Friday, August 26, 2011

Lawn Improvements Part 3 -- Getting There

Lawn Improvements Part 1 -- A Strange Idea Sprouts
Lawn Improvements Part 2 -- Cue the Violins
Lawn Improvements Part 4 -- Moss Lawn Foiled By Fungus

The moss lawn looks like shit. There are patches of dead grass, bare dirt and areas that were once fully weeded are sprouting new weeds. This summer has been so hot and dry, what little moss is there is an ugly shade of used baby diaper.

As they say, to clean out a closet you get a huge mess before it's done. Hopefully this rule applies to lawn projects. At least the neighbors haven't complained. They've been more supportive than I ever expected. Now and again they will stop over, praise my tenacity and remind me that "Rome wasn't built in a day."

The Roundup experiment, courtesy of the pesky shoulder devil, had mixed results. In order to protect the moss, I let the grass get quite long before spraying. Sadly, the strategy didn't work as well as anticipated. The top of the moss plants have turned an un-natural shade of yellow. The underside, however, is still green. I'm hoping it will recover by spring. If not, I will take it up and plant new. On the bight side, pulling the dead grass was a whole lot easier than pulling live grass. There is also far less re-growth with the Roundup treated area. I waited for the smell to disappear before going near it. That took about three weeks.

There is a patch by the driveway that still needs weeding. I expect to be done with that and ready to plant moss in about two weeks.

The sulfur has been working as anticipated. The pH dropped nearly a full point. Yippee!

As with all large projects, unexpected issues come up. With the guest room, it was the floor. With this, it's the spot by the sidewalk that's too sunny for moss to grow. Since leaving the grass was out of the question, I dug it all up by hand and installed another garden. Mom and a neighbor donated quite a few perennials to the cause and I put in some vegetable plants.

Walking to and from the garage to get garden tools started wearing the moss off. Moss can take some light foot traffic, but not the amount I was giving it. The original idea was to install a stone pathway. Considering everything else that had to be done this summer, I put that on the maybe next year list of things to do. I put in a mulch path instead.

Three years ago the first garden went in. I wanted to grow vegetables but the only spot on my property sunny enough was right by the front door. I didn't want a classic row-style vegetable garden. They're kind of ugly. So I got creative and made it an odd shape to match the roof line of the house, put in mulch pathways and planted flowers in with the vegetables.

It has never grown as well as it should. I finally broke down and ran several soil tests. The pH is screaming high and there is no nitrogen, potassium or phosphorus to speak of. The soil is so bad, it's amazing that anything grows at all. Good thing moss likes crummy soil. All it cares about is pH, shade and moisture.

Experts tell me that to fix the soil I need massive amounts of organic matter. So I've started doing what my Russian grandmother always did.....bury the kitchen garbage. Garbage as in vegetable scraps, eggs shells, coffee grounds, tea bags and that sort of thing. When this growing season is over, I will add sulfur to lower the pH and find some compost that hasn't come from a factory farm lagoon. I'm hoping that by the time the ground freezes, I will have enough organic matter in there to make a significant difference come spring. Mulching it with leaves for the winter should also help.

Now that I think about it, the front steps and patio could use some moss too.

Lawn Improvements Part 1 -- A Strange Idea Sprouts
Lawn Improvements Part 2 -- Cue the Violins

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