice of a lawn and garden professional.

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Broadleaf Weed Control in Lawns

Icon Written by Geoff on May 1, 1999 – 5:56 pm

Brad Pedersen in Weed Control in Lawns and Other Turf says “Weeds are simple plants out of place.” We have often observed plants being cultivated in one section of the country while in other parts valiant efforts are being made to eradicate it. One man’s weed is another man’s orchid. So it is with weeds in the well-groomed Eurasian lawns. Weeds are easy to see because of their different texture and color. Some weeds, like dandelions and henbit, even put on a Spring floral show for us. 

The first step in controlling weeds in the lawn is to identify what types are present. There are many books, pamphlets, and even web sites such as Rutger University’s Weed Image Collection at to help you identify most lawn weeds. Another good source is your local County Extension Agent. Lawn weeds fall into two types, Grass Weeds such as crab grass and quack grass, and Broadleaf Weeds such as dandelions and plantain. Grass weeds are usually best treated with a preemergent herbicide while broadleaf weeds respond best to postemergent while cultural control can be used effectively on both. In this issue of Yard talk, we will be discussing broadleaf weed control. 

Broadleaf weeds occur naturally in all soils, their seeds can be viable for over 50 years and each plant produces thousands of these seeds. Everything we do in the lawn has the potential for introducing weeds. Broadleaf weeds can be annual or perennial and are extremely hardy. There are three types of controls available to the homeowner, postemergent herbicides, cultural control, or a combination of both. 

The preferred method of control is cultural. A dense, healthy, and vigorous growing turf are your best defense. Weed invasions only happen when there is an underlying turf problem such as when knotweed takes over when the lawn soil becomes compacted. Weeds can often be controlled by simple changing our maintenance practices such as: 

  • Mow at a minimum height of three inches.
  • Do not mow in hot dry weather.
  • Water one to three times a week.
  • Water to a depth of six inches- at least one inch of water a week.
  • Maintain the lawn’s proper pH.
  • Apply an adequate balanced fertilizer.
  • Aerate your lawn at least every three years.
  • Remove any thatch build up.
  • Thin overhanging trees and shrubs.
  • Regularly topseed any developing thin spots.

It is much easier to properly maintain a lawn than it is to try to get rid of broadleaf weeds. 

Postemergent herbicides are also used to control actively growing broadleaf weeds. Broadleaf herbicides available to the homeowner contain 2,4-D, Mecoprop, Dicamba, or a combination of the three. To be effective postemergent herbicides must be: 

  • Applied when the weeds are growing vigorously.
  • Not applied during dry conditions.
  • Applied when the temperature is between 60*F and 85*F.
  • Reapplied if it rains within 24 hours of application.
  • Applied in the early Fall or Summer.

In addition you do not want to: 

  • Water within 48 hours of application.
  • Mow within 24 hours of treatment.
  • Apply to newly sodded lawns.
  • Mow lawns within three days of application.

Above all else, you want to make sure you understand and follow the directions on the herbicide of your choice. If you are not sure of what you are doing, hire a professional. 

While we consider cultural control the best method, we realize herbicide application or a combination may be necessary. Use herbicides sparingly or even consider spot treatment of problem areas. The University of Delaware has an excellent pamphlet called Your Lawn’s 25 Worst Weed Enemies that can be viewed at that can help you match specific weeds with the best treatment. Again, if in doubt, ask a professional for help. 

The best choice is to keep those lawns healthy, dense, and vigorously growing so you do not have to worry about weeds. All the other choices involve a whole lot more work.

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Maintenance of Cool Weather Lawns

Icon Written by Geoff on June 1, 1998 – 6:07 pm

This month we are going to talk about lawn mowing. Specifically, we will be addressing the maintenance of cool weather lawns found in Zone 5. These lawns are usually made up of a mixture of Kentucky Blue Grass, Red Fescue, and Perennial Rye Grass. Most lawns are usually of medium density, with upright blades, and bright green in color.

There are some factors to consider in mowing these cool grass lawns. Whether new or established grass apply, it should not be cut lower than 2 1/2-3 inches in height. For best results, never remove more than 1/3 of the blade’s length at each mowing. Not only are lawns maintained at this height more attractive but, they are more vigorous. Lawns cut too short not only look pale but, are weakened and more prone to weed invasion. Close cut lawns also require more water and fertilization. So, for a quality lawn, keep those blades raised!

Do not skimp on buying a mower. Quality mowers not only do a better job but, last longer and require less maintenance. Another area you do not want to skimp on is lawn mower blade sharpening. Keep those blades sharp! Dull or poorly maintained blades not only tear the grass blades but, can be downright dangerous. Even when using proper equipment with sharp blades, grass will take a “set” or lean in one direction if mowed the same way each time. We recommend alternating mowing vertical, horizontal, and diagonal whenever possible. This also adds a little variety to mowing, increasing your fun, and even providing a more attractive lawn.

Mow your lawn when the grass needs cut and not on a set schedule. Just because you like to cut your lawn before the big rugby match each week does not mean it is best for your lawn. Your lawn may require mowing several times a week, particularly in the spring and fall. While mowing when the grass is wet will not hurt the grass, it does pack down the soil.

Grass in shady areas can be mowed less frequently than the remainder of the lawn. We also like to mow these shady areas longer as this promotes denser growth. All areas of the lawn do not have to be treated the same.

Contrary to popular belief, grass clippings do not cause thatch build up. Clippings are composed of water and readily decompose adding nutrients back into the soil. Do not remove clippings if a fungicide or herbicide has been applied as it cuts down on their effectiveness. The only time we recommend picking up the clippings is, if the grass has been allowed to grow beyond the standard height. Healthy, regularly mowed lawns do not need the clippings picked up.

All lawns are not the same, nor are all areas of the same lawn equal. Also, what works best for your neighbor’s lawn is not necessarily good for yours. Do not be afraid to experiment, your mistakes will all too quickly grow back.

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