For all the care the home owner
may devote to his flowers, shrubs, and trees, for all the success
he may achieve with them, his lawn must be equally well attended
and equally successful if it is not to mar the total landscape picture.
The lawn is indeed the background on which the nature-painter, using
growing things as his pigments, so to speak, must apply his strokes.
Requirements of good grass
Creating a good, attractive lawn is
not a difficult undertaking, requires little expert knowledge, and
makes few demands, these being mainly a well-prepared seedbed, good
seed, proper soil, and proper fertilization.
In general, a good garden loam is the best for grass, and its texture
is improved by application of fine, well-rotted stable manure. Granulated
or cultivated peats, commercially available, also are helpful.
If the soil is too heavy a clay, it can
be improved by the use of sand, covering the surface to a depth of one
inch, then working it 3 or 4 inches into the soil. If the soil is too
sandy, a similar working in of clay is a good corrective.
The best seedbed is a firm one with a well-pulverized surface. It should
be watered thoroughly in advance of sowing to settle the soil, which should
be stirred occasionally to destroy weeds that have started. A few days
before seeding, apply fertilizer liberally, using fertilizer which contains
nitrogen, phosphate, and potash; it stimulates a strong, early growth
of grass. Organic fertilizers such as cottonseed meal and poultry manure,
used at a rate of 40 to 50 pounds per 1,000 square feet, produce excellent
results. They must be worked into the soil thoroughly.
Good lawn seed
Be sure to use seeds which have high standards
of purity and germination; don't try to economize by using cheap seed.
Seed should be sown heavily, to obtain a thick stand of grass from the
start. Sowing 3 to 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet is recommended, following
the rule of the larger the seed the higher the rate of sowing. After broadcasting
the seeds upon the ground, rake the soil slightly and do not let it become
dry until the seedlings are rooted firmly.
Roll the ground well before sowing the seed;
and, after the lawn is established, roll it periodically. This is an important
step, not only for the sake of beauty, which is marred by lumpiness, but
to facilitate the operation of the lawnmower. It is unlikely that the
owner of a small place has room for such a cumbersome implement as a large,
heavy roller, but in almost every community one may be rented at a reasonable
hourly rate from a nurseryman.
When to sow grass seed
People living in the northern half of this
country will do well to sow their lawns in the fall, when the weeds are
less troublesome than in spring, but the sowing should be done in time
to permit good rooting before the onset of freezing weather. Many lawns
started in the spring fail because weed competition is too strong at that
time and because hot weather may set in before the young seedlings are
ready to withstand it.
Sodding is one of the fastest ways to establish
a lawn but it is usually an expensive undertaking. For use of sod, soil
preparation is the same as for use of seed except that the bed should
be more compact. One inch is the preferred thickness for a sod, for it
is easy to handle and new roots establishing contact with the ground develop
from it more rapidly than from thicker sods. Especially in establishing
grass on slopes, sodding is the most effective method, although it costs
more than seeding. After sodding, roll well. Any holes may be filled with
a good loamy soil and re-rolled until surface is firm and level.
Grasses for specific regions
||As in the case of other plants, selection
of a grass to be used in a specific area should be governed largely
by the soil and climatic conditions in which it must grow. In considering
these selections the United States is divided into four sections as
indicated in the accompanying map.
Pacific Northwest and New England: Bentgrasses,
such as creeping bent, colonial bent and seaside bent, are most successful
in this region. The bentgrasses have a high tolerance to soil acidity.
- Region I: In most of this region, Kentucky
bluegrass, with its strong root system, is best. It may be sown alone
in soil well stocked with lime, organic matter, and plant food. Usually,
however, it is wiser to sow a mixture of grasses, and the following
has proved satisfactory in most of Region 1 : 17 parts Kentucky bluegrass,
2 parts redtop and 1 part white clover (by weight). In the eastern portion
of Region 1, the following mixture is suitable: 10 parts Kentucky bluegrass,
5 parts Chewings fescue, 2 parts redtop, 1 part colonial bent, 1 part
white clover (by weight). Sow in fall; but when spring sowing is necessary
reduce the bluegrass part by 10 per cent and substitute Italian ryegrass.
In shade, roughstalk bluegrass is recommended. Beneath trees, especially
in sandy soil, Chewings or European red fescue is recommended. In shady
conditions grass roots are shallow and demand careful water and fertilization;
the lawn may require annual reseeding.
- Region 2: Bermuda is most generally suited.
Kentucky bluegrass thrives in the higher altitudes or in partial shade.
Bermuda may be started from seed or by vegetative planting of pieces
of the stolons (Rootstock) early in the fall or after the ground has
warmed up in spring. Since Bermuda grass dies down in winter, the gardener
may sow quick growing Italian ryegrass which enjoys winter growth and
dies down about the time Bermuda resumes growth. In the western part
of Region 2, bentgrasses and Kentucky bluegrass are successful under
irrigation. Bluegrass is successful in partial shade in the northern
portion of the region, while St. Augustine is the shade grass for the
southern part, but demands mild conditions, and abundant mois- ture
and plant food.
- Region 3: Suitable grasses are cold-tender
and must be started in spring after the ground warms up. Bermuda grass
is good for the drier areas, carpet grass for moist soils. The latter
may be started from seed, using 3 to 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet,
or by vegetative planting. Centipede grass, which likes mild winters
and any soil except a poorly drained one, is excellent for this area.
St. Augustine is outstanding for Florida and the coastal plain as a
shade grass, and also thrives in sun.
In vegetative planting the runners or rootstocks
may be cut into pieces about an inch long and sown broadcast. The lawn
then should be rolled, covered thinly with soil or compost, watered and
kept moist until the pieces have taken root. A pound or two of stolon
per 10 square feet is needed. Two-inch or three-inch pieces of runners
may also be planted in rows. A spacing of 8 inches between rows and 4
to 6 inches between pieces in each row is correct but may be increased
or decreased according to the supply of propa- gative material available;
the closer the spacing the faster the production of good sod.
Watering the grass
The watering pattern is the same for grasses
as for other plants—infrequently but thoroughly. Light, frequent
sprinkling promotes shallow root growth, stimulates crabgrass and, combined
with close mowing, can ruin a bluegrass lawn.
Mowing the lawn
Proper mowing is helpful to the lawn, not
only in the matter of appearance but in the health of the grass. Except
for lawns consisting entirely of bentgrass, the mower should be set to
cut at a height of 1 1/2 inches or more. Infrequently mown lawns must
not be subject to an extremely close cropping, lest sudden exposure to
the sun after shading by the dense growth injure the grass. Newly sown
lawns should be cut when the grass reaches a height of 2 or 3 inches.
If the sight of dried clippings on the lawn does not offend the home-owner's
taste, leaving the mower clippings on the ground is beneficial to the
grass. Do not let the clippings gather in thick piles, however; they smother
the grass beneath.
Battling the weeds
The lawn keeper's worst annoyance is weeds,
and crabgrass is the most irksome of the weeds. It is an annual, whereas
the lawn grasses are perennial. An invasion of crabgrass may smother the
lawn grasses, killing their growth and compelling a reseeding. By high
mowing, about 2 inches, throughout the summer, a heavy growth of lawn
grass is left to smother the crabgrass seedlings, while infrequent watering
deprives the survivors of moisture necessary for development.
Hand to hand combat is the only certain
method of dandelion control. Dandelions must be cut out 2 or 3 inches
below the ground. There is no benefit in shallow weeding, for new tops
grow quickly from cut surfaces. Plantain also must be combatted by hand
weeding, as must chickweed patches. The latter also may be eradicated
by application of ammonium sulphate, which burns the grass but does not
injure it permanently. Moss usually indicates poor light, poor soil, acidity,
or poor drainage. Good fertilization increases the vigor of the grass
growth which gradually crowds moss out. There are a number of new sprays
which will kill weeds and at the same time fertilize the grass. They are
available from most seedsmen and garden supply dealers.
Diseases and insects
The worst diseases attacking the bentgrasses,
rye, redtop, and fescues are large brown patch and small brown patch.
They may be controlled effectively by applications of mercury compounds.
The dose is 2 ounces of calomel and I ounce of corrosive sublimate mixed
with soil or sand to each 1,000 square feet.
Water thoroughly after each application.
Leaf-spot injures Bermuda, Kentucky bluegrass and other grasses, but no
effective control is known so far.
The principal insect pests of the lawn are ants, grubs, and earthworms.
Against ants, carbon disulphide may be squirted into the nests, the entrances
to which should be closed to seal in the fumes.
Corrosive sublimate, which is a deadly poison,
is highly effective against earthworms. The proper application per 1,000
square feet of lawn is 2 or 3 ounces in 50 gallons of water or mixed with
2 cubic feet of dry sand. The lawn must be watered thoroughly at once,
lest the grass be burned seriously.
Aid for ailing lawns
If your lawn becomes thin and weak but has
a reasonably even distribution of the grass that remains, it may be helped
by a thorough fall fertilization and a top-dressing of a quarter to a
half inch of rich garden loam or a compost of topsoil, sand, and manure.
If the lawn is riddled with bare patches, however, it is usually more
satisfactory to dig it up and start all over.
If you live in the South and have live oaks
or willow oak trees on the lawn, constant rakings will be necessary. Do
not burn off as burning kills the seed and often injures the grass. However,
with Bermuda grass which becomes too heavy, a fall burning and top dressing
of loam and fine manure followed by rolling will help to firm the lawn
and make mowing much simpler the next spring when the grass begins to