Every gardener has a different opinion about how things should be done. An example is a favorite saying from one of my good gardening friends: "You get three gardeners in one room - fist fight!". While I don't completely agree with Gerry - I know that there is always more than one way to approach a subject. I hope that we can provide you with some useful information, and some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
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Lawn Maintenance Choices - Part 1

By The Garden Commando

No two gardeners will agree on the best method for carrying out even the smallest task in the garden, let alone on the best type of lawn, or lawn maintenance program. Even so, I feel that it is worthwhile entering the "fray", so to speak. Over the past few years, while working in the horticultural field, and while taking various horticultural courses through the University of Guelph, I have been trying out different methods on my lawn, and think that it is worthwhile to share my findings and thoughts with you. 

Lawn Types
First let us discuss basic lawn types: 

Residential lawns fall roughly into three categories:

     1.  High maintenance (the neighbourhood showpiece); 

     2.  Medium maintenance (average lawn); 

     3.  Low maintenance (borderline acceptable lawn). 

Only about 2% of residential lawns fall into the  first category, with about 60% being medium maintenance and remaining group the low maintenance variety. Maintenance then, is a key issue in choice of lawn, and before you decide what type of lawn you wish to have, you will want to ask yourself the following question:

      "How much time and/or money do I want to spend on maintaining my lawn?" 

Once budget concerns are addressed, it really boils down to your personal preference: a velvety putting green type of lawn requiring a high maintenance program; a nice, healthy but adequate lawn using a moderate maintenance program; or the low maintenance lawn (this last choice is likely to make you unpopular with the neighbours!).  There is also the option of choosing a ground cover plant instead of grass, but I will not address ground covers, other than grass in this text. 

I will outline high and low maintenance methods, but will provide a more detailed approach to the more popular, medium maintenance lawn, since this is the type in which most of you will probably be mainly interested. 

Medium Maintenance Grass Care
Assuming that you are an average working person and with a modest budget and 1 to 3 hours of gardening time per week, your best choice is the medium maintenance lawn. With the environmental concerns taking a front seat in today's world, and the demanding schedules of many people, the healthy but adequate lawn makes most sense. 

The most suitable grass type will most likely be a mix of creeping red fescue and Kentucky bluegrass, and possibly a perennial ryegrass. The Kentucky blue is drought resistant and forms an attractive, thick carpet of dark blueish green. The red fescue provides a good base and will tolerate high traffic. Perennial ryegrass is hardy and a fast grower, thus providing shade for the slower growers. These grasses will respond well to moderate maintenance and can be cut approximately once per week to every ten days, with minimum watering. 

For most people then, the medium maintenance lawn is both a happy medium, and a good choice because it saves time, energy, chemical use and water. It will tolerate a great deal of abuse from the environment, more wear and tear, and moderate care, while still providing a reasonably attractive lawn. 

High Maintenance Grass Care
If you have at least 4 to 5 hours of gardening time per week, and want to have a lawn that looks like a putting green, you will probably be selecting a dwarf (not really a dwarf grass, but one that will tolerate the low mowing heights) Kentucky blue, or creeping bent grass. (This is the grass that is favoured for Golf Course putting greens.) These types of grass will provide you with a lush, velvety carpet and you will be the envy of all your neighbours. However, this type of lawn puts you into the high maintenance group. 

The high maintenance lawn requires constant work. Creeping bentgrass has a very shallow root system and will not withstand any adverse conditions, such as the combination of draught; heavy foot traffic and lack of attention. 

You must feed it at the appropriate times through spring, summer and fall, this grass spends a lot of its time trying to produce new growth. you will need to cut it three to six times per week, to a height of between .07" to 1/6". 

Maintaining a low cut will ensure that firm green "mat" appearance that one admires on putting greens.  If this type of grass is not cut frequently, it produces soft green spreading shoots over a base of dry, scruffy soft leaves (I am sure that some of you have experienced finding a patch of soft grass in your lawn, which dries out in hot weather and often gets lifted if you are raking, this is bent grass behaving as a weed grass.) If you are going to invest time and money into a show-piece lawn, it will be worth your while to also invest in a reel type mower. 

Although quite costly, this type of mower provides the best possible cut. 

You will need to water the lawn at least twice per week (more frequently if the weather is hot and dry). Care must be taken to water at the most beneficial times of the day - early in the morning. Bent  grass is susceptible to various diseases, one of the most unsightly being Snow Mould; watering early in the morning gives the grass the rest of the day in which to dry out. 

You will need to apply fungicides on a regular basis to help combat the various diseases to which this grass is prone. 

Because of its shallow root system, a lawn of bentgrass is easily penetrated by weed grasses and broad leafed weeds. The texture of bentgrass is so fine, weeds and weed grasses tend to stand out, and you will have to either relentlessly apply an assortment of weed killers, or remove all intruders manually. You may have to use as many as three different types of chemical at different times during the season against disease, pests and weeds. Your lawn will almost always have a residue of chemical on it. 

In addition to being expensive and time consuming, a high maintenance lawn is inadvisable in a high traffic zone, or an area where children and pets are going to be active. Its fine, soft foliage will not withstand a lot of running and ball playing. A high maintenance lawn is a joy to the eye, but only if you are willing to devote a great deal of time, energy, expense to its maintenance and care. 

Lawn Maintenance Continued....Lawns 2

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This page was updated December 29/99 

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