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Lawn Renovations – Part 2

My last blog was our starting point on helping you create a great lawn. We talked about over-seeding and power raking, what thatch is, and some other basics. Today we’re going to get into fertilizers and total lawn replacement and/or slit seeding.

There is much to say about fertilizers and herbicides. Since the time I started A.G. VanGundy Landscape, Inc. nearly 30 years ago, my opinion on fertilizers and herbicides has swayed back and forth many times. For about the past 10-12 years though, I feel that the use of chemicals in the landscape is greatly overdone and the marketing of these chemicals and the companies that spread them has created a sense that if you don’t have 5 or 6 applications of chemicals a year, you won’t have a great lawn. In my opinion, for most lawns, you should not need more than 3 applications per year. These applications would be: a good balanced fertilizer in March or April, a fertilizer with herbicide that kills weeds by contact in May, and a late summer/early fall treatment. More applications than that, I feel, causes additional fertilizer and chemicals to “run off” and end up in our streams and rivers. I believe in using balanced fertilizer with a good over-seeding program that promotes root development. Without getting into specifics, usually there are three (3) numbers on a bag of fertilizer (like 12-12-12 or 28-6-6). A high first number (over 20 for example) usually promotes a faster growth rate and some “greening”. I feel that it is just as important to develop root growth and that a fully healthy plant will, in time, look just as great and most likely use less water as well. This means that the first treatment for most lawns that are basically healthy should be a 12-12-12 or 14-14-14. A slow release type is best, if the weather stays cool in early spring.

I often over-seed during the middle or end of April, so I do not use a fertilizer with pre-emergent or regular herbicides. I only use these chemicals in a weedy situation or if there is bountiful crabgrass. As we get into May, and the Dandelions and other weeds begin to show in earnest, I then use a fertilizer with herbicide added.

Most commercial solid/granular herbicide based fertilizers must be drop-spread onto a “wetted” or “dewy” lawn so that the herbicide sticks to the leaves of the weed and can be absorbed into the plant. Please note to make sure that you read the recommended spreading rates for your application on the bag and do not exceed their recommendations, as this may cause a chemical burn to your lawn. If your lawn has a severe weed problem, using a solid fertilizer again and spraying a liquid weed killer may be the best option for you. Many liquids come in a bottle ready to attach to a hose and spray across the lawn. Please refrain from spraying on windy days, as this may force the chemicals to “over-spray” onto any ornamental plants that you or your neighbors may have adjacent to the lawn.

Finally, in late summer or early fall apply a balanced fertilizer similar to 12-12-12. This strengthens the lawn to go into the winter season. I do not recommend a super late application. I feel that this just runs off and that little benefit, if any, comes from it since I highly suggest a late March/early April fertilizer application.

For most applications this program should work. It does for my own home. When I do get that stray weed or two, I spray them singularly with a hand held or pump sprayer instead of a “blanket” spreading. I believe that this is easier on the environment.

Following these simple and easy steps should lead you to a good lawn. Sometimes though, thru negligent or otherwise, a complete removal and reinstallation of sod or new seeding may be required. This can be a large task to undertake and you may want to call a company, like A.G. VanGundy Landscape, Inc. or A.G. Landscape Materials, Inc. for guidance and/or assistance with material selection. Many times, I feel that sodding is faster and easier in the long run. The “speed” can be a big benefit if you have dogs or children as it usually only requires watering to get it established. However, a complete regrade is usually required along with the removal and disposal of the existing lawn/turf. Sodding’s largest con is that the up front costs can be higher than seeding and in high shade areas may have only temporary success. Overall, though these costs are overcome in less time and re-work or touch ups in seed starting.

For those of you considering seed and have the 20-35 days to establish a lawn, the seed benefits are a lower initial cost, less hard labor to install and the seeded lawn conforms to the area planted. Generally, I feel that seed lawns initially use less water, but that increases over time to equal with the sod.

Both seeding and sodding require the same prep work with the exception that when sodding, the grade must be an inch lower at concrete sidewalks and driveways to allow for the thickness of the sod. We, at A.G. VanGundy Landscape, Inc. and A.G. Landscape Materials, Inc., believe in using an erosion control blanket or straw blanket stapled over the seed bed for sun protection and water/moisture retention. In my opinion, hay should not be used, as hay may contain weed seed and could contaminate the new lawn. We sell the blankets, staples, and grass seed and also the sod here at our yard in Roselle.

Most of the directions given here are for work in the Chicagoland area. If you are one of our readers that live in another growing area, check with your county or state horticulture extension service for information for your area.

Finally, there are many opinions out there on how to achieve a great lawn. For the most part, patience and determining a plan or course of action and then sticking to it should be your best remedy.

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One Response to “Lawn Renovations – Part 2”

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