We take a monkey see/monkey do approach to lawn care on my cul-de-sac. And sometimes it works.
Recently, I was talking with my neighbor, Rock. He’s the premier turf grower in the neighborhood, so we swap grass-maintenance tips.
I once asked him why his lawn is so lush and green. He said a friend told him to apply laundry detergent to his lawn once or twice a year to soften the soil and make it more water-permeable.
In the interest of science, I went out last fall and bought what I thought was the safest laundry detergent I could find—Seventh Generation liquid—and applied it to my lawn with a hose-end sprayer. It definitely made the soil softer. I have concerns, though, that Seventh Generation and many other detergents could add harmful salts and boron to the soil, based on information in the book, Greywater, Green Landscape, by Laura Allen. So rather than eventually killing my grass with unsafe substances, I’ve decided to stick with Revive Organic Soil Treatment, which is designed specifically for lawns.
Earlier this spring, I noticed drifts of what looked like soil thrown here and there on Rock’s front yard.
“What’s that brown stuff on your lawn?” I asked him. “Compost,” he said. “I saw you spreading some on your lawn last fall.”
This is the monkey see/monkey do behavior I’m talking about.
I’ve tried other approaches on my lawn, as well. In late winter, for example, I applied Milorganite for two reasons: (1) to fertilize the grass; and (2) to repel rabbits. A small University of Nebraska study found that Milorganite, which is reprocessed sludge, was effective in keeping rabbits away from impatiens. It does seem to help keep bunnies at bay in my lawn. So does my cat, Steve.
I also get my heavy clay soil aerated each fall to make it easier for water to reach grass roots.
After the aeration last fall, I had planned to overseed my yard, but life got in the way. So I overseeded this spring.
My lawn looks rather golf-course-like this year, and it greened up before my neighbors’ lawns did. I watered it only after days of high winds, which dry out the soil. Otherwise, I let Mother Nature take care of the rest.
So, here’s my lawn maintenance timeline:
- Fall 1917: Aerated lawn. Applied Seventh Generation detergent (but I’m switching back to Revive). Spread compost to improve soil tilth (ability of the soil to retain water and sustain plant growth).
- Late winter 2018: Spread Milorganite on lawn
- Early spring 2018: Overseeded lawn and watered it twice daily for two weeks until Kentucky blue grass seed sprouted. Then cut back on watering
The only time I water my lawn in the spring is after high winds. In hot summer months, though, I water about once a week. Then I back off again the fall, when the weather is cooler and moister.
Consider trying this multi-pronged approach to see if it works for you. And while you’re at it, have a soil test done on your lawn to determine exactly which nutrients it needs.