Lawn Whisperers

I am thinking of creating the inaugural Horsham Lawn Classic next year as seen in the following video.

The winner would ride at the head of the new Horsham Landscape Parade.

Who is with me?!?

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Peeves of Grass by W.Whitman*

(* Waldo Whitman, long distance third cousin of renown poet Walt Whitman, was a noted turf-ologist and local laureate to the Bronxville, NY organic lawn movement.) 

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Peeves of Grass

They gird their loins upon mechanical beasts.

Concern for your Lawn? Not in the least …

Their job is but the turf to mow,

On swaths of green in an endless row.

The call to them is “Mow it short!”

Should Weather their next visit abort.

 

Of consequence is the Heat of Summer

Working to render your backyard a bummer,

Baking grass roots to the color of Lumber.

 

Another lawn threat is an obscure little pest,

Whose potential for damage to grass – no jest.

Existing in stealth and snug as a bug,

Sheltered all Winter by your grass turf rug.

Spring brings cravings for roots to devour,

Leaving your Lawn unfit for a Schnauzer.

 

To know Milky Spore, you need not worry.

But if beetles you see, best move in a hurry.

For the future of dear lawn could become quite gory!

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Nothing brings a tear to the eye like a good Ode to Lawn!

And though Waldo’s words paint a moving portrait, his flowery expressions have more simple, straight-forward messages.  For one, the guys and gals riding those professional lawn mowing services prefer to leave your lawn short as a Masters Tournament fairway.  If they miss an appointment for weather, the lawn less cumbersome to mow quickly the next time out.

And a lot of homeowners like that close-cropped fairway look …

But that’s not good for strong, sustained grass growth as the following pictures illustrate.

 

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Tale of Two Lawns:  Can you tell the difference between the professional short-cut vs. Cranky Man’s pillowy mow?

Analysis (above):  Verdant greenery on the left, roughly at least 2-2.5 inches longer.  Note browning already occurring on the right despite rather moderate temps and plenty of rain!  What will it look like in August???

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Which side looks healthier, richer, more likely to survive the Summer?

Remember the words passed down to us from past generations …

A Lawn that looks like a country club fairway in June will resemble an airport runway in August!

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BEWARE THE BEETLE!

In southeast Pennsylvania we tend to see the mighty ugly grub beetles around the 4th of July.  I usually see my first ones (and lately the only ones) on a golf course … while conducting turf research of course!

images-13You can pre-treat in March (Too late now …) or wait until you see beetles.  But don’t lolligag once you do see them.  Grub treatments are intended to keep grubs from entering the lawn.  Once they get in there, it may be too late to keep them out!

If you want to live grub-worry-free, get to know the milky spore.  Yeah, it’s a pain in the hinterlands to apply; but it will give you up to 10 years of grub coverage!

Read more here:

Let’s play microbiological warfare!

Help your lawn beat the heat

 

 

Out, Damned Holes!

The holes! Those holes!

Rippling through my cloud-like lawn,

Leaving grass entrails

In bright greens and dark fawn.

Those holes, damn holes … Could be moles

Or voles or Middle Earth lawn trolls.

Had one not known better, they might just consider

This a violent protest by the Lawn Antifa!

Now just settle down, you bloody lawn neophyte!

Both knowledge and experience doth shine a bright light

Where the untrained Turf Brain might see disaster,

The wise, old Lawn Prophet sees good health for your pasture!

corer

How core aerator works

Not quite Shakespeare,
Not quite Milton …

In other words, it’s The Best Time of the Year to aerate your Lawn!

For focused discussions, see the following …

Poking Holes in the Patient – Lawn Year (LY) ’14

Getting a Spring-loaded Start – LY13

Everyone’s Lawn Looks Great in April – LY11

aeration

How Aeration benefits your Lawn

 

Springtime State of Mind

It has been awhile, my friends.  Apologies to you all …

Spring is in the Air; and you hear that pleading call.

The whisper draws you out the door

Where Sun and Warmth do beckon.

You wonder somewhat confusingly

The haunting call’s creation.

You wonder here; pause over there

Listening for those plaintive pleas.

For Heaven’s sake, you hibernating bear,

Your Lawn screams for “Reprieve!”

Click here for your April LAP (Lawn Action Plan)!

The proof is in the pictures …

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Yours truly,

Cranky Man’s Lawn

“Where the only things Cranky are Weeds (until they die a horrible death).”

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Cranky Man’s Guide to Lawn Fertilization

All Cranky Man lawn tips are based on local experience in the southeast region of Pennsylvania in the good ol’ US of A.  Many of these tried and true tips are compatible with a Humid Subtropical Climate.  If you are reading this from the jungles of Central Africa, you probably have a lot of more important things to worry about … like day-to-day survival.  If you live in the southwest of the U.S. of A., just start a rock garden! 

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Memorial Day is fast approaching.  Spring is well on its way to morphing into Summer, although in our little slice of paradise, Spring has been but a rumor to wax nostalgic over between the cold and rain.

That being said, there are certain steps you should already have taken or will be taking shortly to ensure the health of your lawn over the impending hot days of Summer.  For instance, pre-emergent should have been applied several weeks ago to forestall the hot weather loving sprouting of crabgrass.  In addition, you should be prepared for or at least entertaining the idea of Weed ‘n Feed applications that will fertilize your lawn; rid it of weeds; and keep them away.

Past writings for this very blog have recommended the general idea of Five annual fertilizer treatments:

  1. Pre-emergent treatment to prevent crabgrass (early to mid-Spring)
  2. Spring Weed ‘n Feed (late Spring)
  3. Anti-grub application to obliterate beetle grubs that feed on lawn roots (early to mid-Summer)
  4.  Fall Weed ‘n Feed that maintains the clean & healthy momentum (late Summer-early Fall)
  5. Winter feeding (mid-late Fall)

In the years since those wise and eloquent words were first written, I have learned even more or have had to adjust my fertilizing treatments according to “facts on/in the ground” or events that shaped a different approach. Certainly the old tried and true outline above is timeless as a general guide.  But every lawn in different.  Every lawn aficionado with their own quirks and preferences.

It’s the stuff that makes the Lawn World go ’round!

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In the years through which I have been caring for my own 1/4 acre, I have learned a lot and have changed the way I approach lawn treatments.  For instance, I no longer do anti-grub treatments after dealing with an infestation and learning about the milky spore.

This also helps out quite a bit in the wallet, as anti-grub treatments are the most expensive ones, so long as torturing a few grubs doesn’t bother you. For this reason, I have suggested most recently that anti-grub treatments can be optional, if (Big IF) you pay attention to the potential presence of grub-producing beetles in the late June-early July time frame.

Another change is the use of Starter fertilizer as a way of helping the lawn recover from the hot Summer. This is an optional treatment, not used in years when Summer has been wetter and not so brutally hot. Those summers are few and far between however.

So my present-day fertilizer schedule is closer to this now:

  1. Pre-emergent
  2. Spring Weed ‘n Feed
  3. Starter fertilizer (Optional, based on Summer’s Heat and Rain and the condition of the lawn; applied in early to mid-September)
  4. Fall Weed ‘n Feed (Optional, based on your decision on “if and when” to apply 3. above; mid-September to mid-October)
  5. Winterfeed (no sooner than six weeks after 4. above, no later than first week of December, weather permitting)

Lawn fertilizing should be approached as a balancing act. Balancing the current condition of your lawn with its future health.

You never want to apply any fertilizer during hot, dry Summer conditions. Never apply a fertilizer within a month – as a minimum – after previous applications; six weeks is optimal.  Most important … Use simple common sense; pay attention to the weather and condition of your lawn; and remember, long-term health is more important that present-day appearance. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking short-term appearance over long-term lawn health.

Carry on …. And be Green out there!

 

Cranky Man’s March: In like the Tundra, out like a Lawn

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Gentlemen, start your engines!

March 2016 has been a wacky ride so far in the SouthEast Region of Pennsylvania.  Started off nice enough; then turned windy and stormy; followed by two days in the 80s; then back to raw, windy Ides of March weather.  Now, there’s a whispered rumor of snow for this Sunday.

In other words, perfect late Winter lawn weather!

To complete the picture the early blooming trees are already out in pink, white, and lavender.  Soon Spring will have officially sprung!

As any dedicated lawn nerd knows, now is the time to get to work.  You had your post-holiday Winter weekends all to yourself, where your biggest worry was over-napping. (At least mine was …)

So let’s get crackin’ …

1. Love your Equipment, and it will Love you back!

Get your lawn mower into the shop for a seasonal tune-up that includes blade replacement.

I’m pretty good in Equipment Condition, having just bought a new grass-eater last June.  I will get a full season out my mower before worrying about a pre-season tune-up next year.  As for other equipment … like trimmers, edgers, and leaf blowers … I tend to simply use them until they die. To me sending them into the repair cycle is hardly cost-effective, given the relative affordability of smaller equipment and the Cheapness of their Owner. 

This year I plan to add a new blower/sweeper.  I just need to figure out if another gas model is needed, or if an electric version will do the job without too much aggravation.

2. Cut the lawn short to clean it up!

First thing I do every Spring is low-cut the lawn (i.e. lower than I would normally dare during the rest of the year).  This makes it easier to clean up the entire lawn of Winter debris, including loose twigs and soggy leaves.

After cutting one section (maybe 3-4 passes) I will use a rake to make sure I get up all the sodden leaves and debris buried deeper in the grass.  Particularly when it comes to those nasty, rotting leaves, it’s best to get them up.  Otherwise they tend to become a block to new spring growth, and if allowed to collect can kill underlying grass plants.

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obligatory Forsythia shot

3. Look to the Forsythia to Vanquish the Crab!

Crabgrass … That bane of Summer lawns, proliferates in the heat of the Summer.  The hotter, the better for the little bastards!

But crabgrass seedlings, left dormant over the long Winter, germinate in the early Spring, roughly around the time when average soil temperatures exceed 55° for three or more days.  Of course figuring out when that magical moment occurs is a bit more complicated than simply checking out ambient air temperatures since the ground always takes longer to warm than the air above it.

Fortunately, Mother Nature provides its own ground temp indication in the form of the Forsythia.  When the forsythia blooms, the ground temperatures will be just about right for your first lawn application of the season (Preemergent).  But if you cannot wait for Miss Forsythia to show her yellow blossoms, ’tis better to apply a preemergent early than late.

Frankly, I only concern myself with the front lawn at our house, since it’s the portion that gets exposed to the hottest periods of sun.  Our backyard is significantly more shaded, so crabgrass from experience has never been a serious issue …

Well, except for my one neighbor, who several seasons ago was raising more weeds than grass, including a copious assortment of bastard crabgrass plants.  They are much better lately.  We even cooperate on chickweed eradication.  But I still apply several passes of preemergent (and weed ‘n feed) along our common border.  I view it as similar to prophylactic doses of antibiotics! 

4.  Is Aerating over-rated?

Absolutely not!

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How core aerator works

I have written much on the whys, hows, and wherefores of aerating your lawn.  Aerating has numerous benefits to your lawn, especially if your lawn suffers a lot of foot traffic during the Summer.  Click HERE to link into a short discussion of aeration benefits and the proper equipment to use.

Aerating is a preferred time to add a layer of grass seed, known as over-seeding, to thicken your lawn.  It’s not necessary for lawns already sufficiently thick, and most lawns will thicken – if well fed – during the Spring growing season.  Skip over-seeding if you don’t need it!

BIG HINT TIME:  I know some people who will aerate twice every year.  Personally, I do it once a year, and even skip it if my timing doesn’t allow for it.  But trust me … If you aerate your lawn at all, don’t do it in September when Summer-baked soil will make ground penetration almost impossible.  Aerate in the early Spring when Winter snows and Spring rain renders the soil softer and easier for the aerator to do its job properly! 

5.  Weed ‘n Feed done right at the right time.

Timing is important – for several reasons – when applying weed ‘n feed.  The first crucial factor is to make sure, if you applied a preemergent earlier, to wait 4-6 weeks before applying any other fertilizer.

Second, decide whether you need a “direct application” to eradicate weeds that are present, or whether your lawn is sufficiently weed-free to use a simpler momentum-type product to maintain your lawn’s present balance.  Direct application products require wet conditions, either by using a liquid spray or by applying a sandy-type dry product early on dew-soaked mornings or right after a rain.

Your last “timing consideration” when fighting weeds is to watch the weather.  Weed control products require 48 hours of rain-free weather.  Otherwise the rain washes the direct-application product off the weeds, defeating the primary purpose of using them.

I like the sandy, dry weed ‘n feed products.  They have become harder to find, but Scott’s has a good dry product, Scott’s Turf Builder Weed ‘n Feed 3.  Fortunately, my lawn is tight on the weed control front, so I use a momentum-type, sustained release in pellet form.  Using a momentum-type product takes a lot of the guess-work out.

So now you are primed and ready to get your lawn off to a Spring-loaded start.  Remember … What you do in March and April has much to do with how your lawn will look in July and August!

And while I can’t guarantee you that all that work and exercise will make you look like this rather self-absorbed lawn fan, …

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…  I can assure you your lawn won’t look like his either!

 

Has my Absence made your Heart grown Fonder?

mccainofflawnThis Winter has been a killer – motivation-wise.

Not sure exactly what the problem has been; but I have a few suspicions with which I will not bore those who still care enough to open those Cranky Man’s Lawn e-mail notifications they may wish they never requested.

Tough darts there, my friends!

I’m back, baby!  And I will be imposing my beliefs, viewpoints, and advice in your general direction regardless of your silent trepidations that – one day – I might rediscover my keyboard.

Here are a few ideas I am working on for near-future proselytizing:

  • A return to my roots – so to speak – with a renewed season-long look at keeping your lawn Cranky Man worthy!  Only this time I will reveal what I really do instead of what the Lawn Bible preaches.
  • a Trump dump … Not to be confused with a “Dump Trump” movement, this will only be my attempt to lance a boil I have been struggling to understand.

(Big Hint:  If it’s Hillary as the Democrat nominee, I would likely vote for just about any one or thing rather than to see her in the Oval Office unopposed by my guaranteed Right … even if I have to hold my nose the entire time I’m working the polls in early November.)

  • a look at the upcoming Phillies season with a different twist on what looks to be a painful, disheartening, glamour-less baseball season for Philadelphia’s faithful.  Now, doesn’t that make you want to run out and buy a Phillies season ticket plan?!?  Could be worse … They could be playing in 76ers jerseys!

So hang in there kiddies!

Rumors aside … The Cranky Man isn’t lawn fertilizer yet!