Thatch is the brown layer which lay at the base of the lawn, and above the soil. Thatch is a very generic term and the word does not describe a single part of the lawn. Instead, the word thatch actually describes a range of different organic matter which can be both dead and alive and which exists below the green leaf of the turf.
Thatch can be made up of old leaf litter, clippings from lawn mowing, and in the case of Warm Season lawns, thatch is most commonly associated with old stolons (above ground runners) which have been overgrown by new lawn growth. These runners can be both dead or alive, and can still be playing an important role in supporting the turf.
The Purpose Of Thatch and Why Thatch Can Be A Probelm
All lawns will have some degree of thatching, if a lawn didn’t have thatch it would only be because the grass is bare and dying.
The purpose of thatch is a very important one, it blankets the soil and protects it from drying out too much in the heat, which conserves water and also protects the roots of the lawn. It’s like nature’s little mulch layer for our lawns.
Thatch becomes a problem when it continue to increase in thickness which will occur on all lawn types that are being well maintained. As the thatch layer increases more and more water is prevented from reaching the soil, instead it sits inside the thatch and slowly evaporates away. All this moisture inside the thatch layer is also the perfect environment for lawn diseases and lawn pests to thrive and multiply. If that wasn’t bad enough we also have to deal with one more problem, which is lawn mowing.
Mowing through thatch often leaves the lawn looking scalped and brown, which can be extremely damaging to turf, more so is the crowns of the lawn have raised up and we cut into them – with the end result being dead lawn wherever this has happened. If we try and raise the lawn mowing height, the problem only gets worse as the thatch layer continues to get thicker at a faster rate.
The only real way to control thatch is to remove it, and there are 3 ways to remove thatch.
This method can only be used for Warm Season grass types, with Zoysia and Bermuda getting the best results. In the cooler times of the growing season such as early Spring or early Fall, we simply cut back the lawn to a very low level and remove most of the thatch in the process. This will create a lot of waste material, and the lawn should be lightly fertilized and water maintained in the following 2 weeks. The lawn will look brown and horrible for a while but it will regenerate from it’s runners.
Warning: the lawn mowing method should NEVER be used on Cool Season grasses such as Bluegrass, Ryegrass or Fescues.
This method uses a special de-thatching machine which will severely cut back all the dead thatch similar to the lawn mowing method – the difference is that this process was specifically designed for the purpose of de-thatching and to give the greatest results. It’s a dirty jobs and creates a lot of waste. It’s often something best left to professionals. De-thatching is sometimes known as Vertimowing.
Lawn Core Aeration
Lawn core aeration uses a different type of machine which goes over the lawn and removes plugs of soil, grass and thatch. The process is very good at thatch reduction with high safety levels for the lawn from being damaged, this is more so with Cool Season grasses. Lawn core aeration is also a means of aerating the soil which is highly beneficial for all lawns to reduce compaction and increase lawn health. After the lawn aeration is completed, the lawn is simply mowed as normal with a rotary mower and all the plugs are removed.
It’s always a great idea to feed the lawn and soil directly after lawn aeration, a light feeding with a quality fertilizer and some Wetting Agents will do wonders for the lawn if applied now.
Correcting Potassium Deficiency In Lawns
Potassium Deficiency In Lawns
Potassium is a major nutrient component in all lawn fertilizers, and is essential to the health of all lawns and plants. While Potassium is naturally present in soils, we artificially boost these and other nutrient levels to achieve and maintain a lush green lawn in excellent health. This is most usually always done with the application of fertilizers.
Reasons Why Soils Become Deficient in Potassium
Natural levels of Potassium are often lower in soils than that which lawns will need to thrive in order to create the lush green carpet of green we all desire for our yards. This can occur in many soil types but is most often seen with sandy soils, not only is a sandy soil naturally low in Potassium, but the Potassium we add in the form of lawn fertilizers is also easily washed away.
So if the soil supporting your lawn is low in Potassium then a more specialized fertilizing regimen may be necessary.
Recognizing Signs Of Potassium Deficiency In Lawns
Potassium deficiency is most often easily recognized by the lawn leaves turning yellow or sometimes purple and often curling up. Lack of Potassium more easily occurs in times of drought, and leaves can also show signs of burning.
Potassium is a necessary major nutrient component for all plants, including lawns. It aids in the movement of water through the plant, aids in photosynthesis, starch, protein and enzyme production. For fruiting plants, Potassium is essential to allow the production of fruit and flowers. It is so important, it is considered a major element.
When we buy fertilizers and see an N.P.K. rating on the product label, it’s the “K” which signifies the level or ratio of Potassium in the product.
Correcting Potassium Deficiency
If the lawn is suffering a temporary lack of Potassium then a short fertilizing regimen to increase Potassium levels will quickly correct the problem. This can be done by applying a special fertilizer which is higher in Potassium than what is the norm. A couple of applications of this fertilizer over a 2 month period should correct these Potassium deficiencies.
For soils which are naturally low in Potassium, such as sandy soils, then some more long term soil correction will provide the greatest long term results. This can be done by adding some rich organic matter as a top dressing to the lawn. A thin layer is usually all which is needed at each application, and one application a year should be sufficient.
For lawns which are constantly suffering, or are needing re-sodding or re-seeding, then consideration should be given to replacing the top soil where the lawn will be growing. Removing several inches of the existing soil and replacing with a richer soil type can have substantial ongoing effects for the life of the lawn. If replacing the top soil, the replacement soil does not need to be exceesivle organic or rich in nature, as this can cause other problems such as excessive grubs, worms and compaction. A quality soil provider will best advize the correct top soil type for your region.
Ongoing Fertilizer Applications
Regular fertilizing must be included in a regular maintenance routine for all lawn types. It is the food our lawns need, and includes all the major nutrients including Potassium, the better fertilizers will also include all the essential Minor nutrients too. Develop a good, ongoing fertilizing regimen and lawns will always be given the optimum chance at to achieve it’s greatest health.
Levelling A Lawn
Reasons For Levelling A Lawn
Lawns often develop indentations over time, these depressions on the lawns surface occur for many reasons, including normal wear and tear such as foot traffic, kids playing, walkways, cars or bikes driving on the lawn and so on. These indentations not only look unpleasant but often cause lawn scalping when the wheels of the lawn mower dip into a depression leading the blades to scalp the surrounding area. Fortunately, levelling lawns is a very easy and simple task.
Types Of Soil Used For Top Dressing
One of the oldest and most often used soils for topdressing, and which is most often used by golf courses is in fact not soil – it’s sand. Sand can be used without problem by golf courses because the entire lawn surface is a special sand mixture which is specially controlled by the use of fertilizers and other products. But no homes use such a sand mixture nor are these lawns intensively managed.
The problem which occurs when we use sand to top dress is that we create a difference in the makeup of the soil and it’s nutrients. Sand is also a very poor product to hold onto water when we water lawns. So once the growing season begins, the lack of nutrients in the places where we’ve topdressed with sand becomes evident with spots of poor color and lawn health appear. As Summer heats up, these problems become more evident when these same spots dry out because the sand cannot hold adequate water required by the lawn.
The best type of soil to use for topdressing a lawn is a soil which is as close as possible to the soil which already exists underneath the lawn. If the lawn was established with only the soil that was available on the property, then the best type of soil should be found in a close by garden bed on the property. Otherwise the homeowner can purchase a special topdressing mixture from a local garden store.
Alternatively, we can make our own topdressing mixture with a 50/50 mix of sand and topsoil purchased from the gardening and lawn care store.
Lawn Levelling Methods
There are 2 methods which can be used for levelling a lawn. How to level a lawn and which method to use depends on how deep the depressions in the lawn are.
The topdressing method of levelling lawns should be used for shallow indentations only. With a special topdressing mixture ready in a wheelbarrow and a spade in hand, we fill in the indentations. The most important point of this method is that we should never put down more than half an inch of topdressing mixture, and green leaf should always be left visible. This allows the lawn to quickly repair and cover the mixture while still receiving the maximum sunlight for photosynthesis and food production
If this has not filled in the depressions, then we need to repeat the same process. Leave the lawn to recover for a month to six weeks until it has overgrown the previous topdressing, and then topdress again
Lift and Fill Method
The lift and fill method of topdressing is used for larger depressions. With this method, we dig out the sod of the indented area and lift it out of the lawn. The deeper we go into the soil, the better the results will be because we have disturbed the least amount of the root system.
Once the indented lawn is lifted out of the ground we simply top up the soil as required with our topdressing mixture until we can put the sod back into the hole and it become level with the surrounding lawn. The benefit of this method is that it is instant in it’s results, which makes it perfect for large depressions.
Lawn Care After Topdressing
After topdressing using the Lift and Fill method, simply follow your normal lawn care routines, plus add some additional water each day with a garden hose to the repaired area until the sod shows signs of normal growth again.
The same lawn care applies to the Topdressing method, this time we’re watering the topsoil into the grass only once. Then apply a little lawn fertilizer followed by some additional water to prompt repair of the area.
Lawn Burn From Dog’s Urine
Those familiar yellow spots on the lawn which often burn and kill the grass and are surrounded by a bright green ring are well known to dog owners. Many of us have learned to live with these spots and simply allow the lawn to repair itself, and others still struggle trying to find a cure. So let’s have a look at these urine burns and our options of dealing with the problem.
Overall, it really isn’t a serious problem, and while we can use our efforts to reduce the problem it really must be seen as part of what we have when we have a dog. It’s really a small price to pay for a lifetime of happy memories, companionship and the joy our dogs give to our children.
Why Dog’s Urine Burns Lawns
The burning effect from dogs urine occurs when a female dog squats on a lawn and urinates, the urine of the dog is highly concentrated in Nitrogen, and ti’s this Nitrogen in such a high dose that burns the lawn. The least affected area around the outside of the spot benefits from a low level of Nitrogen which in turn creates a green ring.
The female dog is most usually responsible due to the fact that it squats to urinate, and when it does urinate it relieves the entire contents of it’s bladder, whereas the male dog most often will lift it’s leg to urinate on trees, shrubs and pretty much anything else, and always release a small amount of urine in any one occurrence.
Reducing Urine Spots On Lawns
Dogs urine is high in Nitrogen because it’s body converts it’s high level Protein diet equally into high Nitrogen urine. Reducing Nitrogen in dog’s urine, and thus reducing lawn burn can be achieved in several ways.
A more balanced diet is the first place to start, this includes adding vegetables and rice into the dogs food, broadening it’s diet away from just dog food to include many other leftover foods from the family. The quality of the dog food is also important, the cheaper dog foods have a very low quality protein component which increases the conversion of Protein into Nitrogen, whereas many higher quality dog foods have higher quality protein which is more readily used by the dog instead of converting it to Nitrogen.
Readily available clean fresh water is important at all times as this will help dilute the protein in the dogs system.
Regular exercise is also important as it helps the dog to use up and burn the Protein it gets from it’s food. The more protein which is used by the dog, the less Nitrogen is converted in the dog’s system.
Lastly, there is training… most dogs can be easily trained to relieve themselves in a particular place in the yard. There are many places to find out how to train dogs this way including books, training schools and the internet.
Products To Add To The Dog’s Diet
As a conclusion to this article, we really do need to make mention of one more method of reducing the Nitrogen in dog’s urine. this involves products which are bought from the store and added either to the dog’s diet or water supply.
We do not recommend these products.
Altering the physical chemistry of the animals we love and care about by using unnatural methods and products could never be a good thing. If the dog were in distress or pain from these products being inside their system, they really cannot tell us. If it were a mild pain or inflammation inside the stomach or mild distress, the dog has no option but to live with the distress for as long as we alter their diets in these ways. Sometimes it’s better safe than sorry and this may be one of those times.
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