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Lawn 9-1-1: Bringing Your Lawn Back To Life

It happens to the best of green thumbs: you were a little overzealous with the fertilizer or a little under focused on watering. Before you know it, your lawn is looking tired, or worse, brown and dying.

There are a lot of things you can do to bring your lawn back to life, that won’t require anything as drastic as sodding.

Reasons Why Lawns Go South

We’ve talked before about pest control, pet urine damage and weeds, so visit that post to get more information on those issues. In this post, we’re going to talk about other ways your lawn can go downhill in the summer: too much or too little watering, cutting the lawn too short, soil that is hard and compacted down, a pH imbalance in the soil and so on.

Your first step should be to test your soil’s pH levels to see if the levels fall within a normal range. Good quality compost can help to balance high levels of pH in the soil. That said, your patchy lawn might be the result of other activities, so read on!

Is Your Lawn Acidic?

A pH level that indicates acidity in the soil means adjusting the balance. A natural, simple way to do this is to add epsom salts to your lawn. Despite its name, it’s not actually sodium based. Epsom salt is actually made of magnesium and sulfate, a chemical compound that will help balance the acidity in your soil naturally.

Compost Your Lawn

Yes, your lawn needs to eat but too much fertilizer creates a two fold problem: first, it creates a ‘dependency’. Your lawn will not draw nutrients from the soil but rather wait for you to feed it. Second, fertilizer will attract some pests.

Adding a layer of high quality compost, on the other hand, will enable your lawn to build up and draw the nutrients it needs, without your help.

Cut With Care

The single most frequent way people kill their lawns is by cutting the grass too short. The tiny blades will dry up far more easily in the summer sun. Set your mowers blades at the highest level to make sure you’re not cutting off more than a third of the blades at a time. It’s better to cut less, and cut more often, rather than thinking that one big chopping will do the trick!

Pull Up Dead Grass

After you mow your lawn, use a rake to pull up dead grass. Too much of it in your lawn will only prevent the roots of healthy grass from getting the water, nutrients and fresh air it needs to thrive. If you don’t do this, over time, your lawn will build up a thatch of dead grass and other detritus, again preventing water, air and nutrients from reaching the roots. You can break up the thatch, if you’ve built one up, but best to avoid it in the first place!

How Are You Watering?

In the middle of a hot day, you might enjoy a nice misting from the hose, but your lawn won’t. First of all, water early in the day. Middle of the day watering leads to heavy evaporation in the hot sun and late night watering just leaves the lawn waterlogged through the night, making it prone to fungus and other issues. If you have in-lawn sprinklers, get a timer and set it to run in the early a.m.

Now that we’ve got timing down, how much should you water? It might be intuitive to assume that a light but more frequent watering would be best, but in fact, that can lead to a shallow grass root structure. That shallow structure will become ‘dependent’ on you to water regularly. Instead, water less frequently but when you do, give it a good soaking so that the root structures that develop are deeper and more solid. Half an inch of water a couple of times a week is all it should take, even in the hottest weeks of summer.

Aerate Compacted Soil

If part of your lawn issues are that your soil is too compact, particularly in high foot traffic areas, water, nutrients and air can’t get to the roots. It’s time to aerate your lawn! You can rent an aerator, which will pull plugs of earth out, allowing the water, air and food to reach the roots more easily.

Starting From Scratch

If, despite all your efforts, your lawn just isn’t coming back to life, you might decide your best course of action is to start all over again. It’s a big job but a lush, green lawn is such a lovely sight… Here’s how you would go about it:

  1. Cut the sod. You will be slicing through existing root structure to make it easier to pull up.
  2. Remove the sod / grass. You can then lift up existing sod, roots and all.
  3. Till the soil.
  4. Spread a good dose of compost, to the tune of 2-3 inches, all over.
  5. Grade your soil / compost. You want to break up any big clumps and give yourself a level playing field!
  6. Spread the grass seed.
  7. Water well for the first soaking and every day, possibly twice a day during very hot weather, until you start to see the grass seed sprouting.

Bringing a dying lawn back to life isn’t impossible but it does take a little hard work. A good landscape company will be able to help you out, if you can’t manage it. The time and effort will be worth it when you can sit on your lawn chair and enjoy your fabulous lawn for the rest of the season!

5 Ways You Sabotage Your Lawn and How to Fix It Now

From dog marks to grubs to fertilizer burns, it’s easy to repair a damaged lawn…

Like with most things, the best defense against a damaged lawn is prevention, but when it comes to lawn care, even the most diligent green thumb can end up with a burnt out, unattractive lawn.

These are the top 5 issues we see with damaged lawns on a regular basis:

  • Over-fertilization, resulting in burnt or bare patches
  • Urine damage from pets, also resulting in yellow, bare patches
  • Insect and critter damage
  • Weeds, including dandelions and crabgrass
  • Lack of moisture

Over-fertilization And Pet Urine Damage

This kind of damage causes patches of burnt out lawn, where the grass has died and thinned out, or bare patches where there is basically no lawn left. There are two ways to tackle the problem in the specific patches: seeding or sod.

For seeding, you need high quality topsoil and grass seed, and you need to know the kind of soil you’re working with.

Step 1: Mow the whole lawn, paying particular attention to the areas you plan to re-seed

Step 2: Rake the soil areas that you want to re-seed

Step 3: Spread the grass seed according to the package instructions and roll the area to ensure that the seeds have good contact with the soil

Step 4: Add a layer of topsoil to the areas. This will help protect the seeds from blowing away or being picked up by birds and insects, while they germinate. It also helps to retain moisture, which the seeds will also need to effectively take hold.

For sod, preparation is key.

First off, plant your sod right away.

Step 1: Rake and prepare the damaged areas, lowering them to about 10-15 cm, below your lawn grade so your new sod will be level with the rest of the lawn.

Step 2: Remove weeds and clumps of clay.

Step 3: Till and level your topsoil (your finished topsoil should be an inch below the sidewalk curb.

Step 4: Install the sod in a staggered brick pattern if covering a large area, or in patches for spot repairs. Make sure edges are snug but do not overlap.

The sod needs to be watered frequently throughout the first season, and it will take a few weeks for the roots to truly take; Be patient!

Insect damage

Damage from insects occurs in two ways: from the insects themselves and from the birds and small animals that prey on the insects. Very often, lawn damage that is due to insects isn’t immediately visible, such as when the lawn is growing in the summer, but come the following spring, the damage may be very easy to spot.

Watch out for evidence of small animals, like raccoon droppings or a proliferation of skunks or birds congregating in one area of your lawn: these are signs that you’ve got grubs or other insects infesting your lawn. If your infestation is heavy, It will be hard to miss the quantify of torn grass resulting from these critters’ nightly grub hunts. They do provide a form of free pest control, but it’s at the cost of your lawn!

Pesticide bans in Ontario have made it difficult to deal with this type of infestation so your best bet is a thick healthy lawn and the easiest way to achieve that, again, is to re-seed or sod the affected areas, as described above.

It’s important to really work the ground, removing all the old sod, and keep an eye on re-seeded areas to make sure that weeds don’t take root.

TIP! A well-watered, appropriately fertilized and overseeded lawn is less likely to have issues with grubs and insects (and weeds, for that matter) simply because they’re more robust and can withstand the insects better, from the root upwards.

Weeds be gone

Issues with weeds like dandelions and crabgrass are similar to those of insects: they’re more likely to invade less healthy and bare areas of your lawn where competition for water and nutrients is less, and again, pesticide bans have made them more difficult to manage.

A healthy lawn will block out weeds before they can gain a foothold, so really the true solution to weed problems is prevention.

Unfortunately, once you have weeks, there’s no magic cure. You simply need to pull them by hand or by raking them from the root, then fix the lawn with seed or sod. After that, you can keep them at bay with a thick, healthy and well maintained lawn.

TIP! Don’t over-mow your lawn! A good lawn mower will have adjustable cutting heights so be sure to set it at the highest level: you want to be taking off no more than a third of the grass blade, each time you mow. Too short and the weeds will have an opportunity to invade!

Lack of moisture

The single biggest threat to a healthy lawn is lack of moisture. Without it, the grass roots will be shallow and easily disturbed, to say nothing of their inability to get the available nutrients in the soil.

How can you tell if your lawn needs moisture—before it turns brown, that is? Step on it. Does the grass retain your footprints or does it bounce back? If the former, you need to water. If the latter? Good job watering!

If you have any questions about seed, sod or anything else green thumb related, pop by the store or leave us a comment, below…

Winter is coming! Is Your Lawn Prepared?

Fall has arrived, which means winter can’t be far behind. Autumn is the best time to do last minute lawn preparation to ensure your lawn will be fuller and healthier in the spring. Here are some tips on fixing and preparing your yard for the winter time:

Remove leaves, rocks, and debris

Autumn-leaves-on-lawn-preaparing-lawn-in-fall
Remove dead leaves, rocks and debris. Doing this, you eliminate moss, fungus and disease which hamper strong root growth in your lawn. The autumn leaves you collect can be put to good use. Create mulch or break it down in your compost. Another good idea is to save them for spring, when brown leaves with their high carbon are hard to come across. Remember, one person’s trash can also be their treasure.

Give your lawn some breathing room

Metal-Rake-Tool-Dirt-Lawn-Core-Aeration
Using a spading fork or a core aerator, poke holes into the ground. This, helps break down thatch and allows for better irrigation and deeper grass root growth, which protects them from the cold. If you don’t own one, many companies can help you for an affordable fee. Finally, fill the holes using fine horticultural grade sand, which lets a greater amount of water and air through.

Overseeding and fertilizing make for a greener lawn next year

Growing-Lawn-Preparing-in-FallA soil test is an exact way to find out what nutrients your lawn needs. Although when one isn’t available, you can use fertilizer with a high nitrogen level to control overgrowth and low-to-moderate potassium to promote root growth. Together with overseeding, these are two steps that will make sure you will have a thicker and stronger lawn next year. This will take care of dry patches and leave no space for new weeds to grow.

Mow and Water, but just enough

Watering-Lawn-During-Fall
It’s best to water lightly allowing the lawn to be moist, but never waterlogged. As for mowing, cut enough to leave the shoots with a two to three inch length. Your clippings are strong source of nitrogen and protection, but try to limit their use for composting. A good rule of thumb is mow until you notice the rate your grass is growing has slowed.

Where’s the grub?

Grubs-eat-lawn-preparing-in-fall
It’s recommended taking care of grubs in autumn since they are small and easier to get rid of. Deal with them easily with beneficial nematodes. What are they? Microscopic organisms that quickly spread through your lawn devouring larvae and other pests. Also remember that while some pruning is necessary for some plants, others don’t need it. Regardless, you must completely remove dead branches so that pests have nowhere to run and hide during winter.

Enjoy your lawn next year!

Yard-In-Spring-Preparing-in-Fall
It might seem like hard labor at first, but the truth is once you take these steps you’re saving yourself from a lot of work next year. Remember the thicker your grass, the less room for weeds, and the healthier your yard will grow.

For more information on landscape grading and other landscaping advice, you can contact us by email or by phone and we will be more than happy to help you out.

Garden Walls: A Primer

A well-designed landscape can be inspiring, consider creating visual interest by adding garden walls. Changing the heights in your garden is one sure way to improve curb appeal on a once boring, flat yard. A low retaining wall or garden wall might be just what your landscape needs.

Concrete vs Stone walls?

The difference between the |”look and feel” concrete versus stone walls has become more indistinguishable as technology continues to evolve in concrete forming. Here is a list of pros and cons for both concrete and natural stone walls.

Concrete Walls

Modern concrete walls are not the ones you think of in cold, commercial plazas. They have much improved over the years and come in a variety of shapes, textures and colours allowing it to blend in well with the yard, garden and the exterior of the house.

Pros

  1. Lightweight – Machinery is usually not necessary when installing concrete garden walls, most attempting this DIY project are able to lift one or two blocks at the same time. Concrete products are usually compact and easy to work with.
  2. Quick and easy install – The integral lip or tongue-and-groove system interlocks the blocks and makes the installation fast and easy. You simply drop the blocks in place. Just be sure to stagger the vertical joints between rows.
  3. Versatile design – The shapes that this material comes in allows for curves in the design and much more versatile than stone.
  4. Inexpensive – The cost to make a garden wall out of concrete is less expensive than using natural stone and is widely available at home centers.

Cons

  1. Requires a strong and level base – Leveling a concrete garden wall requires more tedious leveling, it is imperative that your base (4 to 6”) is perfectly level before installing. We do not want the wall to shift. Unfortunately, this means more digging and base material required.
  2. Cutting with a saw – Cutting is required when installing a concrete garden wall. A special saw is required to cut these materials during installation.

Stone Walls

Natural stone (Armour Stone/rock) of different shapes and sizes fit tightly together when stacked to form a wall. Stones create the nicest-looking walls but are more costly and it will take much more skill and creativity to build as they are also much heavier.

Pros

  1. Less time is spent on the base when installing Armour Rock because most rocks are not perfectly level to begin with, most applications do not need tedious leveling.
  2. Strength – Strength is one of the biggest reasons why a natural stone wall built out of Armour Rock is a terrific option for a garden wall, the sheer weight of an individual rock will make it next to impossible to shift or move.
  3. Best-looking – Natural Stone is currently the trendiest option for landscaping; it offers great curb appeal to all homes. With increased competition within the industry natural stone is more affordable than ever before.

Cons

  1. Too heavy – Weight is a problem when using Armour Rock, most of the time a machine (skid steer) is used when installing Armour Rock.
  2. It is much more difficult to install Armour Rock on a tight radius, most of the time you are limited to straight/linear designs.
  3. Harder to work with – Stacking Armour Rock is difficult because of the various heights, skill and experience is important when selecting specific Armour Rock.

The finished product looks complicated but is a fairly simple project. Be sure to do your research. Regardless of the material you choose to build your new garden wall, with a little planning and effort, you will soon have a new focal point in your yard and a new home for your flowers and plants.

For more free landscaping advice, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help you out.

Soil Preparation for Gardens and Lawns

Good news fellow green thumbers, it’s time to get your gardening tools and gloves ready for spring! As we slowly enter into April, the snow melts into the ground and the cold winters break into longer, warmer days; many of us become eager to start planting in our gardens but it is important to care for the soil at this stage by adding back important nutrients and improving texture so that healthy plants can flourish.

Here’s a checklist to get your soil preparation for gardens and lawns started:

1. When can we start digging? Check the soil conditions.

A mistake that many make is working on the soil too early. Allow the melting snow and spring rain to pass and the earth to dry out a bit before attempting to do any work. Heavy, wet soil is difficult to work with and doesn’t break up into loose, plant-friendly texture. Also, treading across wet ground will further compact the soil making it much more difficult to dig up later.

Is the soil dry enough? Do a quick test!
Squeeze a handful of soil and form a ball in your hands. If the lump of soil shatters easily when given a tap, it is ready! If the lump keeps its shape or breaks apart in solid sections, it still contains too much water and you must let it dry out some more. Clay soil, the type commonly found in Mississauga, when too wet will feel slick when rubbed between the fingers.

2. Clearing the area

Springtime is often associated with new birth and green growth, but as the white snow melts, we are often left with areas of debris, rocks and twigs. These need to be cleared away. A spade or a hoe is a handy tool to have.

3. Dig deep and loosen the soil

Don’t make the common mistake by using lousy soil. Plant roots grow below the ground so remember to dig deep! It is best to work soil 10 to 12 inches deep.

4. Adding organic matter

Lay the organic matter on top of the loosened, prepared soil and work the material thoroughly into the soil with a spade or a fork. Make sure it is even distributed. You can’t change the soil you have but adding organic matter drastically improves the overall soil quality.

Organic matter improves the soil by:

  • It helps loosen and aerate clay soil
  • It improves the water – and nutrient-holding capacity of sandy soil

Add lots of organic matter such as:

  • compost
  • manure
  • peat moss
  • grass clippings
  • aged sawdust
  • Spring soil preparations maybe hard and tedious work but it can save you untold disappointments and ensure you give your new plants and seedlings the best nutritious soil to grow and thrive in.

    For more free landscaping advice, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help you out.