Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lawn Improvements pt 2 -- Cue the Violins

Lawn Improvements Part 1 -- A Strange Idea Sprouts
Lawn Improvements Part 3 -- Getting There
Lawn Improvements Part 4 -- Moss Lawn Foiled By Fungus

There is a 300 square foot patch of front lawn that the utility company messed with when they installed a new gas meter. This spring, they put in new top soil and liberally sprayed a foam concoction of contractor grass. After laying bare for what seemed like forever, the grass finally sprouted. Since moss is what I want in there, I dug it all up.

Determined to get it right, I did some research on cultivating moss. The internet tells me that moss likes a soil pH of 5.5 with a level no higher than 6.0. If the level is above that, they say success is minimal. I borrowed Mom's soil kit. Choosing samples from different parts of the patch, I ran several tests. Every single sample came in at a screaming high 7.8. Yikes!

So much for the direct and easy route.

Getting on-line I found two effective ways to lower soil pH. There's the fast, toxic way and the slow organic way.

Option #1. Aluminum sulphate will instantly lower the pH of the soil. Problem is, the results are very temporary. It has to be re-applied often. Seeing that aluminum sulphate has been banned in many places for food production, I don't think it's a good idea to be spraying that stuff with frequency over that large an area. Spraying a hydrangea is one thing. Spraying a lawn is another.

Option #2. Sulfur is a naturally occurring element that will reduce the soil pH. It works with the bacteria in the soil and can take anywhere from 2 months to a full year to work. Quantity is somewhat of a mystery. It depends on the soil. Sandy soil takes a whole lot less than clay. What's in the lawn? Errr, I'm not so sure.

Using Best Guess methodology, I sprayed 5 pounds of sulfur on the surface, then lightly worked it into the soil to a depth of less than one inch. I'm hoping it's enough. The pH change doesn't have to go real deep as moss has no real root system. Moss puts out little anchors to lightly secure itself to the ground. These anchors serve no other purpose. Moss gets it's water and nutrients from the air.

They say to keep the area moist so the sulfur will work more quickly. So, I water the dirt. Meanwhile, like grey hair, grass keeps re-sprouting. For every one plant I pull, two new ones grow in its place. Ugh! That idiotic utility company grass just won't die.

Frustration sets in. What to do?

Shoulder Devil chimes in. "Get out the glycol-whatever-it-is week killer. That will do it," he says.

Shoulder Angel rebuts. "That stuff is banned in many cities because of run-off. It gets into the water supply and doesn't get filtered out."

"Think of the time savings. Go ahead. A little won't hurt anything. The neighbors use it."

"That's stupid. If everyone else is jumping off a cliff, are you going to jump too? Don't turn the lawn into a superfund site. You didn't use aluminum sulfate, don't use that stuff. "

"Look around, you've got grass growing back everywhere. Oh good grief, if it bothers you that much, put the jug in a paper bag so the neighbors don't see it."

"A paper bag? Don't be ridiculous. Boycott is the only way to show a corporate entity displeasure. Don't support that company."

"What are you going to do, pull grass every other day for the rest of your life? How do you expect moss to grow with that contractor grass choking it out. Unlike the aluminum sulphate, you only have to do it once. One time and it's done. Once...only once..."

The devil made me do it.

I also sprayed other small spots of the lawn that looked like they would be problem areas. Most of it was sprayed too lightly and the grass isn't all dead. That's just as well. I'm going to have to get on my hands and knees and dig out all that dead vegetation. It can't get composted either. It will have to go out in the trash.

It figures. The Devil didn't mention that part.

Lawn Improvements Part 1 -- A Strange Idea Sprouts
Lawn Improvements Part 3 -- Getting There

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