Improving Lawn Soil
The soils underneath our lawns are more responsible for delivering good lawn health than anything else. Lawn soils provide nutrients (food), water and oxygen to the grass, and if any of these things aren't right, we simply cannot grow a strong healthy lawn.
So if we have an established lawn which isn't doing as good as it could be, then our lawn soil may be responsible. Short of removing the entire lawn and replacing the soil and laying new sod, there are some ways to improve the soil of a lawn.
Most methods will require time, different treatments and some expense as well, and improving lawn soil should be considered as an ongoing process of lawn care, rather than a once off quick fix.
Although they supply vital nutrients to lawns, chemical lawn fertilisers will not improve the soil structure for your lawn.
Many soil types will naturally repel water, other soils become water repellent over time when they are deprived of water during long hot Summers which are often affected by heavy water restrictions.
Wetting Agents will break down the water repellent waxy coating on the grains of soil, as well as opening up the top of the soil to allow more water to flow into and throughout the soil. Once water has made it into the soil, the Wetting Agents will allow the soil to hold onto the water for longer, as well as distribute the water more effectively.
Wetting Agents should be applied once a year at minimum, and perhaps 2-3 times per year for troublesome soil types.
A pH test is the easiest, quickest and least expensive place to begin to improve a lawn soil. This simple test which is available at all garden stores for a few dollars will quickly tell us whether our soil is alkaline or acidic.</br>
Lawns require a soil pH of between 6.0 and 7.0, and ideally at 6.5 in order to flourish, so if your test returns readings outside of these parameters then adjustments will need to be made. This is a simple and inexpensive process also.
Top Dress Lawns
Lawn top dressing to improve the soil involves applying a rich organic soil mixture to the top of the turf. This type of top dressing is best done to improve sandy soil types by applying a layer of soil no greater than 1cm thick to the top of the turf. The rich organic soil is then watered into the grass. When done correctly, there should be almost no trace of the soil left on top of the grass. This process can be repeated over the years to continue to improve lawn soil.
Organic lawn fertilisers are usually based on manure products or other naturally occurring substances such as seaweed. These can be products such as Seasol and Dynamic Lifter for lawns. While organic fertilisers cannot replace chemical lawn fertilisers, they can be added a couple of times a year to help improve the organic richness of the soil. Just be sure not to mow the lawn with a catcher after applying organic fertiliser pellets… otherwise we'll be losing all that natural goodness as the lawn mower removes the nutrients we just applied, give these organic nutrients (if in pellet form) some time to break down and mow without a catcher when the next 1 to 3 lawn mowings are due.
Aerating a lawn with a proper lawn coring machine will greatly help to break up compacted lawn soils and clay soils. Coring a lawn allows more water, nutrients and oxygen to flow through the soil profile more easily.
An application of Wetting Agents and Fertiliser should be applied and watered into the lawn directly after lawn coring.
Clay soils can have the holes left in the lawn filled in with a mixture of coarse sand or sandy loam and Powerfeed to help break up the clay and improve soil health.
Sandy soils, or soils of poor quality can have a richer soil or sandy loam filled into the holes after lawn coring.
Clay soils should be aerated regularly by lawn coring, as well as having an application of Gypsum applied to the turf to help break up the clay. Sand can also be applied into these coring holes to help reduce the water logging effects of the clay. A clay based lawn soil can be easily improved over time.
Ongoing Improvement of Lawn Soils
As already mentioned at the beginning of this article, improving lawn soils is an ongoing process of lawn care over the life of the turf. For lawns which suffer from any of the problems mentioned above, then the lawn owner should regularly go back and repeat the same lawn care or remedial practices over time, and keep monitoring the health of the lawn and the soil as required.
The use of Ammonium Sulphate (or Sulphate of Ammonium) in lawn care can instantly green a lawn almost faster than anything else however it does have major drawbacks.
So before proceeding to use this product, please read this article fully and consider things wisely before choosing to use this product.
What Is Ammonium Sulphate
Ammonium Sulphate is a source of straight Nitrogen. Nitrogen is a major element of all plants, including lawns, it is the "N" in the NPK ratio often seen on fertiliser products.
Nitrogen is the primary nutrient responsible for green leaf growth, so by applying it on it's own, we power up the green leaf growth without promoting any of the other normal development processes of the lawn.
An application of Ammonium Sulphate will therefore instantly promote green leaf growth, in an almost supercharged way however as with many great benefit, comes an equally great disadvantage.With such rapid growth of the leaf, the lawn may well become severely scalped after the next mowing, or even the next few mowings.
This severe scalping can lead to poor lawn health which encourages disease, weed and pest infestation, and will look ugly for as long as the lawn takes to repair itself.
If it occurs in the heat of Summer or in a drought, the lawn will struggle to repair itself, the soil will dry out much faster, and the lawn may possibly die.
If the crowns of the lawn were raised too high during the rapid growth process, and are then removed in mowing the lawn, the area of the lawn affected this way - will likely die off and even if used in a highly controlled manner, the application of Ammonium Sulphate is still only applying a single nutrient.
The lawn still requires it's major elements of Phosphorous and Potassium, as well as all of it's trace elements. Without them, the lawn will never maintain good health, and will always be struggle with its health, even if we can temporarily green it up another problem with applying Ammonium Sulphate is that it is stored predominantly in the green leaf. When the mowing frequency increases to match the extra growth rate, the stored Nitrogen is removed as the leaf is removed. The result and the entire exercise is only ever temporary.
A Better Choice In Lawn Care
By far, the best possible source of nutrients for our lawns is a balanced high quality fertiliser e.g Scotts lawn builder, which is applied at regular intervals throughout the year, and in small amounts. That way, our lawns will receive all the nutrients they need for optimum health, in the correct quantities, at the right times.
Fertilising lawns is vital to providing the turf with so many nutrients which may not be readily available to the lawn at its soil source, and fertilising adds tremendous benefit to feeding our lawns, and thereby improving the overall health and beauty of the lawn as well.
Though with fertilising also comes a few risks which can be easily avoided with careful application of these lawn care products. And one of those risks is fertilisers burning lawns.
The Nitrogen in lawn fertiliser can burn the leaves of lawns, turning the lawn yellow, brown or black. Nitrogen is the same nutrient that causes the spots created from dogs urine on lawns.
So we look at how to greatly reduce that risk.
All lawn fertilisers must be watered in within a reasonable time period after fertiliser has been applied. The time frame for watering is usually dependant on the heat of the day. The hotter the day, the sooner fertilisers must be watered in to prevent fertiliser from burning the lawn.
On cooler days, the time can be extended. However, it is never a good idea to leave fertilisers on the lawn for too long without fully watering the fertilisers into the turf.
The maximum amount of time allowable is to always plan on watering fertilisers immediately or within hours of application in warmer weather, and within a day in cooler weather.
Hot Summer Days
During any times when the days are especially hot, it is always best practice to never apply fertilisers at all. The increased risk of damage to the lawn from fertilisers is just not worth it.
So if the days are hot, then its best to leave the lawn fertilising for a cooler day, and avoid any risk of lawn damage completely.
Thatch is a layer of organic matter that lies underneath the top green leafy layer of the lawn. In Warm Season Lawns, thatch is comprised of living and dead runners (stolons), as well as other build up of organic material such as lawn clippings, and other organic plant matter which is in the process of breaking down. Thatch in Cool Season Lawns is an assortment of dead or dying leaf matter, lawn clippings, and other organic material. Importance Of Thatch In Lawn Care A layer of thatch is vitally important to the ongoing health of a quality lawn. It provides insulation to the lawn's root system, preventing evaporation of water and any drying out or dying of the lawn roots. The thatch is what provides the softness to lawns under foot, which makes them so functional as play or relaxation areas. And a healthy thatch layer is part of the lawn that helps to prevent damage occurring by providing a thick knitted layer of runners, or thick tillering that work together to create a cushioning protection for the lawn. When Thatch Problems Occur Even with the best lawn care, over time, thatch can build up to excessive levels, this can be for many reasons, either by natural course, or through being sped up by bad lawn practices such as infrequent mowing. Once excessive thatch is present, it must be dealt with, otherwise many problems will start occurring. Mowing will become more difficult, and each mowing will constantly cut back into the thatch layer, removing all the green leaf, and revealing the brown thatch layer. Lawns become ugly from the constant straw like undergrowth being revealed. With the removal of all the green leaf, Photosynthesis slows, and the lawn begins to suffer and starve from lack of food. With the lack of food, lawns cannot quickly recover from its damaged state It's a continuing cycle Brown thatch layer between soil and leaf Extreme Lawn Thatching Lawns such as Buffalo can be at risk of extreme thatching, where the lawn continues to grow higher and higher above the ground. At the base of the thick layer is the original lawn, long since dead, and the entire lawn is now comprised of a mixture of living and dead stolons and roots. Eventually, as the lawn continues to grow and regenerate, new roots may no longer reach into the soil, they may stay in the underlying dead lawn matter, at high risk of dehydration, starvation from lack of nutrients, and possible death. Repairing Lawn Thatch The only remedy to a severely thatched up lawn is to remove the thatch. For Cool Season Grasses, this is best achieved by carefully reducing the mowing height over a few cuts with a Rotary Mower to remove any loose material. Then returning heights back to a healthy and normal level. In most cases, the very best way to remove thatch in Warm Season Grasses is to Vertimow. Remembering that vertimowing can only be carried out on Warm Season Grasses that have stolons (runners). Buffalo grass is often not recommended for vertimowing. A different process of lowering mowing heights in Spring is often the best way to reduce and control thatch in Buffalo grass lawns. Vertimowing Information For more information, please see our Vertimowing Article. Lawn Care Tip Vertimowing is also known as de-thatching, and scarifying, and is essential in the lawn care regimens of all warm season lawns.
Cause Of Fairy Rings
Fairy Rings can be caused by up 60 different types of mushrooms, and can occur in 3 different patterns. The first results in underground fungus only, and has no mushrooms, but the problem is exposed by the typical lush rings of growth. The next produces only the mushroom rings without any other real symptoms, and the last produces the dark green rings and mushrooms combined.
Fairy Rings Cure
The only cure for this problem is the removal of the turf and soil altogether, with both being completely replaced, we have however been told of a low toxic remedy using diluted brown sugar which might be worth trying?
To remove it, the Fairy Ring must be dug out at least 30 centimetres outside of the the outer ring, and then at least 40 - 70 centimetres deep into the soil. Both soil and turf almost surgically removed, being very careful not to drop any of the infected turf or soil onto any other part of the lawn, otherwise a new infection may occur. The soil and turf is then replaced from new.
However, in many cases, proper care and maintenance will make the environment hostile for the fungus to continue to thrive, and it may eliminate itself, or eventually just grow out.
Brown Patch Brown Patch Lawn Disease Brown Patch Is A Lawn Disease Brown patch is a disease of the soil which attacks the leaf, and results in often damaging or killing the lawn. This lawn disease presents as round damaged circles ranging in size between 5 cm and a metre in diameter. The colouring begins as yellow and continues to darken as the turf dies or is damaged. The most noticeable characteristic of Brown Patch is a smoke like ring which circles the affected area. Although this is not always present, and usually disappears with increasing warmth of the day, and winds. Brown Patch lawn disease usually appears and flourishes from a combination of over watering, night time watering, and warm nights. It appears from Spring through to Autumn. STOP: Are you sure you have brown patch disease? Brown, bare or dying patches can occur in lawns for many reasons, try also checking other articles in the Lawn Care and Lawn Repair sections. Cultural Management Of Brown Patch Environmental conditions must be right for the Brown Patch pathogen to take hold and the disease to flourish. The same conditions that causes a disease to flourish, usually causes a weakness in the turf, making the disease strong and the turf too weak to fight it. With proper cultural management of our lawns we want to create an unfriendly environment for the disease so it won't take hold, and if it does, to reverse the situation. Excess Humidity Try to water lawns only in the morning. We don't want a lot of moisture sitting in the thatch layer overnight during warmer weather. Lawn Thatch Mow lawns regularly and control excessive growth habits to reduce the build-up of thatch, and vertimow when necessary to remove any thatch build-up. Low Nutrient Levels Fertilise all year round with a quality, balanced fertiliser in small amounts applied regularly. Shade Cut back surrounding bushes or trees to allow a lot more direct sunlight to the area. Soil Compaction Monitor compaction, and rectify human patterns causing quick compaction. Core or aerate the lawn when required. Eradication Of Brown Patch Disease The easiest way to treat this disease is to begin a proper fertilising program immediately, and bring cultural management practices in line with proper standards. Water levels should be monitored, as excess water will increase the problem. A healthy lawn with correct nutrient levels will aid in prevention and ridding your lawn of Brown Patch. Chemical treatment with a fungicide can be purchased and applied to aid in eradication. Brown Patch Must Be Treated Even if the brown patch disease is brought under control from correct Cultural Management practices, the pathogen responsible for the disease can still survive in the ground for many years, and will re-emerge when environmental conditions improve for its survival. For this reason, it is vitally important to continue correct lawn care practices throughout the year, and on an ongoing