Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Lawn: Green Perfection

Growing up in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, I was acclimatized to very cloudy and damp weather. Lush trees and bushes were abundant, as well as was the moss! When summer would roll around and the climate finally decided to catch up to the season, the local vegetation would go into shock. Shrubbery and flowers would begin to wilt at the first hint of the intense sunlight; the soil would turn to stone from the lack of rain for two days; and the grass - at least our grass - would turn brown and die. This happened every year. It didn't seem to matter how much or how often we tried to water it, it would always die mid-summer. So after I was married and moved to Central Oregon, I never gave much thought or importance to trying to have a beautiful lawn. But Cam felt differently. He loves a green lawn and it is important to him to have a lush open area in which to look at, play and relax on.
So, for the past four years, I have begun to lean more about lawn care than ever before.
We have a sprinkler system that comes on every morning for about 10-15 minutes, we fertilize in the spring (to come out of dormancy), periodically throughout the summer, and in the fall (to give it a boost to healthfully winter-over). We dig out dandelions, clover, and other weeds....sometimes resorting to spraying a broadleaf weed killer if they become more than we can handle. Mowing and raking once a week has become just another part of my schedule. And for the past three years, this has been sufficient.

But as we watched our lawn come out of dormancy this spring, we noticed it was extremely splotchy, with spots of tall green grass leading to areas of dead grass. Needless to say, this was driving Cam up the wall! He did a little research about different lawn-care techniques and decided our lawn was in dire need of thatching!

One way to do this would be to simply hire a professional. Landscaping companies can come do this...but for a cost. If you don't have the time and you have the finances, hiring a professional would definitely be a good option.

The other choice would be to do it on your own. This is what we decided to do. It is somewhat difficult and a little time consuming, but definitely do-able. Here is how we spent our day:

We searched high and low for a 'thatching rake' and finally found one at our local Lowe's store. It was about $30 (so not cheap, but I think it will be worth it) and we picked one up.

We brought it home and put it to work. We started on the most obvious portions of our lawn, those with a lot of dead grass showing through. We simply extended the new tool out and 'raked' as you would with any other rake, only this time applying a little pressure. When we would end our strokes at our feet and lift the rake, it was amazing the amount of grass it had collected!

The purpose of thatching your lawn it to remove a dense under layer of grass that can inhibit growth and make it hard to maintain a healthy lawn. I found this web-site which explained it perfectly:

Thatch is a tightly intermingled layer of living and dead stems, leaves and roots which accumulates between the layer of actively-growing grass and the soil underneath. Thatch is a normal component of an actively growing turf grass. As long as the thatch is not too thick, it can increase the resilience of the turf to heavy traffic. Thatch develops more readily on high-maintenance lawns than on low-maintenance lawns.
How does thatch affect turf quality?
An excessive thatch layer (more than 1 inch) can restrict the movement of air, water, fertilizer and other materials to the roots. This air- and water-impervious layer causes the grass to restrict rooting to the thatch layer to get air and water and, hence, reduces drought resistance in the turf. Furthermore, if the thatch dries out, it cannot be re-wetted easily. Even if the thatch stays moist, it can harbor fungi which can cause turf diseases. When temperature and moisture conditions are right, a disease infestation can kill the already weakened turf. The overall effect of a thick thatch layer is an unthrifty lawn which does not respond well to management practices and is easily injured by adverse weather conditions and pests.
This process was a lot of work (our arms are exhausted!) but hopefully we will soon see a difference in our lawn's health. Green we come!
If your lawn is looking a little weary no matter what you do, it might be time to look into thatching! It may make a huge difference!
I will be sure to let you know when we start noticing a change!

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