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Musings About Family, Travel And Gardening With Allen Martinson.


Weed Free

This time of year is the funnest and most difficult time. It’s exciting because our change of weather keeps it interesting, we are getting a few days of temperatures that will tempt a gardener. Then we get a few days of weather that reminds us that it is still early for some of the plants we are ready to see in the ground. The difficult part is knowing what it is time to do in the yard that will help us to get ahead for when the real time arrives.

Right now it is time to take a look at the lawn. I like to check the lawn for places that too much run-off has caused all the top soil to wash away. When the top soil gets washed away it causes patches where our desired lawns won’t grow very well. Those are the places where weeds will show up or maybe where nothing will grow. I follow the signs of run-off up the hill to see where the water is coming from. Sometimes it’s as simple as a downspout of your gutter system streaming water from the roof. In that case sometimes redirecting that water with a gutter attachment from the hardware store can do wonders. In some cases a splash block at the bottom of the down spout with some river rocks placed around the bottom of the splash block can slow the water down and redirect the water so that it’s not pouring over your lawn in sheets which will eventually lead to erosion or just a weakened lawn, those are the spots where funguses and weeds like to party. Many times the water that causes problems in the lawn are from neighbors up the hill from you who have redirected water in your direction.

The speed at which the neighborhoods are being built around these parts has been the cause of a lot of drainage details being overlooked. I read that the housing market and construction of homes is way down somewhere. That is certainly not the case here in the Northside. When I wind up in an area of Madison county where I haven’t been in a while I am always shocked at how many giant communities are popping up everywhere. Sometimes it’s hard to believe how poor ole Mississippi has grown despite the news about our economy and the perceived lack of everything good.

I think in the big picture the streets and the street gutter systems work great. I think more consideration should be given to the run-off from lot to lot. Once a person moves in to a new home they begin to see what an important matter this can be. Usually the only thing that person can do is get a drainage guy over to figure out where to put catch basins and underground drainage pipes to run out to the street and into a gutter. Hopefully not sending the water down the line to become someone else’s problem. These days the builders are doing a lot to help their house to sell faster. They will sod the yard, put up the fence, even landscape the yard. I’ve never understood how not putting gutters on a house before they call the build complete can be a thing. Gutters are so important for so many things, the foundation of the house being the number one thing and the house lot and the surrounding lots would be the other super important thing that should be considered. It doesn’t look like that’s going to be one of those things they are going to do so the home owner is left to finish the job.

Once the cause of the topsoil being washed away is figured out and the work has been done the next step is to revive the lawn. If it’s too bad the ground will need to be leveled with decent topsoil and either lawn seed can be applied or the space can be covered in sod. If the symptoms aren’t quite that bad then clean, white sand can be applied lightly to the areas where its undies are showing. The sand will give the desired grass something to grab in to and begin sending its roots and runners onto. I have turned many lawns around with sand, water and fertilizer. The best time for a project like that is now so that by the time the work is done our temperatures will be conducive to growing better grass. When we have gotten to the point that our nighttime temps are staying above 60 degrees consecutively is the time that the lawn will react to the sand, fertilizer and water method.

For those lawns not needing that kind of work done it is time to check for any winter weeds that may have snuck past the pre-emergent that you have hopefully already put out. In my opinion pre-emergent can be used in any month, any where there is soil, anywhere that weed seeds might germinate. The only places to that a pre-emergent should not be used is anywhere you plan to use seeds or bulbs because the pre- emergent will also prevent them from germinating. I use this product year round to help me keep the weeds at bay by forming a gaseous  barrier between the top of the ground and the weed seeds that are waiting to pop up and make your day just a little harder than necessary.

Remember that most of the weeds that you are seeing right now in your lawn are winter weeds that are going to die when the heat comes on in a month or two but not without first leaving lots of their seeds behind to germinate next cool season. The weed seeds in your lawn that are waiting to pop are summer weeds that will stay resilient until the next cool season. Those are the reasons that I use pre-emergent whenever I want to, there is always a next round of weed seeds waiting for you to forget to use the preventative methods. There are weed killers and sprays that can safely kill the weeds  in your lawn without damaging the desired grasses but I would rather get them before they even show up. In the long run this method is less expensive and safer for all involved.

Other ways to keep your lawn acceptable is to raise the mowers deck to the proper height for your type of lawn, when the lawn is allowed to be thicker and healthier the weeds generally find  somewhere else to congregate. Watering your lawn just the right amount will improve the health of the grass. If you are lucky enough to have an irrigation system learn how to use it. If you know how to increase and decrease the running time of each zone then you can manipulate the appropriate amount of water  as the seasons change. It’s nice to know how to do those things when we have a wet spring or a drought summer. If you just have your “guy come over to winterizer your lines and then again to turn your system back on, he is going to set it for the times that are appropriate for that day. That might not be enough or could be way to much for later on in the season. By the time you can get him back over to reset the timer you might already have a whole new set of problems on your hands. Those irrigation timer boxes  can look intimidating but I promise, once you’ve been tutored and have tried it a couple of times it’s not hard at all, the freedom to be able to change the frequency and the volume according to the seasons is one of the best paths towards a healthy lawn.

If there is no irrigation system then you will have to set up a system with hoses and sprinklers. This method works great and in a way can be better for getting those hard to reach nooks and crannies that some irrigation systems just won’t hit. You will have to be diligent in keeping the hoses in places that lawn mowers won’t hit them and you’ll have to give it a think if you are headed out of town for a while. There are inexpensive timers for that method that work great. When in doubt go to your favorite garden center and gets the advise and supplies that you will need to be the envy of the neighborhood. Having a great lawn just takes some forethought, being ready before the season starts and a calendar to help you remember when to fertilize and when to apply the pre-emergent. Hoping for you to have some fun planning your yard spring and doing those things that it takes to make the dog days this summer a little less doggy!


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