Archive for March, 2012

Crabgrass is more than a crabgrass problem!

Enjoy your lawn this year without crabgrass

If you are considering crabgrass control this spring, consider solving the real problem as an alternative spring time lawn project.  If you have a crabgrass problem, you have more than just a crabgrass problem.  The root of the issue is likely unhealthy soil, compaction, and low organic matter; all of which contribute to an inferior lawn.  Most folks will focus on the symptoms of a poor looking lawn such as dead patches or crabgrass and not the underlying issues.  Most lawn issues can be directly attributed to bad soil.  Can there be bad soil?  Well, in a manner of speaking yes, there can be bad soil or at least soil that cannot successfully support good turf growth.  Healthy turf does not occur by accident; it takes a healthy soil to support a green, lush lawn.  Let’s take a closer look at why good soil is so important and why bad soil really can only support crabgrass or nothing at all.

Soil is supposed to be filled with micro-organisms in various percentages, nature’s way of supporting plant life through root systems.  A healthy soil will contain soil particles of various sizes (clay through sand), air spaces, and water.  An ideal soil will also contact organic matter and many micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and protozoa, like in high school biology class (wicked cool).  Turf really appreciates a soil which has a higher bacterial count.  Now you know why grass is always so green over the septic system, an ideal environment for lots of bacteria, organic matter, and moisture.

Poor soil will have a low population of these micro-organisms; in fact, it may not have much, if any at all.  Low organic matter is another issue which takes away from a healthy lawn.  Compacted soils don’t have the air spaces necessary for roots to grow successfully because roots need air to survive.  Add a low soil pH and now you have locked up vital nutrients necessary to support healthy turf growth.

The bottom line is that a good lawn must be rooted in healthy soil.  Without moving forward with proper techniques to improve your soil, your lawn is destined to be a field of crabgrass and blowing dust each and every year. Growing a lawn is just like growing corn or any other crop – it has basic needs.  Crabgrass is much less fussy and will gladly move in without an invitation and stay all summer long, thriving in high heat with minimal rainfall.  Crabgrass is not the enemy; crabgrass is just an opportunist which seizes its ideal growing environment.  The real villain is bad soil that is devoid of air, organic matter, and micro-organisms.

Your real hope lies in compost teas rich in bacteria, fungi, and other “good guys” who helps improve a sterile and almost lifeless pile of dirt.  Sea kelp adds lots of organic matter plus a host of nutrients, proteins, and minerals.  Core aeration breaks up compacted soil, providing air pockets and the opportunity for rain to penetrate a hard surface area.  Organic fertilizers provide more organic matter and a plentiful helping of nutrients, not only the grass, but the living community below!  While crabgrass suppression can be helpful, the real cure lies in improving your lawn’s soil as a basic rule towards creating an outdoor living space that can be enjoyed instead of being cursed.

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Do it yourself versus the turf care professional. Results

Bottom line, lawn results count.

 

We understand why folks dabble with their own lawn, from the enjoyment of working outside, to perceived monetary savings.  However, when you boil everything down, isn’t the bottom line results; how good does your lawn look!  Results are the end product of effort, time, and money spent to achieve what most think is a predictable return for the investment.  While this general statement is true, achieving quality results is not such a straight line when we throw in weather, mowing practices, and other variables.

Results are generally backed by past research and historical best practices, yielding a predictable, expected return for the effort.  For instance, crabgrass germinates in the spring at a very specific soil temperature threshold.  History tells us that by reducing the seed population through preventative pre-emergent applications in the spring, a homeowner can expect less crabgrass for that given season.  This would be accurate based upon past research and lots of historical data to back it up.  However, what this best practice does not tell us is what other treatments exist and what bad things can happen after the spring treatment.  In fact, some outdoor activities can actually promote this undesired grassy weed.  Mowing short, high heat, thin turf density, poor soil structure and a host of other factors can directly influence that one “crabgrass” treatment, causing it to either fail early or fail altogether.  Achieving the results we desire can be more complicated than the instructions on the bag would have us believe.

Continuing with the crabgrass theme: there are rates from low to high as it relates to the “weed pressure” within the lawn.  A shady lawn may not require any pre-emergent control, while an open sunny lawn could receive the highest rate due to the exposure and likelihood of crabgrass seeds germinating.  A thin lawn may also be a candidate for a higher rate of this product given the predisposition to crabgrass infiltration.  Determining how to improve results in any of these scenarios requires additional questioning and investigation.  Why is the lawn thin?  Why do I need a crabgrass barrier every spring?  Can I live without this treatment?  What else can I do to improve my lawn?

Looking deeper into obtaining decent results, we find that there is more to the puzzle than an easy “one size fits all” application sold at the local hardware store.  While there is certainly merit in the use of pre-emergent crabgrass control under specific conditions, using it on all lawns year after year may not be the best solution or practice.  Who said that?  I did.

If your lawn is thin and weak, it needs more help than just a crabgrass barrier in the spring.  Without additional assistance, not much else will change and the results will likely stay the same year after year after year.  Like a song on repeat, I can guess what this lawn will look like four years from now without additional interventions like overseeding, improving the soil with lime, more organic matter, topdressing, aeration; I can go on and on.  Results can also be affected by hot or dry weather.  A weak lawn is predisposed to crabgrass and if the weather is hot and dry; you might as well watch the crabgrass germinate like a vine growing in the tropics of Brazil – fast!  Add a short mowing height, and the soil superheats, causing even more crabgrass seeds to germinate in addition to other broadleaf weeds.  Achieving good results on a lawn is more than just a weekend treatment or an occasional cut.  Quality results can only be achieved by looking at the lawn from the soil up and then addressing the issues at hand, one at a time.  The more experienced your lawn care company, the more likely you are to succeed and achieve the lawn of your dreams, no matter where it currently is on the spectrum of green loveliness.  Get results, take your lawn and move it to the next level this season with a different approach.  In doing so, you will achieve results that will save you time, money, and best of all- make you smile when you pull up to your driveway after a hard day of work.

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