Adventures In Turf Management

I don't like summer. 

Specifically, I don't like: 

  • Heat
  • Humidity
  • Sweating
  • The aroma of hot garbage wafting from the trash receptacle in the garage
  • That feeling where you can tell you're about to break a sweat and it's really annoying because you just showered and got dressed

Did I mention I don't enjoy sweating?

Needless to say I've enjoyed the return of cooler weather this past week or so. I woke up this morning feeling refreshed physically, mentally, and spiritually as if I've awoken from summer dormancy. 

Speaking of awaking from a state of dormancy, this is the best time of year to plant a new lawn from seed, lay sod, or otherwise renovate your turf. 

2017 was hard on my lawn. During July's hottest and driest stretch, patches of grass in the front yard died and a south-facing slope in the backyard was hit particularly hard.  With a 3-year-old and infant in the house and a full-time job, I don't have the time or desire to spend my scarce free time dragging hoses and sprinklers around the yard. Given that reality it was time for me to take a varied approach to managing the large areas of turf on my suburban corner lot. 

I ultimately decided on three different turf management approaches in order to let nature work for me and limit the investment of water, weed killer, fertilizer and, most importantly, my time. The first step was raking away the dead turf and having my lawn professionally aerated to reduce soil compaction and allow water and air to more easily reach the root zone. 

Then, I decided how each area of my property would be managed: 

1. The Front Yard Is For Show

If I'm going to spend money on fertilizer, water, and weed killer, it's going to be where people can see the investment pay off. I overseeded the front yard with a mix of Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial Ryegrass, and turf-type Tall Fescue. I'll continue fertilizing this part of the yard 3-4 times per year and watering during particularly hot and dry stretches. 

2. The Backyard Is For Play

With two young boys and two not-quite-as-young cats, I decided that having a backyard that can be safely rolled on, chewed on, and played on was important. I overseeded the backyard with a mix of white clover, microclover (a smaller-leaved variety of white clover), creeping red fescue, ryegrass and some other low-maintenance and drought-tolerant turf grasses. The clover in the mix will spread and create a canopy over the soil that prevents the germination of less-desirable plants such as plantains, dandelions, and thistle. The occasional weed can be pulled by hand, eliminating the need for weed killer. Clover, like all members of the legume family, is nitrogen-fixating, taking nitrogen from the air and bringing it into the soil. Combined with the nitrogen from mulched grass clippings, this will eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers. 

3. The Boulevard Is For The Bees

In order to create a boulevard that can stay thick and green with no help from me I overseeded the boulevard with a mix of perennial ryegrass, creeping red fescue, and a large amount of white clover. When the other boulevards in the area are loaded with guackgrass, crabgrass, ground ivy and plantains, I look forward to the sound of bees buzzing and the fragrant scent of white clover flowers. 

Next Steps

If any thin areas remain I'll do some dormant seeding around Thanksgiving and then let the freeze/frost cycle of winter and the warmth of spring do its thing. Keep an eye out for updates in the future. Or, sit at home and watch your own grass grow as it's just as exciting as reading about mine.