What….Was…That?!?!!? Ok sure, we can handle some “quaint” snow on say…Dec 24th/25th or even the exact moment we fall in love but beyond that, us Islanders have a pretty low snow tolerance…which is why this past week was snow good. 😉  Yes the snow started off kinda pretty and, ok, even I found myself ooooing and awing, but multiple traffic accidents, school cancellations, tree deaths and ruined hairstyles later, it was just too much. Like many of you, I spent the week clearing driveways, walkways and entire parking lots by hand which is why I got a kick out of the above picture.  As I write this, I’m sitting in my cozy coffee shop  and it looks like we’ve finally beaten this thing which is why I can finally reflect on the week that was Snowmageddon. But what’s all of this mean for your lawn? Well…it’s not great.

First off, it’s important to realize that all grass on Vancouver Island is cool season grass so from a temperature point of view, your lawns can handle the snow. (This is why your lawn stays green in the winter and turns brown in the summer.) The larger concern is the amount of snow we received at once and the implications of how fast it will inevitably melt.  Here’s the fall out you need to be prepared for…(every lawn is unique and some are healthier then others so you may not experience all of these things but if you do, at least now you’ll be prepared!)

 

1. Soil Compaction:  Most of you have several feet of snow currently piled on your lawn. As you know from shovelling, the snow is not light. The weight is compacting your soil and will result in trapped nutrients/air/water. When your lawn wakes up this spring, it may not be able to access what it needs to grow and it will show its dissatisfaction with a thin, pale complexion. Weeds will appear and quickly take advantage of this vulnerable situation. A spring aeration and natural fertilizer application will be essential in releasing and activating these trapped nutrients.

 

2. Water Logging:  As I write this, the snow is melting as quickly as it came resulting in massive     amounts of water washing over and through your lawn (taking nutrients and organic matter with it). If your lawn didn’t already have poor drainage, it does now. It can’t possibly hold all that water. Be prepared for your lawn to be very slimy or even disappear in places. Depending on the quality of your soil and the health of your lawn, it may eventually recover as it dries out later in the spring but more likely than not you are going to need topdressing and reseeding this spring along with the aeration. If your lawn takes unreasonably long to drain this is a cue that you have an underlying drainage problem that must be fixed before you even attempt to get your lawn lush again. I realize this is starting to sound like a sales pitch and that is not my intent.  I’m just wanting you to be prepared and have a plan. I’ll definitely be doing the same to my own lawns.

 

3. Salt Damage:  Many Municipalities (and homeowners) still salt their roadways, walkways and driveways even though there are great lawn friendly alternatives, including sand and eco-traction. The problem with salt is it inevitably ends up all over your lawn and garden burning everything in sight, similar to over-fertilizing. Those brown/dead patches will be the tell tale sign that you didn’t go easy on the salt this winter. Depending on the damage, you may have to power-rake out the dead sections as well as aerate, top-dress and seed. In other words, you may need a mini lawn renovation. If you are one of the lucky ones already signed up for one of our popular Lawn Care Programs, you will be receiving all of these things as part of your program! Lucky you 🙂

 

4. Fungal disease (snow mold):  Watch out for a weird abnormal colour appearing on your lawn next month. Pink and grey are the most common colours indicating your lawn has a fungal infection. The disease is seldom fatal although always un-nerving to the unprepared. The solution is the same as above…raking out the affected sections and topdressing/reseeding.

Beyond these four things, many of you may also be dealing with broken trees, damaged shrubs and a huge amount of debris on your lawn as a result of the snow storm. Best to remove the debris asap as well as call in an expert to take a look at your plants.

While we can’t always predict the weather, we can reasonably predict the result of it on our lawns. With greater knowledge, we can be more prepared and less anxious this season. See you on the lawns!

 

 

Posted by: In: Lawn Care 22 Mar 2016 0 comments

 

Bandaid1

 

We easily do dozens of lawn consults a week. Sometimes dozens a day. The calls/emails/lawns are always the same. “The moss has never been this bad”  “My lawn always looked decent until last summer’s drought” “My lawn was just put in last year and now look at this mess, it’s embarrassing”. Can you help??? Of course we can. But we start with a story.

Once upon a time somebody took a short cut.  The End.

That somebody is often a professional using economical methods.  Here’s the thing. Although lawn care is a science, it’s not rocket science.  It comes down to one thing.  Soil.  And the soil under your lawn is either good or bad. No amount of moss killer (band-aid), weed killer (toxic band-aid), fertilizer (band-aid) or eco chemical (what is that even) will change that.  The fact is, if your lawns receive adequate light (5+hrs daily) and have good drainage (no pooling) yet they are still full of moss and weeds its because you have terrible soil. The solution to your problem is literally staring you right in the face. Everybody now….”fix the soil.”

This is usually the moment in the consultation when the customer says, “we use to have a guy who’d come around and spray stuff….but it’s obviously not working.”  Ya think? If only we could just spray all life’s problems away.  Of course I don’t say that, I empathize with you, the customer, because how are you supposed to know?  It’s the professional’s job to educate you.  Not sell you a bandaid.

We’ve been educating our customers for 7 years – often losing out on jobs because we only sell a fix.  In fact, we often deter customer’s from doing business with us because we’re not prepared to make a buck off a bandaid. A lot of people want bandaids and a lot of companies are happy to sell them. We are not that company.  We’ve made a good living off fixing lawns. If this interests you, we’d love to talk.

 

Seeding

kentucky blue grass lawnSunny seed mix, Shade mix, Front lawn mix, Backyard Mix, Eco lawn mix, Drought resistant mix, blah blah blah. This is marketing at it’s worst. How is it possible for the seed companies to know how much sun, shade or even water your particular lawn gets? They’re guessing, of course, so why invest in a stranger’s best guess when you can intentionally buy the seeds that are right for you?

Generally there are 3 main types of seed varieties used in most mixes. Kentucky Bluegrass is found in Sunny or Front yard mixes and is a fan favorite for its thick blade of grass and beautiful bluish tinge. Perennial Rye is the best all around seed and is found in most if not all mixes as it has a medium blade with a nice uniform green that holds up well under most conditions (see above). Fescues are found in shade or backyard mixes as their extremely thin blades thrive in the shade, or so they say.

For the wet and sun deprived Vancouver Island, we recommend a mix predominantly Perennial Rye with a few Kentucky Blue mixed in for fun. This type of mix is traditionally called an Over-seeding mix or sometimes the bag will say the seed content on it. Perennial Rye is the best all around seed for our conditions and lifestyle. It’s the seed most common in parks and sports fields as it wears well (unlike Fescues) and doesn’t gorge itself or need as much as light as Kentucky Blue.

If you don’t have the patience or irrigation to seed your lawn, you can also hire a company to Hydro Seed your lawn. Utilizing the same seed varieties but covering them in a mixture of wet mulch for increased germination, the seeds will literally be sprayed on your lawn appearing as a green sludge. Before you know, that sludge will be a lawn. Finally, if you need a lawn right now, you can’t go wrong with sod. Sod is mature grass ready right now. All it needs is some good soil and a professional’s touch. As far as pricing goes, Sod is the most expensive, followed by Hydro-seeding and seeding.

Best time to plant any kind of grass is May and September but remember, all seed needs to remain perpetually moist until germination – that includes sod so it can establish.

Aerating

Aerating Lawns on Vancouver IslandAll soil needs air, water and nutrients for its plants to thrive. In the case of a lawn, when its soil is compacted, these resources become trapped and its grass roots are unable to access them. The result is always the same; crabgrass, weeds and moss take advantage of the lawn’s weakened state and gradually establish themselves. Aerating is the process of releasing the compaction so these vital resources are made available and the lawn can continue to grow lush and healthy. Aerating should ALWAYS follow power raking. There’s no point in trying to aerate through moss.

Not all aerating is created equal. Those spikes on the bottom of your shoes, for instance, add to your compaction problem rather than solve it. If you are going to aerate you must rent a Core Aerator from your neighbourhood rental shop. A typical Aerator weighs in excess of 400lbs and makes operating your lawn mower seem like that plastic toy you bought your grandson. Plus you have to transport it…and anchor it to your trailer….yes, you need a trailer. In the end, its much easier to hire someone and only marginally more expensive.

Once the entire lawn has been aerated, (hopefully you marked your sprinkler heads first) there will be thousands of holes with corresponding soil plugs. Just leave the plugs to decompose. Your lawn is now literally open to the possibilities of new growth. Best time to aerate is early spring and fall. If you’re aerating as part of a lawn renovation, you have just finished the tough phase 1! Congratulations! Phase 2 involves the much more fulfilling topdressing, seeding and fertilizing!

Power-raking

Thatching Vancouver IslandIf your lawn is currently covered in moss and it meets the two conditions for renovation (adequate sun, good drainage), it all starts with a vicious power raking (some call it de-thatching). We say vicious because most homeowners and even landscapers fail in this regard. The point of power raking is to remove all the moss (not some, or quite a bit). If patches of moss remain on your lawn, grass will not be able to establish in those spots so you’re best off to go vicious. Warning: Your lawn will look like a sandbox when you’re done 🙂 This is normal, it will have to get worse before it gets better.

Power-rakers/De-thatchers can be rented from your local rental store or Home Depot/Rona. They weigh a few hundred pounds and you’ll definitely need a trailer to transport them. Once you have managed to get them home, they are fairly easy to operate. Similar to a lawn mower, you walk behind them and they self propel forward ripping out large amounts of moss (and grass) as they go. Remember, this is all normal you need to get it all. Once you’ve gone over the lawn once, you’ll need to begin the process of manually raking it up and transporting it to a local farmer who may kiss you on the mouth for this great gift of compostable materials. If there is still moss visible in the lawn, you’ll need to go over it again and continue until all the moss is removed. Believe me, this is a weekend you’ll likely wish you had back so this is a service that is probably worth hiring a (Lush) professional 🙂

Once all the moss is removed, you’ll be shocked at the amount that came up plus your lawn will look terrible. Before you collapse into the fetal position, remind yourself that John said this is normal. Don’t stay down for too long though, aerating is next.