Dethatching Your Lawn

Every spring we are asked by our customers if they should power rake or dethatch their lawns. It seems like the logical thing to do, after all, we clean out our cars and basements– shouldn’t we also clean thatch out of our lawns? The answer to that question is usually “no.”

Thatch, as defined by Dr. James Beard, is “a rightly intermingled layer of dead and living stems and roots that develops between the zone of green vegetation and the soil surface.” In the most basic sense, thatch is what gives the turf that “spongy” feeling when you walk on it. If you have ever walked on a recently established turf, you may have noticed that it feels very firm. That is because a thatch layer has not yet developed.

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A Power Rake and Its Blades

 

Thatch, as defined by Dr. James Beard, is “a rightly intermingled layer of dead and living stems and roots that develops between the zone of green vegetation and the soil surface.” In the most basic sense, thatch is what gives the turf that “spongy” feeling when you walk on it. If you have ever walked on a recently established turf, you may have noticed that it feels very firm. That is because a thatch layer has not yet developed.

The results of Power Raking

Dethatching is an aggressive procedure that rips and tears the turf, resulting in only a small amount of thatch reduction. Most thatch consists of living roots and stem and is not removed by power raking.

You also may be surprised that grass clippings do not contribute to thatch accumulation. Most thatch is attached to turf plants or their root system. Grass clippings are highly biodegradable; therefore, making it best to return them to your lawn.

 

A Core Aerator and Its Tines

Instead of dethatching, aeration is recommended. Aeration removes cores of soil from the lawn. These cores break down and redistribute valuable nutrients to the soil and also topdress the soil with a thin layer of dirt which reduces thatch. The holes left in the lawn provide passageways for air, water, and nutrients. As the soil and roots expand to fill the holes, the surrounding soil is allowed to loosen, reducing compaction.
Aeration is a service best performed in the summer or fall. Spring aeration can reduce the effectiveness of spring applied crabgrass control.
So, if you’re feeling ambitious, go head, power rake your lawn. It will probably be a good workout, but of little benefit for your lawn.

Some information and picture provided by:
Dr. Kevin Frank, Michigan State University

Getting rid of Moss

Moss is a nuisance in a lawn and people often want to know how to get rid of it. However, before you control your moss, it’s important to understand why it is present.

Moss loves shade, moisture, and poorly drained or compacted soil. It will tend to creep into areas where grass has weakened and cannot grow.  The moss is simply filling a void.  Moss does not kill existing grass, it simply grows where grass cannot.

 

The best long term solution to controlling moss is to correct the shade and moisture problems.  Here are a few suggestions to help alleviant these issues:

 

Trimming trees– This will allow more sunlight to get to the lawn.  Grass needs 3-4 hours of direct sunlight or 6-8 hours of filtered sunlight in order to grow. Trimming trees allows more sunlight in and will allow more varieties of grass to grow. Trimming trees also promotes air movement and helps the grass to dry out.

 

Tree Removal-  This is a drastic step, but can make a big impact in growing grass and discouraging moss.

 

Water Management  To reduce extra water, try “capping” sprinkler heads, changing nozzles, or reducing sprinkler time.  Also, be aware of your lawn’s drainage pattern and areas that may be accumulating water.

 

Mowing Height–  Mowing the grass between 3 and 3.5 inches tall is healthiest your the lawn.  This allows deep rooting of the grass and the maximum surface area to absorb sunlight.

 

Aeration-  This removes cores of soil and allows air movement, helps drainage, and relieves soil compaction.

 

Home Solutions to Control Moss

 

You don’t need to make a trip to your local lawn and garden center to control moss.  There are two common household products that will help control moss.

 

Ultra Dawn or Ivory liquid dish soap-   Mix 2 to 4 ounces of dish soap with 1 gallon of water.  Spray the mixture with a spray bottle or use a watering can.  Apply when the grass is moist. 

 

Baking Soda-  A few applications of baking soda will control moss.  Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of baking soda per quart of water and spray on a warm, sunny day.  In most cases, one or two applications will provide complete control.  Baking Soda also works well to control moss on wood decks and brick patios.

 

Both of these methods will turn the moss into a yellow / orange color and cause it to dry up.   Keep in mind that killing moss is only a temporary solution. If you want to remove moss permanently, you must correct the shady and wet conditions that are causing the moss.

How do I get rid of these moles!!

In the spring and fall, we receive many questions from customer who are having problems with moles. Moles have huge appetites and can eat up to one third of their body weight in food per day. Their diet consists mainly of grubs, earthworms and other adult and larval insects.

We have heard many interesting stories of unsuccessful attempts at controlling these creatures including: human hair, chewing gum, broken glass, engine oil, ultrasonic waves, and mothballs. There are professional mole elimination companies who provide mole control and here are some of their methods:

1. Grub Control- One way to discourage moles is to apply a grub control, such as Merit, to your lawn. Grubs are a favorite food source to moles and by keeping grubs out of your lawn; you are reducing the moles food source and hopefully sending them elsewhere to eat. However, keep in mind that grubs are not the only food moles eat. Grub control is not mole control, but it’s a step in the right direction.

2. Bait- A second method to combat moles is to apply mole bait called TomCat. TomCat was developed after many years of research by Bell Laboratories, and is, in our opinion, the only bait that REALLY works. TomCat is shaped like rubber worms or grubs, which are placed in the mole tunnels. Six worms cost between 15 -$20 and can be purchased from Lowes, Menards, Meijer, Home Depot, and True Value Hardware Stores. For more information; visit www.tomcatbrand.com.

3. Traps A third option is a new, easy set, step-down mole trap. It is called a WireTek 1001– Easy Set Mole Eliminator. These traps don’t require any special tools or incredible arm strength to set. You place them in mole’s run and stepping down on the trap activates the trigger. These traps can be found at home improvement stores, lawn and garden centers, or online and cost between $30 and $35.

4. Hire a pro The fourth option we recommend is hiring a professional mole elimination company. We have a colleague called Molebusters who specializes in mole removal. This is the most expensive option, but also the most effective. Feel free to call Molebusters for more information at 616-554-9499. Let them know that you are a customer of Weed & Feed Lawn Care and they will take extra good care of you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeding Your Lawn

Successful lawn establishment means doing the right thing at the right time.  New seed fails because of timing, poor quality seed, improper seed selection, poor soil conditions, improper site preparation, or improper water and fertilizing.

Timing is Everything

The best time of the year to seed is from August 15 to September 15.  The warm days and cool night are ideal for seed germination.  Spring is the second best time to seed, but could result in crabgrass and excessive weeds.

Seed Selection

Most retailers offer grass seed that is clearly marked as “sunny” or “shady” mixes.  Shady mixes have mostly fescue and rye grass which are better for low light areas.  For a sunny mix, look for one with at least 70% Kentucky Bluegrass.

Site Preparation

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In order to grow grass from seed, the grass seed needs to be touching bare, loose dirt.  Most seeding fails because the seed is not in contact with the soil.  This may require raking with a firm rake and/or spreading some fresh topsoil.

Mulch

If using straw, spread one to two bales of straw per 1000 square feet.  Spread it so that 1/3 to 1/2 of the soil is visible.  If seeding in the fall, the straw should be left on over the winter.  If you do not use straw or mulch, rake in the seed lightly: the teeth of your rake should just lightly touch the soil.  Too much pressure will cover the seeds too deep.  Cover the seed so that 10 percent of them are still visible.

 

Watering

SprinklerSprinkle frequently enough to keep the soil moist, but also avoid puddling.  This will require watering several times a day for the first couple of weeks.

Mowing

Mow as soon as the grass blades exceed 3 inches in height.  Keep traffic off the new lawn until the new turf has filled in enough that you cannot see the soil.  Expect some weeds to come up along with your new grass.

Fertilizer and Weed Control

Let us know about any seeding in your lawn and we will make the necessary adjustments to your program for optimal growth.