lawn maintenance

  • Is a Push Reel Mower Right for You?

    Is a Push Reel Mower Right for You?When choosing a new mower for your lawn, there are a few things to take into consideration. What kind of experience do you want to have while mowing? How much can you spend? How much lawn do you have to mow?  Recently, push reel mowers have become increasingly popular among people who want to save money and protect the environment. These mowers might have fallen out of favor following the advent of gas-powered motors, but in fact they can be ideal for relatively small lawns.

    If you have a particularly hilly lawn, or a lot of acreage that is impossible to cover on foot in a few hours, a push mower may not be right for you. Keep in mind that obstacles like retaining walls, barbecue pits, and swing sets could also be tricky to maneuver around. But for people with more modest yards who are willing to do a little extra work, the push reel mowers offer a few important benefits.

    First of all, push reel mowers are silent, so you won’t have to worry about bothering the neighbors if early Sunday morning is your preferred time to mow. Plus, they typically come in sizes as small as 15 inches, so if you have a really narrow or oddly-shaped yard, push reel mowers may be better suited to your needs than a regular mower. Push reel mowers are also widely regarded as an environmentally-friendly option because they don’t burn fuel.

    These classic mowers are no longer a thing of the past. Recent improvements have made them light, comfortable to work with, and efficient. If you have a small yard and a desire to save a little money on fuel and maintenance, a push reel mower might be a great option to consider.

    Stay tuned for more lawn care tips from the folks at SodLaw!

  • Winter Lawn Preparation

    Preparing your lawn for the upcoming winter is crucial if you wish to maintain a healthy lawn and hope to see a green, lush lawn next spring. How you treat your lawn now can directly impact how well your lawn will do during the hot summer months of next year. There are several things you can do to help your lawn endure the winter months, along with continuing your maintenance and upkeep, with a few slight changes.

    Cut back on watering your lawn as temperatures begin to cool. Adjust your irrigation systems to avoid wasting water. During summer months your lawn typically required about 1" of water per week, but you can cut back to half that as temperatures cool, and almost completely if your lawn goes dormant (turns brown).

    As the weather cools, your lawn will grow more slowly and you can also cut back on mowing. You should continue to mow at a height of 2"-3", and you may even want to raise the mower a half an inch. This will help increase the leaf area of your grass, allowing it to capture more sunlight and store more food in the grass roots, which will help with earlier green-up in the spring. This will also help the grass become more dense, thus crowding out weeds and preventing them from establishing. Be sure to remove leaves off the grass, or even better, use a mower with a mulcher that will shred the leaves and distribute them back onto the lawn. Fallen leaves are a great source of organic matter and nutrients for your lawn.

    After you have given your lawn one of the last scheduled mowing’s before winter, aerate your lawn to help reduce compaction and make it easier for fertilizer to reach the roots of the lawn. Be sure to aerate your grass at least four weeks before the first frost is expected to occur. After a final mowing and after you have aerated, you will want to apply your fertilizer. Late fall fertilization is typically the most important fertilization of the year as it prepares your lawn for the following summer season. Be sure to apply fertilizer before temperatures are too cold and the grass starts to discolor. While nitrogen is normally the most important nutrient in your fertilizer, during fall and winter your lawn may be in more need of potassium. Potassium helps with winter hardiness and improves disease and drought tolerance.

    Winter weed problems can be minimized by applying pre-emergent herbicides in the early fall, before weeds start coming up. If seeds are treated now, they won't have a chance to sprout. Perennial weeds like dandelion are more easily killed by spraying an herbicide in the fall rather than a summer application. Which herbicide to use depends on what type of grass you have and which weeds have been problems.

    Overseeding your lawn is helpful in achieving a fuller and green lawn. You will want to overseed your lawn several (about six) weeks before the temperatures drop to freezing so it has time to establish and develop a strong root system. If you still have bare spots after your initial reseeding, try a second application. Be sure to continue to water the spots you have re-seeded, even if you have cut back on watering the rest of your lawn, to help the new seed establish.

    Taking the time to prepare your lawn for the winter months will have lasting benefits. Not only will maintaining your lawn help it stay healthy and strong during winter months, it will be ready to withstand the stresses of a hot summer.

  • Springtime Lawn Mowing Tips

    There are few better ways to express pride in your home than with a well-manicured, great looking lawn, no matter what time of year it is. This is why American homeowners take a great deal of pride in their yards. Lawn watering, fertilizing and mowing are labors of love homeowners from coast to coast painstakingly put forth season after season, year after year.

     
    Many don’t’ realize, however, there are certain requirements that change with the season when it comes to lawn care. There's more to grass cutting than starting a lawnmower and pushing it across your lawn. Mowing height and frequency are crucial components to a healthy lawn.

     
    For example, cutting your grass short is harmful to your lawn in the long run. This removes nutrients stored in grass and exposes the soil to sunlight. This is where weeds can start to overtake your lawn. This is because taller grass is better able to compete with weeds with a larger root system, higher tolerance for heat and acts to shield the soil from transient weed pollen carried by the wind.

     
    Higher grass is also effective in shading the ground and subsequently retaining water more effectively. Determine what kind of grass you have and seek professional advice on what level is best suited for optimum health. These heights could range anywhere from 1-4 inches, so it’s quite the range.

     
    Moreover, you are going to want to mow your lawn often enough to remove no more than the top one-third of the blades- regardless of the type of grass- and use a mulching mower. This prevents stress on the grass and brown patches, as smaller clippings are able to decompose more quickly without killing any grass underneath. And the best food for your grass is grass clippings so avoid bagging.

  • Why we like Living Lawns vs. Artificial Turf

    On the surface, artificial turf may seem appealing for a number of reasons (less watering and maintenance), but after further research these reasons are actually misconceptions. There are a number of reasons why artificial turf is far inferior to natural sod lawn.

    A top reason why artificial turf it not the best choice is sanitation. Lawns are often exposed to algae growth and both human and animal bodily fluids, and while a natural lawn has the ability to self-sanitize, an artificial one does not, creating ideal locations for bacteria growth. The cleaning and maintenance required to keep an artificial turf sanitary is costly and can be needed frequently depending on how often your turf is used. Studies have shown that bacteria can survive on polyethylene plastic (the material used to make artificial turf blades) for more than 90 days. When being active on an artificial turf it is common to get a few minor surface cuts, or "turf burns", that can put you at risk of easily contracting whatever bacteria is on the artificial turf.

    The materials used to make an artificial turf are toxic, although researchers have claimed that the trace levels do not pose a risk. Studies are very limited and research on this topic is not conclusive. One example: " Recent reports link toxic materials from the tires to a high rate of cancer among soccer goalies, who spend hours diving into the rubber crumbs, inhaling them and getting them ground into skin abrasions." While you may not be an athlete, anyone (especially children) can spend a lot of time playing on artificial turf in similar ways. Lead is used in artificial turf and many experts claim that no level of lead is safe. Zinc, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, and selenium are a few other toxic chemicals found in artificial turf. Besides being exposed to these chemicals when out on the turf, the runoff after a heavy rain could contaminate the ground and drinking water.

    On a hot day, artificial turf can be at least 20 degrees higher than the outside temperature. Some studies have shown the turf blades to reach between 155-175 degrees. While the temperature can be decreased by applying water to the surface of the turf, this solution usually only lasts about 20 minutes.

    The obvious hazard of burns to any exposed skin means that you would need to avoid your artificial turf when temperatures are too high.

    While there is maintenance involved in both an artificial and natural turf grass, the cost (especially the initial installation) of artificial turf is much higher. A 1,000 square foot lawn can cost up to $9,000-$11,000 for artificial turf. And while you may save water with an artificial turf, there are many negative side effects to the environment. Natural lawns process CO2, help with cooling the air and provide a habitat for essential bugs. It is easy to see that the negative effects and consequences of artificial turf far outweigh any minor conveniences or trends.

  • Basic Sod Types and Differences

    We offer a variety of sod depending on where you are located. There are a few specific types that are a popular and great choice throughout California, often depending on personal preference.

    Our fescue and bluegrass blends are a great option for a number of reasons. This sod holds up great in high traffic areas, stays green all year, is both heat and drought tolerant, and is resistant to common disease problems. The fescue/bluegrass blend is made of up 90% fescue and 10% bluegrass, with the bluegrass helping to nicely fill in and thicken your lawn and maintain excellent reparability. This type of blend is considered your traditional sod lawn and has a slightly stiffer and thicker blade. If you are located in and having sod delivered to areas near Sacramento, Redding, or the Bay Area, we also carry another type of fescue/bluegrass blend. This blend has a finer, softer, taller blade, along with the other qualities of the traditional fescue/bluegrass blend described above. We also have the option of a 100% fescue sod in these same locations.

    Another popular sod choice is bermuda. We offer a few different types of bermuda depending on your location. Bermuda grass is excellent for high traffic areas, is both drought and heat tolerant, resistant to common disease problems, and can typically be watered less than other sod varieties. Bermuda can also be cut lower (usually 1/2"-3/4") and will look best when cut with a reel mower (forward moving blade that cuts close to the ground) as opposed to a rotary mower. Bermuda does go dormant (turns brown) during winter months, but can be over seeded with a perennial ryegrass. One type of bermuda, Tifgreen, has a very fine blade, is dense, dark green, has a carpet-like appearance, and is often used in locations like school playgrounds. Another type, Tifway, also has a fine blade, adapts well to shade and sun, and is often used for golf courses and football fields. Our Celebration bermuda has a blue/green color, a soft fine blade, establishes and recovers quickly, and can be used on a variety of sports fields, playgrounds and residential areas.

    Another sod variety is St. Augustine (offered in specific locations). St. Augustine grass establishes and grows quickly, has a thick, coarse, and tight blades, and is both heat and drought tolerant. It has a carpet-like appearance, and like most bermuda grasses, it needs to be cut with a reel mower and can go dormant in the winter.

    While most all sod types need a minimum of 5-6 hours of sunlight per day, we do offer a special Shade Blend that consists of fescue, bluegrass and various shade blends. It can withstand up to 40% daily shade, but will also do well in full sun.

    Another specialty sod type is our Mow-Free sod. This type has a relaxed meadow look, has slow growing, narrow, lax blades, and is dark green and glossy. It does well in the shade and is often used for slopes. Mow-Free sod is usually left unmowed or mowed once a year.

    Bluegrass (a four-way bluegrass blend) is a nice dark green sod that offers uniform growth and quick healing and recovery from heavy traffic and damage. It does well during colder months and in cooler climates, thus not being as heat tolerant as other sod options. It requires more frequent watering and mowing, but performs well at crowding out weeds.

    Blue-Rye is a 50% bluegrass and 5% premium ryegrass blend. This blend has a nice blue-green appearance all year, is heat and drought tolerant, and grows well in sandy or clay soil. This type of sod also performs will in high traffic areas and provides quick healing and uniform growth. Because of this excellent quality, it is often used on golf courses and sports fields.

    These are a just a few of our most popular sod varieties that are offered throughout the state. When selecting your sod, take into consideration your climate, location and how the area will be used. These factors, along with your own personal preference, will help determine your sod choice.

  • The Many Reasons for Lawn Aeration

    Aeration is a standard lawn care practice that can improve the quality and performance of your lawn. The most common reason aeration is performed is to help reduce soil compaction. Soils that contain a lot of clay, or lawns that see heavy foot or equipment traffic can become compacted over time. This constricts the amount of oxygen, nutrients, and water that is allowed to move through the lawn and root system. When a lawn is too compacted, the turf will grow slowly and poorly, which can in turn make the lawn more susceptible to insect damage, drought conditions and disease. Lawns that become compacted often may be aerated several times a year. Proper aeration will in turn help control thatch, which is often a result of compacted soil. Aeration helps water and fertilizer move to the roots, often reducing water runoff. When removing the cores of soil, the aerator machine also severs roots, stimulating the grass to produce new growth, creating a denser lawn.

    Aeration is done by using an aerator that pokes holes into the ground throughout the lawn, removing cores or plugs of soil. These soil cores should be about two to four inches deep, 1/4 - 1/2 inch wide, and about four inches apart throughout the lawn. You may need to make multiple passes over your lawn, especially the most compacted areas. Thoroughly watering your lawn a day or two before you aerate will allow for the cores of soil to be easily removed, but avoid watering too much. If the soil is too wet or sticky, aerating may cause further soil compaction. Cores may be either removed or left on the lawn, but it is recommended to leave them on lawns, especially lawns that have more than a 1/2 inch of thatch. Lawns can be fertilized immediately after aeration and watering should also occur soon after aeration. Hand aerators can be rented, or for large or extremely compacted lawns, machine aerators can also be rented.

    The best time to aerate is in the spring or fall, when the ground is not frozen but also not too hot or dry. Spring is a great time to aerate warm season grasses as the grass is actively growing. Cool season grasses are best aerated in the fall when there is less heat stress. If you see areas of your lawn that have been damaged because of too much compaction, for example, you will definitely want to aerate your soil during the spring or fall months. If certain areas of your lawn are sparse or bare, seeding about a month after aeration will improve the look and density of your lawn. Aeration is a simple part of lawn maintenance that is often overlooked. Taking the time to aerate and maintain your lawn can have a huge impact on the quality and appearance of your turf grass.

  • Over Seeding Warm Season Turf

    Most bermuda grasses will go dormant (turn brown) during winter months. The most common seed variety used to over seed bermuda, a warm season grass, is ryegrass, which is a cool season grass. Perennial ryegrass is dark green, does excellent in full sun, tolerates high traffic well, is stress and pest tolerant, and germinates quickly. October is a great month to over seed as the bermuda is slowing it's growth rate but the weather is typically still warm enough for the ryegrass seed to germinate. Daytime temperatures should not be above 70 degrees and nighttime temperatures should not reach above 50 degrees. This usually falls two to four weeks before the first frost of winter. You can also tell it may be time to over seed when your lawn is starting to thin but is still in good condition.

     

     

    When preparing to over seed you will want to mow your lawn at a very low setting, helping to create a loose surface for seeding. Remove all clippings which can easily be done by raking. Next you will want to dethatch your lawn, making sure to remove any and all debris, and then aerate the soil which will allow moisture and oxygen to move through the soil. Next you will spread the seed throughout the lawn using a hand spreader, making sure you apply it evenly and thoroughly. If there are bare areas in your sod you can spread the seed again in that area. Rake and lightly roll the soil in order to cover the seed up to 1/8". Fertilize when over seeding and water well until the over seeded grass is well established, while also being sure not to leave any standing water. Continue to maintain your sod lawn throughout the winter with proper water, mowing and fertilization.

     

     

    It is important to correctly manage your lawn in the spring when the bermuda (warm season) grass is coming out of dormancy. The ryegrass (cool season grass) can compete for moisture, sunlight and nutrients. It is important to stop fertilizing in early spring, but to continue once the bermuda has established itself again. Maintaining a proper low mowing height as the bermuda grass re-establishes will stress the ryegrass, or cool-season turf, aiding in the bermuda grass growth.

     

     

    Maintaining your sod lawn throughout the year, especially during over seeding in the fall and the establishment of your warm season grass in the spring, is vital to the overall health of your lawn. Disease and inability of the bermuda grass to establish without struggle will be more likely if there is not proper maintenance year round. With a little time and effort it is possible to transition smoothly from warm season bermuda grasses to cool season ryegrasses and have a green lawn year round.

  • Basic Sod Health and Prevention of Problems

    Basic sod maintenance is the best disease prevention program. Specific maintenance practices include proper fertilization, correct irrigation (watering and drainage), correct mowing height, appropriate maintenance tools, placement in full sun, and use of disease resistant sod. While full sun placement isn't always possible, it is important to keep in mind that a lot of shade isn't ideal as the grass is more thin, weak and prone to stress. Weather also plays a huge part in the outcome of your turf, and it's unpredictability and uncontrollable nature will often work against you.

    Diseases in lawns usually start small with a few patches or spots. If a problem is severe and widespread and has occurred suddenly, there's a good chance it is not a disease but another stressor caused by heat, water, mowing, poor drainage, or fertilizer, just to name a few. Irrigation problems are often the root cause of discolored lawns. Providing good soil drainage and maintaining proper irrigation are crucial steps in preventing many sod problems.

    If the cause of the turf problem is a fungus, there are different types of fungicides that are meant to be used either preventively or curatively. Preventive fungicides work to activate a plant's natural defenses against infection. Curative fungicides can stop dead or diseased areas from getting bigger, but will not bring a dead patch back to life. It will take time for the grass to fill back in on its own, or it can be re-seeded. It can be helpful to keep a record of where the disease has occurred as fungus often occurs in the same areas year after year, so preventive fungicide can be accurately applied. Prevention is always best, which will include applying preventive fungicide, aerating, proper fertilization and irrigation maintenance.

    The most common summer disease found in grasses like tall fescue is brown patch. It creates large, tan-colored lesions on the blade of grass and expands into circular patches up to several feet wide. Brown patch is most aggressive when there's a combination of high humidity and temperatures above 90 degrees, but can also become active when temperatures at night are above 60 degrees, thus being active through summer and well into September. Preventive fungicides are the best option for brown patch when applied in the spring or early summer. Large patch can be found in warm-season grasses like St. Augustine. Tan or red-brown lesions can be seen on the leaf sheath and expands into circular patches, oftentimes 12 feet wide. Large patch attacks when warm-season grasses are growing more slowly, during fall, winter and spring. It becomes active when temperatures drop below 60 degree, which is the ideal time to apply preventive fungicide.

    A common type of pest that can be found in your turf are grubs. A preventive insecticide for grubs is best done in June and July as this will protect your lawn through the end of mating season in August. This preventive insecticide should provide control for up to four months. In the spring or fall you can apply curative insecticides that control current problems, but will not prevent future problems.

    While there are preventive and curative fungicides and insecticides that will treat turf diseases, it is important to reiterate that proper lawn maintenance and preventive practices are the best approach when caring for your sod.

  • Proper Sod Stall Installation & Maintenance

    Anyone can lay their own sod lawn with the right tools and few pointers.

    Preparation is key. You want to make sure you clear the area where you will be laying your sod of any weeds and debris (rocks, cement, bricks, etc.). Next you will roughly grade the area with a hand rake, sloping the grade away from any foundations in order to aid in proper drainage. This usually uncovers more debris that need to be cleared. You can then till 3-4 inches deep, adding additional topsoil as needed blending native and new soil. This is important as it can help control weeds, help alleviate compacted soil, assist in root penetration and help air and water movement. End the preparation step by grading the entire area again, using a heavy duty rake, and rolling the area with a partially water filled lawn roller.

    Choosing the best sod depends on several factors. Your location is a major determining factor, such as whether or not you need a drought or heat tolerant sod, or would a cool-season or warm-season grass be best. Keeping in mind the specific location of where your sod will be is also important. Is there a lot of shaded areas, slopes, full sun, or possibly heavy traffic. Lastly, personal preference should also be considered. The look and feel of the blade will vary, along with the shade of green and if the sod stays green all year or goes dormant. Knowing your options and speaking with a professional can lead you to choosing a sod that will suit your needs best.

    Usually, sod should be installed on dry soil, but in cases of high temperatures, moistening the soil for about two or three minutes can be necessary. Whenever possible, install your sod on the day you receive it. If you must wait, the best thing to do is shade the uninstalled sod. Install your sod against a straight edge, like a sidewalk or driveway. Trying as much as possible to avoid gaps between pieces, as well as not overlapping or stretching, butt each piece against each other tightly. Lay the pieces in a brick pattern, staggering the joints in each row. When laying sod on a slope, lay the pieces across the slope rather than down. This will aid in minimizing water runoff and help retain even moisture. Last, you will want to roll over your new sod to help get rid of any air pockets. For the first two weeks it is best to avoid walking on your sod, this includes animals.

    Often, watering, or the lack of, is the cause of many sod problems. As soon as you lay your new sod you will need to soak the grass and soil, providing about 1 inch of water. It should be very wet, but only for this first watering. For the first two weeks, until the sod has established and is firmly rooted, you should water your lawn daily. Watering twice a day is typical, but sometimes a third time is needed depending on weather conditions such has high temperatures or high winds. You lawn should be left feeling moist after each watering. Finding the correct duration and frequency of watering specific to your lawn is critical in its establishment and long term health.

    Besides figuring out a good watering schedule, it is also helpful to testing your soils pH levels. Additionally, appropriate mowing and fertilizer application will aid in the establishment and care of your new sod lawn.

  • Winter Watering Article

    Winter watering can be tricky since a specific “recipe” for how and when to water your lawn does not exist. Watering depends on many factors, including soil type, grass species and temperature. Cool season lawns, such as ryegrasses or fescues, prefer cooler temperatures and do well during mild winters, but still require consistent watering if there are long periods of no rainfall during winter months. Warm season lawns, such as St. Augustine or bermuda grasses, excel during the summer and go dormant (turn brown, but do not die) during winter months as temperatures drop. As grass goes dormant, it stops growing and demanding much less water.

    Typically, plants need half as much water in spring and fall as they do in mid-summer. During normal winter months with consistent rainfall, usually from mid-November to mid-March, you can turn automatic systems off completely, especially if you have a warm season grass. (Weather patterns determine if clocks can be turned off.) In addition, our days are shorter with less sunshine and have cooler nights, reducing the amount of water a lawn needs to stay healthy. Also, almost every morning most lawns will get generous amounts of dew that will soak it, thus irrigating more than once a week is unnecessary.

    How much water you need and when will depend on how much water is already in the soil, which depends on the amount of rainfall. During extended dry periods, even in the winter, if temperatures are at 40 degrees, have sprinklers come on in the early morning before sunrise to allow the water time to soak in before it evaporates in the heat of the sun. When temperatures are below 40 degrees, you may want to wait until mid-day to water, still allowing time for water to soak in before night time freezing. If it has just rained, or it is expected to rain, don't water.

    Grass grows more slowly during the colder months, requiring less watering and mowing. Watching your lawn closely will help you determine whether you should turn your irrigation on or off. Look for certain signs and water your grass only when it shows signs of wilt, when about half the blades are folded and are blue-gray in color, and when footprints remain in the lawn. The most efficient way to water is to wet only the rootzone area, not saturate the soil, and not allow any water run-off. If your lawn has not received at least 1/4-1/2 inch of rain over the course of a few weeks, your soil is probably very dry and your grass is likely suffering, especially in sunny areas and those with more foot traffic. These areas can benefit from about 1/2 inch once a month while it is still winter and in the absence of rain. Even in the winter, warm season grasses need adequate moisture to keep the roots of the grass hydrated. While this is usually provided by even moderate amounts of rainfall, during seasons of drought your lawn should be adequately hydrated to aid in new spring growth.

    Grass height and frequency of mowing also have a significant effect on lawn health. Most residential lawns in California have fescue grass, which should be kept at 2 inches high during winter months and cut every other week. If a lawn is kept too short, it will have a very shallow root zone that cannot reach the moisture deeper in the soil, which can result in a lawn that requires more frequent watering. Following your basic lawn care maintenance practices can greatly aid in maintaining a healthy lawn, even during winters with very little to no rainfall.

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