This is the first of a periodic information blog for you, the homeowner, to use as you please. The information here will apply to two different categories: one for installation or construction of the landscape, the other about maintenance of the landscape.
[NOTE: Within the industry when we have a landscape installation project we call it construction. You will hear me refer to this term often.]
Lawn installation/soil amendment
By far, the most requests for information I get from friends and clients is about lawn installation, so I will start the first blog with this topic.
When installing a lawn there are a few key criteria that you will want to address. The most important is soil structure. Most lawns are not properly installed, especially in the new home subdivisions of South and West Salem and the Portland Metro area. For the most part these areas are up off the valley floor and tend to consist of mostly reddish heavy clay loam. In truth, it really doesn’t matter where you are in the Salem/Portland area, as the soil will not support a healthy long living Perennial Rye Grass lawn by itself. It must be amended, and here is why.
Perennial Rye Grass is the predominant grass grown in the Willamette Valley. In fact, we grow approximately 80% of the world’s rye grass right here. This grass is used primarily as an answer to the dying off of warm season grasses on golf courses throughout the eastern and southern United States and many other foreign countries. In the cool season, Perennial Rye Grass is over seeded due to its very quick germination (about 3 days) and fast growth (to about 2 inches in 10 days), allowing the golf course to keep its lush green color year around.
Perennial Rye is a bunch grass and is started from a single seed, yet it is a perennial. For example, it is like a rhododendron plant. If you take care of it, it will last a very long time, developing deep strong roots. It is no different with grass. The most important freedom that the grass can have is the ability to develop deep strong roots. This can be done by incorporating into the soil anything and or everything to enhance and break up the clay ground allowing air to develop around the soil particles, stimulating micro organisms to break down and feed on the organics that create a healthy soil structure for a healthy soil medium and deep root growth.
You will notice in your old lawn what looks like many different types of grasses. This is due to many factors, mostly poor soil and drainage. During the spring season when the farmers are harvesting seed and many wild grass fields are going to seed, the wind will pick up the seed and land it on your yard. If your yard is unhealthy and the soil poor, your lawn will have holes or openings in it, and this allows the unwanted seeds from noxious weeds and unwanted grasses to germinate, thus starting an unhealthy trend in your lawn. There are many other factors that can also lead to unwanted seed germination, but the main defense is to have a healthy, thick lawn with deep roots, the main reason being the thicker the lawn the less likely seeds will germinate because the seeds themselves need light and water to tell them it’s time to germinate.
When the homeowner calls us for a consultation I usually see roots to a depth of about 1 inch or less, which explains why the lawn is very thin and dies out very fast. especially without a proper watering system. The ideal root depth is twice the depth of the top growth, or about 3 to 4 inches, and this can be done with the proper installation. I have seen root growth as deep as 10 inches on some very well maintained golf greens, and while your yard isn’t a golf green, a nice depth of 3 to 4 inch roots will give you an incredibly thick and healthy lawn.
With lawn construction there are many other factors that are vital to consider, like water, fertilization, and aeration, but amending your soil is one of the most important steps in the construction of your new lawn.
Landscape Maintenance DIY
Now that you have a new lawn installed, the key to its longevity is the care that you give it. If you can afford to hire a professional company, (that is, a company with experience, references, licenses, and reputation), this is the best option for your mowing and plant materials maintenance of your yard. If you are doing it yourself, here are some ideas for you.
This time of year the grass is dormant. Hopefully you or your yard service applied a winter fertilizer to the grass. I consider this the most important fertilization of the year due to what is called translocation of the roots. As the growing season winds down, the roots take food from the grass plant and stores it. In the spring, the grass reverses this this procedure, and gives extra food to the grass leaves to help the plant come out of dormancy. Fertilizing the plant in early winter late fall, October or November will greatly increase the health and color of the grass come spring.
Watch for crane fly infestations in early April and treat at the end of April or early May if needed.
A shot of Lime in the pellet form in the spring will help to balance the PH of the soil and move roots lower. Do this every year for about 3 to 5 years depending on the soil acidity, better known as PH.