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[P]
The other side of greener grass

By e4 in Culture
Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 02:00:05 AM EST
Tags: Focus On... (all tags)
Focus On...

I don't know about other countries, but many US homeowners are really obsessed with their lawns. I guess growing grass around your house is better than pouring concrete. Of course, considering the amount of water, pesticides and chemicals poured on lawns annually, maybe there's a down side... unless you go organic.

Sometimes growing things organically can be more difficult and more expensive, but in the case of your yard, just the opposite is true: For the most part, it's both easier and cheaper.

You may think reading about lawn care is about as interesting as watching grass grow, but come with me on a short (barefoot) stroll through the geeky side of organic turf maintenance....


Most people take one of three approaches when it comes to their yard. Approach #1 is to pay a lawn care service to spray (or spread) a variety of fertilizers, pre- and post-emergent weed killers, grub control and other chemicals on your grass, up to six times per year. Approach #2 is to buy your own fertilizers and lawn treatments and spread them yourself. Approach #3 is to just mow your grass and/or weeds, and not really worry about it.

There is a fourth choice: Organic lawn care. Don't let the word "organic" scare you away. If you're currently using approach #1, organic should save you money. If you're using approach #2, organic should save you time, and possibly money too. If you're using approach #3, this might be slightly more work, but it'll improve your lawn and reduce your weed population.

So how do you do it? Any of the following adjustments to your routine should improve your lawn. The more of these methods you adopt, the more success you'll have.

Set mower to cut your grass high (3 inches is good).

  • Taller grass creates more shade for roots, less sun for weeds.
  • High mowing keeps more of the blade intact. You don't want to remove more than 1/3 of the blade when cutting.
  • Grass cut short will expend all its energy into producing more blade so it can photosynthesize enough to keep it going. Grass cut long will put its energy into creating more roots (including the extra energy it gets from having more leaf surface to photosynthesize with).
  • Cutting your grass short won't necessarily mean more time between cutting. Grass cut short will often grow faster because it doesn't have enough leaf surface to meet its needs.

Go easy on the fertilizer.

  • You really don't want new growth in the middle of summer. For one thing, lots of new growth during heat stress or drought conditions will do more harm than good. For another thing, who wants to cut the grass in the sweltering heat? And if it's hot enough for your grass to go dormant, then applying fertilizer is only going to benefit the weeds.
  • One application of fertilizer in spring and another in fall should be plenty for most lawns. According to one source, "the average lawn uses 10 times the amount of chemicals per year than an acre of farmland." That seems excessive for something that is mostly cosmetic.
  • When looking at fertilizer, higher values for N-P-K are not always better, just as taking three vitamin tablets at a time isn't necessarily better than one.
  • Slow-release nitrogen fertilizers (such as cottonseed meal or blood meal) will feed your grass over a longer period, instead of giving it a big jolt of nutrients all at once.

Don't bag your grass. Use a mulching mower.

  • Leaving your clippings on the lawn is a great way to improve your soil over time. It will add organic matter and nutrients back into your soil, and provide a little extra shade. This will help the soil maintain a more even temperature, retain moisture, and make it harder for weeds to grow.
  • Dull lawnmower blades are hard on your grass, so keep those blades sharpened. It doesn't cost much to have your blades sharpened once every year or two.
  • If you want to bag your grass when company's coming over, or if you need some extra material for a compost pile, bagging isn't harmful. You just don't get the benefits of leaving the clippings on.

Or better yet, consider a reel (push) mower.

  • Reel mowers make a cleaner cut. Instead of tearing the tops of the blades, it's more akin to cutting them with scissors.
  • Reel mowers require no gasoline, no oil, no spark plugs, very little maintenance, and no struggling with a temperamental motor on a cool day. Just shake any loose grass off, spray the blades with WD-40 (or similar) after each use, and get the blades sharpened every year or two.
  • Modern reel mowers are wider, lighter and easier to push than older models. It still might require a little more push than a self-propelled gas mower, but not by a lot (especially if you've got it set to cut high).
  • Reel mowers are very quiet, so if you want to cut your grass at 8:00 am or 9:00 pm when it's cooler, you won't be annoying your neighbors.
  • Reel mowers do have a couple strikes against them: They're still not as wide as most gas mowers, so you'll have to make more passes. Some don't do well on uneven ground. And they don't do well if you let your grass get too long. But hey, if you're walking more, pushing slightly harder, and cutting regularly, you and your grass will both be healthier. Maybe you can even cancel that expensive health club membership.

If you water, water intelligently.

  • Many grasses go dormant during drought or heat stress conditions. This doesn't mean your grass is dead. As with fertilizing, watering your lawn when it is very hot means (a) you have to mow more, and (b) you're creating tender new growth that can may be more affected by heat stress.
  • Less frequent watering will cause your lawn's roots to grow deeper. This will help keep your grass going during dry periods, while the weeds are drying up and dying.
  • When you do water, water deeply (the equivalent of one inch of rain). If the water is running off, stop, let it soak in, and water more later. Shallow watering encourages shallow roots, which dry out quicker, or thatch (a layer of above-ground runners).
  • Water early in the morning. Watering later in the day can (a) promote fungus if the water doesn't soak in or evaporate before dark, or (b) cause water droplets to act as little magnifying glasses when the sun's rays are at their peak intensity. In addition, the water is more likely to be absorbed by the grass if you water when the air temperature is increasing. As the temperature rises, a plant will begin to transpire water through its leaves. When transpiration occurs, water is drawn upward through the plant. This in turn, pulls water from the soil into the plant's roots.

Eliminate, or cut back on, grub killer, pesticides, and weed killer.

  • Spreading weed killer over your entire lawn to kill a half dozen weeds is, well, overkill.
  • Even "safe" chemicals may not be all that safe. According to once source, "2-4D is considered the safest herbicide. A quantity of 2-4D that would be about the same as a roll of life savers rubbed on the skin of four kindergarten children would kill two of them. This is not getting it in their mouth, but just rubbed on their skin."
  • In addition to killing unwanted pests, you'll be killing, harming, or chasing away lots of beneficial critters as well. Earthworms, lacewings, ladybugs, praying mantids, and micro-organisms like beneficial nematodes can all be harmed by overuse of poisons and pesticides.
  • Birds may also be affected by consuming the pesticides, either from eating the bugs, worms, etc. or from drinking runoff water. They may also be affected by direct contact with treated grass or foliage. One estimate states that "over 60 million birds die as a result of exposure to chemical pesticides and fertilizers".
  • Instead of spreading several pounds of weed killer, just bend down and pull weeds out by the roots as you mow and toss them in front of the mower to be chopped into mulch. For really persistent weeds, spot spray them with weed killer. If you're keeping your grass healthier, your weed population should stay down anyway.

Get yourself some nematodes.

  • Instead of chemical grub control, add some beneficial nematodes to your soil. Nematodes are microscopic worms that infect and kill many garden pests. They are readily available from many sources.
  • Pests controlled by beneficial nematodes include: Japanese beetles, June bugs, weevils, midge flies, rootworms, cutworms, billbugs, craneflies and fleas. They are typically affected in the larval stage. Few beneficial insects and organisms are affected by these nematodes.
  • One nematode treatment is fairly inexpensive (less than $40) and can last several years.
  • Nematodes can be applied either in dry or liquid form. Apply in spring or fall.
  • Not all nematodes are beneficial. Some are actually harmful. I don't imagine you're going to go out and buy the harmful ones though...

Aerate your soil occasionally.

  • Aeration will help your soil be less compacted, which benefits your lawn's roots as well as the beneficial micro-organisms that keep your lawn healthy. This is needed no more than once per year.
  • Core aeration is preferred because it actually removes small cylindars of soil and deposits them on top of the lawn to break down. Other types of aeration create air pockets by compacting the soil even further in some places.
  • If you core aerate, leave the plugs of soil on your lawn. You might think they look strange, but they'll break down in a week or so, and you'll be keeping those nutrients in your lawn. Besides, if you're mowing high, they won't be that noticable anyway.
  • Core aeration will be less effective during drought conditions, so if you've had a dry summer, you might want to wait until after it rains a little before aerating.

Overseed occasionally.

  • Spreading seed on top of your lawn in the fall will help make your grass thicker, thus crowding out more weeds.
  • Overseeding with a mix of grass seed (for example, northern US lawns might use a mixture of fescue, bluegrass, and rye) can create a more biologically diverse turf, which makes it less susceptible to problems. If conditions arise that are tough on your bluegrass, and all you have is bluegrass, all your grass is at risk. If you have a mixture, one variety may thrive while another is suffering.

Topdress occasionally.

  • Topdressing your lawn involves adding a light layer of extra soil or organic matter (like compost) to your lawn. The better your soil, the healthier your grass. The healthier your grass, the less room for weeds.
  • Topdressing allows you to gradually improve your soil without the effort and expense of starting from scratch.

Learn a little about your weeds.

  • Some people love the look of dandelions and let them grow freely in their yard. Then there are those people don't want to see a single weed anywhere on their property. Anything that's not grass must die. But before you rip out that attractive, lush little patch of clover, consider this: clover (white and pink in particular) can actually take nitrogen out of the air and put it into your soil. Grass loves nitrogen. Just something to think about.
  • If your lawn is over-run by dandelions, try lowering the pH of your soil with garden sulfur (or similar). Dandelions like a higher pH level than grass. You might consider having the pH of your soil tested. Most states have County Extension Offices or university-sponsored office that will test your soil for free.

A few other assorted notes...

  • If you're going to convert from a chemical lawn treatment program to an organic treatment program, your lawn may have problems in the short term. All those beneficial organisms may be absent, and your lawn will have been living on a steady diet of supplements. It's hard to get the natural machinery for a more self-sustaining lawn up and running instantly. Your lawn is, in a sense, "addicted" to chemical supplements because that's its only source of nutrients. There may be a period of "withdrawal" before you see the results of your organic lawn care efforts.
  • If having the absolute greenest lawn on the block is a priority, you probably won't be able to accomplish this organically. But you can have a healthy lawn that won't drain hundreds of dollars in fertilizers, chemicals, pesticides and unnecessary watering from your wallet every year. If your self-esteem is really that closely tied to how green your lawn is, try going organic, and using the money you save for a little professional counseling...
  • Here is an entertaining (if a bit over-simplified) perspective on lawn care.

References:
Organic Lawn Care for the Cheap and Lazy
Organic Lawn Care Guide
Organic Lawn Care Tips
Audubon Workshop

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The other side of greener grass | 89 comments (78 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
Refreshing (4.14 / 7) (#3)
by onyxruby on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 09:57:28 PM EST

Refreshing take on things here. I'm used to various special interest groups trying to tell me what I should do and how to live my life. However you have actually provided fact based information and logic based arguements (vs feelgood arguements) on why this is a good idea. You have also niceley explained how to do so on a practical basis. Well written, nicely formatted +1 FP.

I wish more environmental concerns along these lines were written with this style. I'm pretty environmentally supportive, but the radical's tend to ruin the cause (I think greenpeace is one of the worst things to ever happen to environmentalism).

The moon is covered with the results of astronomical odds.

Cool. (3.00 / 3) (#5)
by e4 on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 10:07:12 PM EST

Since I wasn't necessarily coming at this topic from a 'good cause' standpoint, I guess that must have come through. I happened upon an article, and it caught my interest. So I did a little more research and found a lot of fascinating stuff... about *grass* of all things. Anyway thanks...

[ Parent ]
reasons for what I wanted to do! (3.33 / 3) (#6)
by janra on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 10:07:47 PM EST

Kind of funny, actually, but a couple of those things are what I wanted to do, when I actually had to take care of a lawn. I just didn't know the reasons for it from an organic point of view.

Specifically, I wanted to mow the grass high because long grass is softer and feels nice on the feet, and I wanted to add clover seed and maybe a couple of other plants, because clover is pretty and also soft on bare feet, and some of the other plants I was thinking of also either look or smell nice (like chamomile, mentioned in the "cheap and lazy" link).

Looks like I was on the right track :-)


--
Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
Topdressing (3.00 / 4) (#12)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 10:36:35 PM EST

Topdress occasionally

Oh, I couldn't. I'm so self-conscious of how I look, let alone if I'm dressed like a woman.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.

Wonderful! (3.20 / 5) (#13)
by Matt Oneiros on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 10:42:16 PM EST

this article is pleasantly bizarre, not in topic or writing but rather as a quite nice contrast to all the other stuff around as of late. It gets my +1FP

Interestingly enough, my school provides a turf management course as a double period (double length...) I was in it for a time but had to drop it to fulfill my duties as photography editor for the newspaper.

Lobstery is not real
signed the cow
when stating that life is merely an illusion
and that what you love is all that's real

Awesome article (4.25 / 4) (#15)
by DesiredUsername on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 11:13:46 PM EST

This is what K5 is all about, baby.

Back on topic: I inherited a lawn. I haven't put any chemicals on it. Some areas look great and are fine. Some areas are overrun with "creeping charlie" (sounds racist, but that's the name, sooo). In case you've never seen it, creeping charlie is pretty ugly, especially in the fall and spring.

I dug up a 10'x10' area of this and then covered it with plastic. This killed everything under it. Then I replanted grass seed. It worked. In another area I put the plastic down without digging, that worked too (and in some ways even better).

But there's no way I can cover the entire yard with plastic (and the charlie is creeping back into the replanted areas which puts the kibosh on me doing it in stages). Online organic resources say that boiling water will kill it, but that's even less practical. What to do? Use a broadleaf killer one time and then organic from then on? Some kind of very slow battle of "wits" with charlie so that it is gone after 20 years of work?

Play 囲碁

random idea to help (none / 0) (#77)
by unstable on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 09:10:23 PM EST

is it possible to put a "stripe" of plastic across the area with the Creaping Charlie?

if so you can put 2 stipes down...  uncover the "outside" strip when its dead and move in towards the weed... therefore keeping a dead area inbetween the healthy grass and the weed to prevent from spreading.  it may take some time but it may be a way to eliminate the weed

i dont know anything about this Creeping Charlie so i dont know how the seeds spread...  if its not airbourne seeds (from the name creaping i wouldnt think so)  than this might work.



Reverend Unstable
all praise the almighty Bob
and be filled with slack

[ Parent ]

It's a vine-y thing (none / 0) (#78)
by DesiredUsername on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 11:07:24 PM EST

That's a good idea you have there. Fire breaking. I'll have to re-check just how much area it covers and see how long my strips would have to be, though. Or I could put strips down in a big checkerboard and leave them there while I work on a square at a time. Hmmmm

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Ironically +FP (2.80 / 5) (#16)
by On Lawn on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 11:19:57 PM EST


My lawn right now is dead (we wanted to kill the bermuda and go with Ficus).  This is what I think K5 is about, good articles about random things.

I've long since considered the sub-urban lawn the symbol of USian life, much like the log-cabin was for 1800's USA.

Besides, to me the holy grail of intellectual quoting is Erma Bombeck.  And although you don't quote her, this reminded me of her book "The Grass Grows Greener Over the Septic Tank".

Oh, and thanks for the tips too...

Don't forget soil prep (none / 0) (#43)
by wiredog on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 08:36:02 AM EST

Work some organic matter into the top 6 inches of soil. If you live in an area with lots of clay, work some sand into it as well. It will do wonders for the lawn.

Earth first! We can mine the rest later.
[ Parent ]
Not to much to worry about there (none / 0) (#63)
by On Lawn on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 03:17:45 PM EST


The main soil prep I need to do is removing some non-organic green plastic mesh that came with the sod they put down.  Most likely I'm just going to plant seeds and work from there.

[ Parent ]
Another possibility: (3.42 / 7) (#18)
by fluffy grue on Thu Sep 12, 2002 at 11:33:35 PM EST

Realize that lawns are overrated, pretty much out-of-place in most climates, and really aren't that good-looking, and replace it with some nice native landscape.

Lately I've been working on killing the (bermuda grass) lawn in my front yard so that I can xeriscape. Unfortunately, my long-term plans don't make the city happy, as they prefer short-term niceness. Also, right now it's raining just enough that the grass keeps growing back, even if I peg it with herbicide, and it's too hot out to do a proper job of just ripping it out.

My back yard, on the other hand, is extremely "organic." It's full of bermuda grass, which gets watered from the drip irrigation for the trees (which is, in turn, fed by the runoff from my swamp cooler, so no water is being wasted specifically on it), and I don't trim it or anything. I rather like it, and so does my cat. :)
--
"Is a sentence fragment" is a sentence fragment.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

Commie City-Slicker? (3.50 / 4) (#19)
by Steve Ballmer on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 12:05:04 AM EST

I just can't trust a man who doesn't see the value of a nice, green lawn.

[ Parent ]
Realizing you're joking, but... (none / 0) (#56)
by drivers on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 11:12:27 AM EST

A lawn's just not practical when your climate looks like this. ("Swamp cooler" = "dry climate")

[ Parent ]
Yes. (3.00 / 2) (#20)
by j1mmy on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 12:15:41 AM EST

Realize that lawns are overrated, pretty much out-of-place in most climates, and really aren't that good-looking, and replace it with some nice native landscape.

I made spending cash by mowing lawns all through high school. I never want to mow a lawn again. The money was good, though. Heck, if I did it full time I'd actually be making more than I am now.


[ Parent ]

<AOL>ME Too</AOL> (none / 0) (#42)
by wiredog on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 08:33:50 AM EST

In 1981 I made $200/week, for about 10 hours work, with no taxes (it was all cash).

Earth first! We can mine the rest later.
[ Parent ]
Finanical freedom today!! xvfkdlf (none / 0) (#87)
by MrSnrub on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 05:13:57 AM EST

And you did it all from YOU'RE OWN HOME, while adding 3 INCHES TO YOUR PENIS/BUSTLINE and repairing your pathetic CREDIT RATING at absolutely NO COST TO YOU!

[ Parent ]
Xeriscape and golf courses (5.00 / 5) (#25)
by claudius on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 02:13:16 AM EST

I wish more would xeriscape, especially in the U.S. West and Southwest.  Row after row of cookie-cutter houses in Denver, e.g., with their overwatered, green green lawns in high country desert is mad silly.  The Denver water table is dropping on the order of 10 times faster than Albuquerque's, despite the area receiving significantly more water from precipitation.  Everyone in the Denver area recognizes the problem.  The proposed solution?  Conservation?  Give up the lawns in favor of responsible water stewardship?  Not a chance--instead, spend billions of tax dollars on pumping water over from the other side of the Continental Divide, a stopgap measure that will be obsolete and unable to keep pace with demand before construction is even finished.  

Oil is the resource getting the most news coverage now, but "Tragedy of the Commons" water rights battles will almost certainly be big in the relatively near future.  Aquifers beneath essentially every large municipality in the Western U.S. are being depleted alarminly fast.  It is only a matter of time before the indiscriminate dumping of potable water onto lawns becomes untenable, both morally and fiscally.  And don't get me started on golf courses in arid regions...they are nothing more than what should be a criminal waste of resources.  Case in point: a 36-hole golf course just went up on a reservation just north of Santa Fe; its two million gallons a day of potable (i.e., not "grey water") water usage surpasses the entire city's municipal consumption.  Santa Fe itself has water rationing for its citizens, and what looks to be an endemic shortage of water even in non-drought conditions.

[ Parent ]

argh! (none / 0) (#39)
by fluxrad on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 08:00:28 AM EST

Colodado is not a desert. We're just high plains! Although a portion of western Colorado is in the Great Basin. However Denver, being on the eastern slope, is definitely not a desert city.

that being said. if you want to see some cool pictures, check these out. They're from Cheesman, Lake Dillon, and Antero.

--
"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
Denver (none / 0) (#61)
by claudius on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 02:46:11 PM EST

Fair enough.  During a normal year  Denver receives just under 40 cm of rain, so technically Denver is not a desert (< 25 cm of rain per year).  But during drought years, and we've had a number of them recently, it would probably be fair to characterize Denver as a "high plains desert."  Perhaps the desertification of some of the high steppes is something we will have to live with as a consequence of global climate change?

[ Parent ]
heheh (none / 0) (#80)
by fluxrad on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 03:04:40 AM EST

the past two days certainly changed our outlook.

i prefer to think of us as more of a high plains lake now.

That being said, we've seen this cycle over and over during the past 100 years. We'll have a few years of enormous amounts of precipitation. And then we'll go into a gut-busting drout for a few. I'm willing to bet we'll be right back to what people seem to remember as "normal" in a few years.

Our overall weather pattern is just like our slogan: "Welcome to Colorado, If you don't like the weather...wait five minutes."

--
"It is seldom liberty of any kind that is lost all at once."
-David Hume
[ Parent ]
Denver (none / 0) (#50)
by dcheesi on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 10:40:14 AM EST

Eastern Denver is sooo ugly! The whole area looks like one big construction site; nothing but flat brown earth with the occasional building popping up out of nowhere. No wonder people want to have a nice green lawn, just to break up the monotony. (Western Denver is another story, of course.)

[ Parent ]
swamp cooler ? (none / 0) (#71)
by fhotg on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 06:05:46 PM EST

How comes there is runoff from a swamp cooler ? I thought these things work by evaporation.

[ Parent ]
That is correct: (none / 0) (#73)
by fluffy grue on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 06:29:42 PM EST

They operate based on evaporation. Which means that the concentration of minerals gets higher (remember, tap water is hardly pure). In order to slow down the rate of mineral deposits on the pad, only about half of the water evaporates, and the other half is used to carry away the minerals in the water. It's rather inefficient in terms of overall water usage, but it's a lot cheaper than having to replace the pad every month (the pads cost around $80).

There are devices to make swamp coolers more water-efficient; what they do is they sit between the pump and the runoff and (apparently) monitor the mineral levels. Only when the concentration hits a certain point will it start to dump the water. These devices cost something like $60, and I'll probably get one next summer. I have a sneaking suspicion that the overall water usage won't be much lower, though, since the water around here is pretty mineral-rich.
--
"Is a sentence fragment" is a sentence fragment.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

aha. (none / 0) (#75)
by fhotg on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 07:19:23 PM EST

thanks. Lets just hope that you don't get salination problem in the garden ;) I can imagine that a smart device that monitors runoff and temperature in addition to mineral concentration could save quite some water.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]
Salination (none / 0) (#76)
by fluffy grue on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 07:41:15 PM EST

So far it hasn't been a problem. At least, my trees and back lawn are both doing just fine. :) Well, except for a couple of the perimeter trees, but those were already dying when I moved in (they weren't getting enough water, since there's no sprinkler system or anything in the back).

I think that the runoff water is dilute enough that it's not substantially more mineral-rich than it is before it goes into the swamp cooler.

Honestly I don't know how the "automatic cleaning" devices decide when to flush the pan; it very well could be based strictly on time and temperature. Supposedly they always run overnight. The boxes aren't too descriptive of how they work, though. :) I just know that they're advertised as reducing water consumption and increasing pad life, which indicates to me that they still don't let the mineral level get that high, since even with the normal level of runoff that the swamp cooler produces (I think about half of the pump's output goes to runoff) the pad and pan still get a lot of mineral buildup. I got the swamp cooler's current pad in May of this year and it's already pretty crusty.
--
"Is a sentence fragment" is a sentence fragment.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

CaCO3 (none / 0) (#81)
by fhotg on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 01:17:17 PM EST

Hard water big problem. My parents have similar conditions and use an ion-exchanger to soften the water for the whole house. This needs additional water, electricity and salt pellets.

A trick from indoor water-gimmick installations to reduce coating is to place some limestone pebbles in the water container. The precipitate supposedly then preferably attaches itself to the pebbles instead to the surface to be protected. Reducing the tendency to form calciumcarbonate could be achieved by adding CO2 to the water or an acid (vinegar). This is all grey theory, I've never seen a swamp-cooler in my life.

[ Parent ]

Yeah (none / 0) (#83)
by fluffy grue on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 03:07:05 PM EST

The problem with using sacrificial limestone is that a swamp cooler goes through a LOT of water, and it's not just recirculating the same water over and over (like in a fountain). Even if the limestone-treated water were to be recirculated, it'd still get a lot of new water because of evaporation (the whole point to a swamp cooler, of course). Same goes for other treatments, such as vinegar and so on.

So far there doesn't seem to be a problem with mineral buildup in my drip irrigation lines, though, so I'm not worried.
--
"Is a sentence fragment" is a sentence fragment.
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

We have a well (3.25 / 4) (#22)
by The Amazing Idiot on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 01:33:35 AM EST

We have a well at our house, and we dont like drinking lawn chemicals. We mowm, and we landscape (benches, mulch, dirt...).

We aren't some of those losers that think chemicals are "of the devil". We prefer to have no grass chemicals in our water supply.

Get an electric lawnmower if possible (4.00 / 4) (#23)
by jlinwood on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 01:43:33 AM EST

An electric lawnmower has many benefits. No more worries about running out of gas, letting the lawnmower cool off before adding more gas, no nasty gas smell, no worries about starting it with the pull-string-of-pain(tm). Just push down on the handle bar and it goes. It's also quieter than a gas-powered lawnmower, so your ears don't hurt.

Electrics are less powerful than gas lawnmowers, so they don't do very well right after it rains and the gas is wet. You also have to leave the cordless ones on charge.

Also, generally speaking, electric is better for the air that you breathe. Of course, when you're standing behind your gas powered one, you're breathing in the exhaust. But on a larger level, gas-powered lawn equipment and other small gasoline engines may contribute up to 10 percent of urban air pollution - which drives up your costs when you buy a new car because of required emissions equipment. Here is a link that tells more: http://www.anr.state.vt.us/reflect/may2801.htm

That's not a link! (5.00 / 2) (#44)
by upsilon on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 09:20:07 AM EST

That's just plaintext! This is a link!
--
Once, I was the King of Spain.
[ Parent ]
Trees (3.25 / 4) (#24)
by tzigane on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 01:59:45 AM EST

My spouse claims to be allergic to lawn mowers so he planted a forest in our front yard. No lawn is nice.

.
Knit on with confidence and hope through all crises. E. Zimmermann

It's called (1.00 / 10) (#26)
by medham on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 02:15:04 AM EST

A "soft drink," and I'd like to remind you that chinch bugs are adaptively radiant to certain forms of DDT, no matter what Tony happens to believe.

There was a Pleistocene shark that had a sponge-like organ on its dorsal side.

The book Nexus, Lexus contains a number of interesting ideas about social networks.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.

Offtopic: documentary on lawns (3.33 / 3) (#27)
by IvyMike on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 02:39:17 AM EST

A few years ago (maybe 5?) I saw a PBS(?) documentary on lawns. While this sounds like a recipe for the most boring show ever, it was actually quite fascinating. The guy I remember the most was the croquet player whos lawn was perfectly manicured into an almost perfectly flat croquet surface. It was planar to 1/16th of an inch; the guy's sole purpose in life was to get it down to 1/32nd of an inch, which he though would probably take him years.

In any case: Has anybody out there seen this? I don't think I would dream something like this up. If you have seen it, and remember the name (or any of the other people on the show) please post; I would like to watch it again, but my searches have been fruitless.



Tired of Lawn Articles? (1.57 / 7) (#28)
by kholmes on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 02:52:56 AM EST

Then I should remind everyone that Bush has made his address to the UN today. Iraq representatives seemingly disagreed. :-)

For a more ontopic comment, you forgot Approach #4 which is used often here in Arizona. We decorate our landscapes with variously colored rocks.

If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.

my job is in the irrigation industry (3.00 / 3) (#29)
by techwolf on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 03:22:23 AM EST

specificly for home lawn care and for golf courses. and I will say that a lawn that is put in well the first time, should NOT have any weed problems, this includes shit like crab grass ect...
if you do it right when you put it in your efort in keeping looking nice shouldn't be super high, nor should you need to put chems on your lawn "up to six times a year". a home lawn isn't hard, I just get to see how many people think "i'll just toss down some truff and let it go". then they wonder why the have weeds and yellow/dead spots. oh well it just keeps me employed


"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." - Thomas Jefferson

A couple alternate questions (3.66 / 3) (#30)
by carbon on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 03:30:06 AM EST

a) I'm the lazy sort, and b) I would rather have an interesting static garden then a dull live garden (since I'd never maintain it, see a). Given these circumstances, I'm prompted to wonder if it' possible to have a decent frontyard without _any_ maintainance, excluding the unavoidable stuff (shoveling snow, for instance). I.e. a decent looking rock garden that doesn't rely heavily on flatness to look good (thus requiring raking).

Failing that, is it possible to grow a live yard with only minimal maintainance? I've seen things like automated watering systems and robotic mowers, but does anybody have much experience with actually installing one and getting it to work?


Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
Snow? (none / 0) (#36)
by Richey on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 07:42:39 AM EST

Why would you want to shovel snow? It melts, doesn't it?

[ Parent ]
Yeah (none / 0) (#65)
by carbon on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 03:33:24 PM EST

But up until the time it melts (usually about 3 months after it initially falls) its blocking off any walkways and door-opening spaces that it covers.


Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
[ Parent ]
Time? (none / 0) (#86)
by MrSnrub on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 05:07:18 AM EST

It melts, but not at your convenience. When you have to work the next day, you drive a low-slung, elderly Volvo, and there is 2 feet of snow blanketing your driveway (and 4 feet on the edge as a gift from the municipal snowplow), you pretty much have to break out the shovel.

[ Parent ]
Planting rocks (4.00 / 1) (#41)
by wiredog on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 08:31:20 AM EST

Google for "xeriscaping". It's the use of native plants in the yard. This, and planting rocks, is mostly done in desert regions where water is more valuable.

However, be aware that grass, and especially trees, provide quite a bit of cooling. Through shade, transpiration, and absorbtion of sunlight. Rocks reflect more sunlight, and that which is absorbed is radiated at night. You save on water, but may spend more on AC.

Earth first! We can mine the rest later.
[ Parent ]

My Yards (3.00 / 2) (#31)
by r00t on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 04:15:59 AM EST

I keep my front yard looking nice otherwise the neighbours will bitch. They whole street is full of older people and all they do is garden.. However, in my backyard I let everything grow wild.. weeds, trees, grass, flowers, whatever pops up stays there. I like it like that because the front looks repsectible but in the back I can watch nature do its thing when left alone.

-It's not so much what you have to learn if you accept weird theories, it's what you have to unlearn. - Isaac Asimov

lawn/hair care philosophy (none / 0) (#84)
by delstar dotstar on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 07:00:35 PM EST

I like it like that because the front looks repsectible but in the back I can watch nature do its thing when left alone.

yup, this is precisely why i rock a mullet.



[ Parent ]
Why only grass ? (4.33 / 3) (#32)
by drquick on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 04:21:57 AM EST

Ok, I'm not a good expert on this, But why settle for a monoculture (one species of plant) when you could plant natural wild flowers and grass. You'd have a variety of plants that smell good and attract the butteflies. 8>)

Here is something about it.

link is broken (none / 0) (#33)
by r1chard on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 05:09:31 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Sorry! (5.00 / 2) (#45)
by drquick on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 09:32:28 AM EST

Here are some working links then (I hope):
Native Plant Bibliography (original link)
Converting a Traditional Yard to a Wildlife Habitat

Maybe also:
Native Plants
Plants for a Future

[ Parent ]

Yeah (none / 0) (#62)
by calimehtar on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 03:06:54 PM EST

Order native plants from the northwestern USA, Great Lakes region, Southern California... more are easy to find using google.

[ Parent ]
yay! (3.50 / 2) (#34)
by blisspix on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 05:14:48 AM EST

I like it. I don't have a lawn right now because I live in an apartment, but I do have a lovely new balcony garden.

It's spring here in Australia, so I've been planting and watering and all that on the balcony, not so sure if I'm doing everything right, but trying anyway. I've got vegetables and flowers and all kinds of things out there. It looks so much nicer than just having a bike gathering rust.

Gardens are wonderful. Stress reducing, inexpensive (usually!), and natural. Can't get better than that. And grass! beautiful grass! So many happy childhood memories of picking blades, giggling about it being called 'grass' when we learned what the other kind was, rolling down grassy hills on warm afternoons at school. aaah.

great post.

nematodes, link (UK) (4.00 / 1) (#35)
by codemonkey_uk on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 06:45:51 AM EST

The Green Gardener Web-site may look amateurish, but they are probably the number one source of organic & nature friendly garden supplies. I definitely recommend them.

Also, not mentioned in the article, nematodes are effective against slugs.
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell

This is cruel (none / 0) (#70)
by walwyn on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 05:34:01 PM EST

What evil person would release parasitic worms to seek out and kill these lovely creatures?
----
Professor Moriarty - Bugs, Sculpture, Tombs, and Stained Glass
[ Parent ]
The great art of lawn care (none / 0) (#37)
by IHCOYC on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 07:47:38 AM EST

. . . in these parts, anyways, seems to me to be how to get the best cut in late June or early July to make sure that there are no green or growing spots during the long summer drought. Make sure it's fixed until fall, in other words.

GraySkull is home to the anima, the all-knowing woman who gives power to the otherwise ineffectual man. -- Jeff Coleman

Wasteland (3.00 / 2) (#38)
by threed on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 07:48:02 AM EST

My lawn is an atrocity. Either side of the drive has a rut where cars always go off the concrete. When they get stuck, they just dig deeper. The walk up to the door is a short flight of concrete steps surrounded by a dirt patch. There used to be a wierd shrub growing there, and I think when we pulled it up it cursed the ground we grew it in.

There's another bare spot in the gate to the back yard. This gate is the only break in a line of fences and houses that stands in the way of a really good shortcut to the pizza place and elementary school. Anything that is laid down there gets trampled to death before it can take root.

Also in the back yard, the angle between our segment of that fence and the house used to be without grass. There was a sandbox there for some time and the bare spot it left wouldn't grow grass. It grew weeds in abundance - at one point that area resembled a rainforest in the height and diversity of its canopy.

There's a trampoline back there too, but it doesn't do a very good job of killing grass or helping weeds. No one jumps on it, it just provides shade for the cats. There's a large bare patch next to the trampoline, left over from when we had two smokers living in a non-smoking house - they were made to smoke outside in the winter and they trod that patch into mud and beyond.

10 years ago, we had a pool, enclosed in a fence that no one's bothered to tear down. No one bothered to do anything about the sand-pit under the pool lining either. Nothing civilized grows in the area, but the surrounding grass actually looks nice. I attribute that to lack of foot traffic.

The only thing anyone ever did right on this property: when they levelled the terrain for the pool, they pushed the excess earth over the crest of the hill the house sits on. A couple of railroad ties were laid and spiked in place to prevent a landslide. The sod actually "took". No one walks or sleds on it.

The owner of the house has many times expressed a desire to pour concrete over the whole thing and be done with it. I suggested roto-tilling the whole thing, making sure everything was dead, and starting over, but there's probably too many large rocks in the ground. The construction of these neighborhoods is swift and brutal - tear up everything that grows, build a house, level it up nice, and lay down sod to cover the huge pieces of concrete-n-rebar they didn't want to dispose of properly. There's no real soil, just clay, so if the sod doesn't take you don't have any topsoil to work with. New sod doesn't take, it gets trampled. Maintaining it feels like cleaning up after a strip-mining operation.

Al Bundy: What am I going to do about my hair?
Marcy Rhodes: Maybe you should treat it like your lawn - park your car on it and let it die.

--Threed - Looking out for Numero Uno since 1976!

Driveway (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by dcheesi on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 10:19:37 AM EST

My lawn is an atrocity. Either side of the drive has a rut where cars always go off the concrete. When they get stuck, they just dig deeper.
Umm, maybe you should consider widening your driveway? Seriously, if you've got bare ground on either side, and you can't keep from driving over it, then you might as well pave it.

BTW, that shrub really could have "cursed" your soil. Some trees and shrubs produce toxins that kill any other plants nearby. You probably ought to figure what type of shrub it was, so you'll know what it may have done to your soil.

[ Parent ]

Solution (none / 0) (#51)
by Kintanon on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 10:41:55 AM EST

Step 1, buy 2 tons of fishtank rocks (tiny round, smooth rocks)

Step 2, cut the grass very very very short everywhere you can.

Step 3, Move everything out of the area.

Step 4, Cover the WHOLE PLACE with the rocks, about 2 inches deep preferably, if you have a big yard you might need a couple more tons....

Tada! Rock garden! Now plant a couple of cherry trees (or dogwood trees) or some other low maintenance aesthetically pleasing plants. And your lawn care worries are over.

Kintanon

[ Parent ]

uhhhh, is this about growing weed? (1.50 / 6) (#40)
by FuriousXGeorge on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 08:26:32 AM EST

nt.

--
-- FIELDISM NOW!

Lawn for kids (4.00 / 2) (#46)
by radghast on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 09:40:28 AM EST

Went the chemical way the first two years that we owned our house, but gave it up after having kids. Since then, I've seeded with white dutch clover to provide an automatic source of nitrogen, mow tall with a mulching mower, pull out dandelions with a Weed Hound once a year, and occasionally hit really bad areas with an organic treatment from Garden's Alive. The kids can lay on the grass, search for four-leaf clovers, and otherwise enjoy the yard. Can't beat it.

"It remains to be seen if the human brain is powerful enough to solve the problems it has created." -- Dr. Richard Wallace
white dutch clover (none / 0) (#89)
by markb1 on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 04:56:00 PM EST

Hi. I read your comment with great interest. I am on the ecology committee of my employer, and we are testing a few ecological lawn mixtures. I grew a mixed clover grass lawn for years, and it was fine. But I have yet to know someone with an all-clover lawn. Is your lawn mixed grass and clover, or is it just clover? If it is just clover, I would be very interested to hear how it has gone. For example, has there been any droughts where you live? If so, how did the clover fare then? Any problems with disease? How long have you had the lawn? Does it look okay?

[ Parent ]
"Safe" pesticides.. (none / 0) (#47)
by zipper on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 10:11:50 AM EST

Your comment on the safety of 2-4D as a "safe" pesticide struck me as odd. I've never heard it described as a "safe" pesticide, although I suppose it is, relative to things like carbofuran (LD50 8mg/kg), oxamyl(6mg/kg), disulfoton (2.6mg/kg), and aldicarb (0.93mg/kg). I mean, compared to those ones, 2-4D (375mg/kg) looks like water.

Your statement would have been a bit more fair, or at least complete if you'd mentioned compounds that were relatively non-toxic. For reference, the LD50 of salt is usually listed as ~3300mg/kg. With little effort on google (search for pesticide LD50) I found this and this, listing several pesticides with a higher LD50 than generic table salt.

malathion (5500 oral, >2000 dermal)
methoxychlor (6000m oral)
temephos (4204 oral)
methroprene (>34600 oral)
benomyl (5000 oral)
captan (5000 oral)

... And a dozen or so others.

---
This account has been neutered by rusty and can no longer rate or post comments. Way to go fearless leader!
Pesticides (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by walwyn on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 10:52:27 AM EST

The problem with pesticides is that the minute you find a good one - some do-gooder bans it.

Nearly every year you have to go through the best part of the growing season, and your wallet, watching some pest eat its way through half your vegetable patch, the petals fall from your favourite dahlias, and the leaves of your roses become smothered in mildew, before you finally find a poison that works.

My recommendation is: buy up as much of this years best poison as you can and stockpile it for the coming years.
----
Professor Moriarty - Bugs, Sculpture, Tombs, and Stained Glass
[ Parent ]

Pesticides (5.00 / 1) (#58)
by achtanelion on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 01:02:13 PM EST

There are alternatives to chemical poisons.  My personal favourite is diatomaceous earth.  It is the fossilized remains of microscopic sea life.  It is covered with lovely little sharp edges that basically tear the bugs to shreds.  The only worry with is is inhalation.  It'll do the same thing to your tender lungs that it does to the bugs.  Wear a mask while applying it, and you're good though.


[ Parent ]
Rock Garden Style! (4.00 / 3) (#48)
by Kintanon on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 10:13:30 AM EST

I hate lawn care. I hate it SOOO MUCH. I do like rocks though. So my solution to Lawn Care is to get a couple of tons of fishtank type rocks (You know, the smooth, round pebbles) and turn the yard into a giant rock garden. Plan some small trees, maybe a couple of other small, hardy plants that require little or no maintenance. And then just rake the rock garden on the weekend and make nice swirly designs in it.

Kintanon

gravel (none / 0) (#88)
by blisspix on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 05:16:56 AM EST

my front garden as a kid was gravelled. big, orange gravel stones. not too good to play traditional lawn games, but great for wheelies on my bike!

[ Parent ]
One point you forgot.. (4.50 / 2) (#52)
by tweek on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 10:48:35 AM EST

USE NATIVE GRASS!

Take Georgia, for instance. We have a drought going on right now. People have all this invasive and non native plantlife for lawns that isn't used to the heat and conditions.

If you would use something that is native to your area, you will have a better lawn than others and the drought won't bother you.
Some people call me crazy but I prefer to think of myself as freelance lunatic.

My lawn confirms your thesis ... (4.50 / 2) (#54)
by thomp on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 11:01:02 AM EST

I live in a neighborhood of lawn psychos. The amount of equipment used to manicure these lawns and the amount of chemicals dumped on the grass to make it green and weedless is astounding.

Now, I'm not saying I have the best lawn; but a lot of neighbors ask me what I put on my lawn to keep it so green. And then they freak when I tell them pretty much what you've stated in your article: Mow high, fertilize once in the Spring and once in the Fall, mulch with a sharp blade, water once a week in the early AM, and aerate once every couple years. During our midwestern US drought this summer, my neighbors' lawns (cut like golf course fairways) burned up in the midday sun while my lawn stayed green and cool. Guess where all the kids came to play? (And isn't that the whole point of having a nice lawn?)

reel mower (none / 0) (#55)
by arthurpsmith on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 11:04:42 AM EST

We have a Swedish-built self-sharpening reel mower that works great, is light, and keeps our lawn looking quite good! The only problem is, even at the highest setting, it's not 3 inches off the ground - maybe 1.5 inches at best. And as you say it's narrower than a regular mower so that means more passes. Any suggestions on a bigger model of reel mower that would still be light and self-sharpening?

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


reel mowers and the "meadow" yard (3.00 / 1) (#57)
by ethereal on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 12:08:31 PM EST

I got a reel mower a year ago when we moved into our first house (which was a year ago tomorrow, yay!), and actually impressed a couple of the neighbors enough that they're considering getting one. Out here in north-central Illinois I definitely have to mow more than once a week in the rainy seasons, though - May/June of this year and it looks like September/October might be the same. If the grass gets too long the mower just knocks it over, and this also happens if there's a depression in the yard that's too small to get the mower into. The only thing I miss about a power mower is that I don't get the suction that pulls the grass up and then cuts it off. The reel mower is apparently self-sharpening though (haven't had to do it yet); I would recommend that feature and this mower in general (a Great States model).

It's a pretty funky lawn - apparently the previous owners had some giant trees that killed off pretty much all of the lawn, and then ripped the trees out. So the lawn varies from crabgrass to bermuda/rye, to various spreading weed-like things. We have big patches of clover and wild strawberry, and other low flowering-type spreading things that I haven't identified yet. It's sort of a voyage of discovery mowing it every week. Some of the patches of grass are hardier than others and died off (sorry, "went dormant") over July/August when we didn't get any rain. I wanted to see how it would do without watering and found that most of it did OK.

Right now the yard's as bare as a billiard table; we're planning to put in some landscaping that will shade it a little more in the summer sun, and next spring I plan to start with a good fertilizing, aeration, and reseeding in some trouble spots. (I know, I could start in the fall, but have higher-priority things to fix up around the house.) Any ideas for encouraging the reseeded areas to "take" better?

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State

doomed plot of weedstalks (4.00 / 1) (#59)
by louferd on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 01:04:15 PM EST

What do you do if your lawn is seemingly beyond repair? My lawn has not been maintained or fertilized for the last few years, and has tree roots growing all through it. As a result, it's mostly weed stalks, dandelions, and moss. I've tried dropping fertilizer on it and overseeding, but nothing takes. Could I drop a couple more inches of topsoil on top of it and seed that? Or would the weeds just punch through and continue to dominate the lawn?

I wouldn't care, except that the rest of the street are retirees. Life for them is a contest to seewho can have the contractors over more often to turn their lawn into a golf course. So as a result I can't come or go without passing by one or two scowling elderly neighbors, shaking their fingers at me and asking me "When are you going to do something about that lawn?"

Who needs a lawn? ;) (4.00 / 1) (#66)
by Rahyl on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 03:39:00 PM EST

Maybe you should try a different approach to yard presentation.  Do those retirees have any idea how long it took mother nature to sculpt that combination of weeds, roots, and moss? ;)

Seriously though, I've seen yards like that turned into very nice rock/flower gardens.  Not sure how to go about doing it, but the results were very nice.  They used a combination of wood chip islands and stone cylinder plant column thingys (not sure what they're called) which gave the space a very nice, sculpted look.  Grass was only used for borders around different sections and was strategically grown in areas just wide enough for the mower to get through so only one pass was needed in any given spot.

I can't remember what they did to get the grass growing.  They may have poured concrete down and then put topsoil over that for all I know.  Overall, the whole 'golf-green' look was simply not there.

[ Parent ]

That's my yard (none / 0) (#67)
by farmgeek on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 03:41:46 PM EST

But my neighbors quit complaining when I told them that I wasn't going to do anything about the lawn, but if it bothered them, then they were welcome to come fix it.

So, they quit bothering me.

I let the weeds grow, and now have a very nice wildlower garden that planted itself there.

I go through it once a year in the fall with a weed eater, and let the cuttings and fall leaves lay.

I've actually got a few patches of grass growing through the moss now.

[ Parent ]

Naw we never let the cutting lay (none / 0) (#69)
by walwyn on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 04:47:53 PM EST

The wild flowers are survivors they prefer starvation and a tough life. Feed the ground and it just becomes a bed for pansies, the violets shrink from such pampering.
----
Professor Moriarty - Bugs, Sculpture, Tombs, and Stained Glass
[ Parent ]
You have few options (none / 0) (#68)
by walwyn on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 04:02:23 PM EST

The problem with perennial weeds like dandilion is that the roots go deep deep down, commonly 1.5 feet but can be a good 3-4ft. They will always grow back up. If you dig them up and leave a little bit of broken root behind it will grow, leave two bits and you have two plants etc.

One way of eradicating controlling the things is to smother the area with old carpets for at least a year, preferably two, then re-seed, or lay new turf. Alternatively remove the old turf, lay down a membrane and re-turf over that.

Then there is the feed and maintainence schedule, and hope it all comes out right.


----
Professor Moriarty - Bugs, Sculpture, Tombs, and Stained Glass
[ Parent ]

I like moss. (none / 0) (#85)
by Chani on Sun Sep 15, 2002 at 04:19:51 PM EST

It's green, it's soft, you don't need to mow it...
My mum tried to kill the moss when we moved in, at the suggestion of a neighbour, but since then she hasn't done anything about it, so it's slowly taking over the front lawn. 8-) We also have dandelions along the edge of the lawn, and pretty little blue flowers sometimes... Plus there are all sorts of flowers in flowerbeds on the other side of the driveway, and by the window, and all over the backyard... Mum once tried a wildflower mix in the middle of the backyard, but the dogs trashed it (one year it was just a huge mud puddle... :)
----- This insane ranting brought to you by eevil bananas. Blaa!
[ Parent ]
Thank You for Not Preaching (3.33 / 3) (#60)
by pgrote on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 02:05:43 PM EST

Wow. That was dynamite. I know you have an organic point of view, but you did what 99% of people trying to get a point across never do: sell the overall benefits.

You didn't focus on chemical=bad. You talked about time savings, a better lawn and more. Way to go!



Very informative (5.00 / 3) (#64)
by Rahyl on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 03:23:50 PM EST

I'm about to buy a home so I'm on the lookout for info like this.  Glad I looked here first, as this is some really good info.  Organic maintenance just makes sense to me as you're simply letting nature take it's course instead of attempting to isolate every little variable and treat it with chemicals.

I found it amusing that you went over the whole mulching thing.  It always confused me when people mowed and raked their yards, bagged all the material up, shipped it off to the landfill, and then went to the store to buy a bag of fertilizer.  What the hell is up with that? :)  Dead plant material, especially from the tree canopy, is one of the primary sources of soil nutrients that the same trees and plants will be pulling from the soil in the future.  It's a self-renewing system that works so why interrupt it?  Mulching is THE way to go.

Do you have any gardening and/or tree planting tips?  Something else that's confused me for a while is why more people don't plant nut and fruit trees in their yards.  Oaks, pines, etc, are nice, but I kinda like the idea of having "productive" trees near the home.  Pecans bought from the store are one thing.  Pecans you gathered and shelled at grandma's house for her homemade pecan pie are quite another :)

Again, great information.  Thanks for the post!

You gave me a great idea! (4.50 / 2) (#72)
by Shpongle Spore on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 06:25:53 PM EST

Start a service that will come and pick up people's grass cuttings for a small fee, do something to alter its appearance, and then sell it back to them as fertilizer!
__
I wish I was in Austin, at the Chili Parlor bar,
drinking 'Mad Dog' margaritas and not caring where you are
[ Parent ]
60 million birds? Hrm ... (none / 0) (#74)
by karb on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 06:46:56 PM EST

I found the number quoted about a billion times on the internet (67 million was the exact number.)

A few of them mentioned the reference from an article in the JNAS.

Although, interestingly enough, the journal article just quotes from a book written by some of the journal article authors in 1993. :)
--
Who is the geek who would risk his neck for his brother geek?

Good vs. bad nematodes? (none / 0) (#79)
by coder4hire on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 12:47:35 AM EST

Not all nematodes are beneficial. Some are actually harmful. I don't imagine you're going to go out and buy the harmful ones though...

Any suggestions as to how to distinguish between beneficial and harmful nematodes? Thanks!

Whatever grows, I mow. (none / 0) (#82)
by interguru on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 02:07:11 PM EST

I do almost no maintenance to my lawn. I use a mulching or a push electric mower, never fertilize and never use chemicals. I sometimes overseed. Whatever grows, I mow. I consider dandelions to be flowers. Part of the lawn is over 50 years old, Another part has to be restarted when I dug up my sewer line 5 years ago. There were worn spots where my son and his friends set up a ball diamond, but now that he is grown, the spots have filled themselves in.

The lawn looks fine. It is not the best on the block, but certainly acceptable.

This may have to do with where I live (Maryland). When I lived in Miami, it was impossible to keep a lawn without nasty pesticides. Those who live that far south should consider not having a lawn

The other side of greener grass | 89 comments (78 topical, 11 editorial, 0 hidden)
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