Lawn care

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Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,716
Philadelphia
GOD to ST. FRANCIS: Frank, .. You know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.

St. FRANCIS:
It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD:
Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds, and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS:
Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD:
The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.


ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it - sometimes twice a week.

GOD:
They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?


ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD:
They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS:
No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

GOD:
Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it way?


ST. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir.


GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.


ST. FRANCIS: You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD:
What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life.


ST. FRANCIS: You'd better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away, too.

GOD:
No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS:
After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD:
And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS:
They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD:
Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?


ST. CATHERINE: 'Dumb and Dumber', Lord. It's a story about....

GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.
 

MikeK

Member
Oct 12, 2014
37
MN
I love it! Our clan of the suburbanite tribe has many lawn care aspects deeply ingrained in our culture. I asked my wife if my lawn rants annoy her just now, and she said "not this morning."
 
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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,496
Northern NH
Unfortunately up in northern NH leave a lawn without mowing and the trees move in. Trees are not very good over septic systems. I compromise and mow what is there but don't fertilize.
 

vinny11950

Minister of Fire
May 17, 2010
1,724
Eastern Long Island, NY
Very funny. I stopped trying to care for the grass in the front yard 6 years ago. I just let the moss grass take over. Now I have a nice, thick carpet of green that stays short and keeps most weeds from growing. I don't water it, fertilize it or anything. Just let it be. It turns yellow in the peak summer, but quickly comes back green in the fall when the rain begins again.
 

Wickets

Burning Hunk
Jan 4, 2016
103
nj
There is nothing more ironic and pleasurable than going to a 'farm' store and watching 'ladies that lunch' pay top dollar for dandelion leaves. :)
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
4,064
SW Virginia
There's something about "engineering" nature that we humans just can't seem to resist.

The engineer in me gave up long ago and now merely tries to keep nature in check so we can still find our front door when we get home. Heaven help us if Kudzu ever makes it to our area. (another human folly BTW) I think I'd just move.

I'm actually involved in an effort to guide departments of transportation on how they can best maintain their roadsides for safety while creating/maintaining habitat for pollinators, etc.
 

jebatty

Minister of Fire
Jan 1, 2008
5,789
Northern MN
Our solution to lawn "care" was for my wife to volunteer to mow the lawn. She actually does not like to mow, and year after year she decided to mow less and let nature take over. Now our mowed lawn is just a very small area around two sides of the house, we've seeded natural grasses and flower into was once the large mowed portion, native shrubs and trees also have volunteered into the no-mow area, and nature has taken over.

As for the septic drain field area, we do not let trees and shrubs grow there, just grass, which gets mowed once or twice during the summer, leaving the grass to grow to about two feet before mowing with a brush mower. We want the grass to be about one foot tall before winter so that snow will accumulate over the drain field to reduce the chance of any freeze-up over the winter. Only once in 27 years did we come close to a freeze-up, and over this period winters in our area are now about 10-15 degrees warmer on average than the old "normal" winters used to be. I won't comment on all of the invasive plants and insects which we now have due to warmer winters and lack of freeze-out of stuff that would never have survived here in the past. Climate change rolls on while Rome burns.
 

firefighterjake

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
19,410
Unity/Bangor, Maine
I never could figure out folk's obsession with having a lawn that looks like a golf course (minus the divots). I mow my lawn . . . but that's about it (other than raking some areas that get too many leaves to simply mulch them with the mower).
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,716
Philadelphia
I never could figure out folk's obsession with having a lawn that looks like a golf course (minus the divots). I mow my lawn . . . but that's about it (other than raking some areas that get too many leaves to simply mulch them with the mower).
Okay, I'll bite, even though I don't pay to have my clippings hauled away. An uncontrolled or weedy lawn is no different than old and peeling paint, in terms of making your house look poorly maintained. A well-maintained lawn increases curb appeal, and can make potential buyers think of how their kids (who currently sit indoors and play video games) might use it for playing outdoors.

Living in the woods would be my ultimate bliss, but every home purchase is a compromise.
 

jatoxico

Minister of Fire
Aug 8, 2011
4,335
Long Island NY
A healthy lawn looks good and doesn't necessarily require obsessive maintenance.

My interest in the lawn comes and goes a little but I try to keep it looking good at least from the road. Last few years it was getting weedy and looking shabby so I've been making an effort.

I don't feel good about using too many chemicals so the clippings stay on the lawn and I don't fertilize too often. Maybe once every two years is enough right now. Mechanical aeration helped immensely since I have some clay and compaction problems, over-seeded at the same time. pH of Long Island soil is typically low so I have started liming.

With that and some spot weeding its looking good.
 
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Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,716
Philadelphia
A healthy lawn looks good and doesn't necessarily require obsessive maintenance.

My interest in the lawn comes and goes a little but I try to keep it looking good at least from the road. Last few years it was getting weedy and looking shabby so I've been making an effort.

I don't feel good about using too many chemicals so the clippings stay on the lawn and I don't fertilize too often. Maybe once every two years is enough right now. Mechanical aeration helped immensely since I have some clay and compaction problems, over-seeded at the same time. pH of Long Island soil is typically low so I have started liming.

With that and some spot weeding its looking good.
You're on the right track. I run the plug aerator over the whole lawn each September, and occasionally a second time in the spring. We also have clay soil.

pH may be the single most important, and least observed, factor in a good lawn. All the fertilizers and nutrients in the world are useless, if the pH is off, as the grass needs to be in that happy spot to even begin absorbing nutrients. And, you don't need any fancy or questionable chemicals, to alter pH.

I collect a two soil samples and get a free soil test in late February each year. From that, I get a fertilization plan that enables me to get just the right amount of product down, no more. It's pretty easy, with good info. I see folks doing a lot more work than me, for poorer results.
 

jatoxico

Minister of Fire
Aug 8, 2011
4,335
Long Island NY
I borrowed an aerator but I'm on the prowl for one of my own. Should be had for around $100. Even new they're $160-180. I could see using it 2X a year for the first few years I own it.

pH on LI can be in the 4's. My five samples ranged from about 5.1 to about 5.9. Put down enough to raise it maybe 0.3-0.5. Will most likely lime again in fall after I retest.

Been converting the lawn to tall fescue on the advice of our local Cornell Co-op. Doesn't need as much fert or water as other species. The blades are a little bit thin (may improve as pH comes in line) but still attractive.
 

jebatty

Minister of Fire
Jan 1, 2008
5,789
Northern MN
An uncontrolled or weedy lawn is no different than old and peeling paint, in terms of making your house look poorly maintained. A well-maintained lawn increases curb appeal, and can make potential buyers think of how their kids (who currently sit indoors and play video games) might use it for playing outdoors.
I agree with your POV, and the key words are "making your house look poorly maintained." A lawn is nearly all about "looks," just like wearing the right kind of shirt, skirt, or slacks, and importantly, all about showing that the owner is the "right kind or person" that matches a certain kind of culture or economic status. All of that is OK if that is what a person truly wants.

My wife and I live in a rural area on a lake. We, like many people, sought to own our home because we were impressed with the natural surroundings: forest, field, and water. Our first effort then, like many people, was to cut down trees, mow the field, and "open up nature." That is, make a lawn. In so doing the nature we loved was pushed further and further back from where we lived. Some of our neighbors now have huge expanses of lawn. Gone are trees and the native shrubs, grasses and flowers, as well as the butterflies, birds, frogs, and all the critters that once had a home in the nature that became a lawn. The lawn we created was a near dessert, devoid of the life it once sustained.

So, after a few years and the realization that we destroyed what in fact we loved, we stopped mowing. At first slowly, and then rapidly, tree seedlings and shrubs began to reappear. We scattered seed for native grasses and flowers, and then those too began to appear. Now, each morning, and often all night, a cacophony of bird songs fill the air, butterflies, bees and hummingbirds visit the flowers, deer and grouse wander through our now returned to nature "yard," and our homesite too has returned nearly to the way it was when we first fell in love with the place.

We readily admit that we no longer fit the culture of most of our neighbors, although some now also are shrinking their mowed lawns, seeding native grasses and flowers, and planting trees. And maybe those that are doing these things have discovered, like us, that these things not only restore the beauty of what nature creates, but also that beauty is accompanied by lots of freed up time and expense that used to be spent in maintaining a lawn -- which actually now can include time to play with children and grandchildren, as well as teach them about the birds and bees.
 

jatoxico

Minister of Fire
Aug 8, 2011
4,335
Long Island NY
While I agree with the sentiment regarding excessive acres of lawn it's worth remembering that lawns developed for a reason. If nature is allowed to grow right up to your doorstep then a lot of that nature will be in your house. That means more insects, birds, critters, dirt, dampness and damage. IMO you need a relatively dry buffer around the home and a lawn does that w/o allowing the area to alternately turn into a mud pit or dust bowl.

I've seen other solutions but nice swaths of grass punctuated by plantings and trees looks good. PS my neighborhood was practically deforested by a storm 2 yrs ago (I lost 18 in my yard alone) and it totally changed the character of the area and not for the better.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,716
Philadelphia
I agree with your POV, and the key words are "making your house look poorly maintained." A lawn is nearly all about "looks," just like wearing the right kind of shirt, skirt, or slacks, and importantly, all about showing that the owner is the "right kind or person" that matches a certain kind of culture or economic status. All of that is OK if that is what a person truly wants.

My wife and I live in a rural area on a lake. We, like many people, sought to own our home because we were impressed with the natural surroundings: forest, field, and water. Our first effort then, like many people, was to cut down trees, mow the field, and "open up nature." That is, make a lawn. In so doing the nature we loved was pushed further and further back from where we lived. Some of our neighbors now have huge expanses of lawn. Gone are trees and the native shrubs, grasses and flowers, as well as the butterflies, birds, frogs, and all the critters that once had a home in the nature that became a lawn. The lawn we created was a near dessert, devoid of the life it once sustained.

So, after a few years and the realization that we destroyed what in fact we loved, we stopped mowing. At first slowly, and then rapidly, tree seedlings and shrubs began to reappear. We scattered seed for native grasses and flowers, and then those too began to appear. Now, each morning, and often all night, a cacophony of bird songs fill the air, butterflies, bees and hummingbirds visit the flowers, deer and grouse wander through our now returned to nature "yard," and our homesite too has returned nearly to the way it was when we first fell in love with the place.

We readily admit that we no longer fit the culture of most of our neighbors, although some now also are shrinking their mowed lawns, seeding native grasses and flowers, and planting trees. And maybe those that are doing these things have discovered, like us, that these things not only restore the beauty of what nature creates, but also that beauty is accompanied by lots of freed up time and expense that used to be spent in maintaining a lawn -- which actually now can include time to play with children and grandchildren, as well as teach them about the birds and bees.
Awesome post, jebatty. In fact, I've been going through the same progression as you, trying to convert some of my lawn back to nature. When I moved into this house, we were in the middle of about 5 acres of lawn, with another 6 acres of woods behind us, and nice hedgerows down both sides. We owned only 4 acres of all that, all lawn, and since then someone purchased the rest and cut down most of that beautiful wooded backdrop we used to enjoy.

I've been planting trees along that rear property line, as many as 40 one year, and that work continues. However, I've not yet taken the leap from trees planted in a manicured lawn, to complete unruly natural hedgerow. I want to get there, but have not yet figured the best way from here to there.

At the moment, I have several rows of conifers (Norway Spruce, Leyland Cypress, and Eastern Hemlock) planted, and will be adding more this fall (likely some White Spruce will go in the mix), and I've also been planting Maple, Birch, and Elm in there, to give the hedgerow some cover up high. This fall I might finally remove the grass over a swath of 200 feet x 50 feet, mulch it, and then next summer plant shrubs. The goal is to get it to a point where it's a self-mulching (leaves, needles) natural hedgerow, separating us from the house that was built on the lot behind us, while also reducing my mowing burden by another one-quarter or one-third acre.
 
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kennyp2339

Minister of Fire
Feb 16, 2014
5,974
07462
I'm a lawn freak, in terms of all my addictions it goes something like this: lawn, firewood, plowing snow, gardening.
 
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Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,716
Philadelphia
Yeah, I've been accused of the same.

Late Feb: collect soil samples
Mar.1: develop fertilizer and pH correction plan
Early Mar.: pre-emergent herbicide (granular) with fertilizer, and pH correction (if necessary)
May: post-emergent herbicide (spray), another round of fertilizer (dep. on soil sample result)
June: Grub and tick control (eg. Allectus), another round of fertilizer
Early July: Sedge control (eg. Dismiss)
Late Aug.: prep for overseeding = broadleaf & sedge spray (eg. Surge, if necessary)
Early Sept.: Overseeding (tall fescue) with starter fertilizer
Mid-Nov.: Winter feed fertilizer

... or at least that's how it started. The lawn is so damn near perfect now that I selectively skip some of these steps (eg. this year there was no need for post-emergent herbicide or fertilizer in May). Each of these rounds takes me under 30 minutes per acre, so while it sounds like a lot, it's really not a very big deal. Also, I enjoy mowing less frequently during the hot summer, as my grass just stops, while the neighbors have to keep mowing their weeds in the July and August heat. The only big expense is the Sept. overseeding.

My current project is reducing my lawn size by about 0.5 acre, planting more woods.
 
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johneh

Minister of Fire
Dec 19, 2009
3,644
Eastern Ontario
Yeah, I've been accused of the same.

Late Feb: collect soil samples
Mar.1: develop fertilizer and pH correction plan
Early Mar.: pre-emergent herbicide (granular) with fertilizer, and pH correction (if necessary)
May: post-emergent herbicide (spray), another round of fertilizer (dep. on soil sample result)
June: Grub and tick control (eg. Allectus), another round of fertilizer
Early July: Sedge control (eg. Dismiss)
Late Aug.: prep for overseeding = broadleaf & sedge spray (eg. Surge, if necessary)
Early Sept.: Overseeding (tall fescue) with starter fertilizer
Mid-Nov.: Winter feed fertilizer

... or at least that's how it started. The lawn is so damn near perfect now that I selectively skip some of these steps (eg. this year there was no need for post-emergent herbicide or fertilizer in May). Each of these rounds takes me under 30 minutes per acre, so while it sounds like a lot, it's really not a very big deal. Also, I enjoy mowing less frequently during the hot summer, as my grass just stops, while the neighbors have to keep mowing their weeds in the July and August heat. The only big expense is the Sept. overseeding.

My current project is reducing my lawn size by about 0.5 acre, planting more woods.

I like my 5 acres of lawn white clover no fertilizer no water just mow when necessary
and the deer love it and leave my veg. garden alone
 

sportbikerider78

Minister of Fire
Jun 23, 2014
2,493
Saratoga, NY
I can't wait to get working on my lawn. I just have to wait for the following things to be less fun...
Kids
Family
Friends
Motorcycles
Working on engines
Machine projects
Vacation
Time at my camp

I live in the country, in the woods. I have been working for the past 4 years to knock out projects left and right. I've been successful. This year, i'm even tempted to put some weed killer on my lawn. It is about 80% weeds..so this will be interesting!
 
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Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,716
Philadelphia
I like my 5 acres of lawn white clover no fertilizer no water just mow when necessary
and the deer love it and leave my veg. garden alone
You're lucky. Around here, an unkept lawn becomes onion grass in spring and nutsedge in summer, both of which grow about 4x faster than grass. I often mow just once in the whole month of July, whereas those poor bastards with nutsedge have to keep mowing more than once per week, all summer long. I don't mind mowing when it's cool, but I don't want to be on a mower kicking up dust in 90F+ heat.
This year, i'm even tempted to put some weed killer on my lawn. It is about 80% weeds..so this will be interesting!

Folks often miss the fact that a little time spent on elimination of weeds means a LOT of time saved on mowing. It only takes me 90 minutes once per year to put down my pre-emergent herbicide, but it takes 120 - 150 minutes per mowing. If you can eliminate a half-dozen mowings per year, meaning 800+ minutes of your summer saved for ~90 minutes of invested time, you'd be a sucker not to do it. Meanwhile, I'm improving curb appeal, and not hating the way my place looks.
 
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sportbikerider78

Minister of Fire
Jun 23, 2014
2,493
Saratoga, NY
That's great for next year...plan on doing it. Anything that will help this year?
I'd need a granular killer of existing weeds. My lawn is to spread out to use a liquid killer.
 

begreen

Mooderator
Staff member
Nov 18, 2005
89,791
South Puget Sound, WA
We readily admit that we no longer fit the culture of most of our neighbors, although some now also are shrinking their mowed lawns, seeding native grasses and flowers, and planting trees. And maybe those that are doing these things have discovered, like us, that these things not only restore the beauty of what nature creates, but also that beauty is accompanied by lots of freed up time and expense that used to be spent in maintaining a lawn -- which actually now can include time to play with children and grandchildren, as well as teach them about the birds and bees.
It's great that you recognized some of the detrimental effects of the large dead zones called lawns and were able to turn it around. Even worse is the effect of runoff from these dead zones into water bodies and potentially into aquifers when herbicides and pesticides are used.
 

Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
15,716
Philadelphia
That's great for next year...plan on doing it. Anything that will help this year?
I'd need a granular killer of existing weeds. My lawn is to spread out to use a liquid killer.

Granular post-emergent product can work, but is tough to time to the right conditions, for us working folk. How many total acres of grass are we talking, here? Any special predominant weed, or just general broadleaf stuff?