Lawn Lessons (Continued)
Russell has learned by trial and error how to grow and maintain a thick, green lawn. "This is the second time around," Russell reflected, while taking a breather.
"The first time was in 2005. My family and I had been living here for five years. I knew the old clogged sprinkler pipes running under that old lawn had to go."
After handling other house improvements, the day finally came to start removing the old lawn to reach the sprinkler pipes. The corporate and family event planner decided to do it himself, working on weekends – his only free time.
The hardest part was laboriously digging up the old lawn with a pickax. He would take out as much old soil and grass that would fit into the green recycle trash bin. Then he would wait for the garbage truck to empty it each Friday.
That was his cue to get out out the pick and shovel and spend the weekend digging up more of the old lawn until the bin was filled again. His back and his calloused hands had five days to recuperate. Then the green container would be emptied and his assault on the old, hard soil and the slow removal of corroded pipes would begin again.
Once Russell pulled out all the old sprinkler lines under the lawn, he faced a new challenge – properly connecting the new PVC sprinkler pipe system to his house's water source.
"Fortunately, a nice neighbor showed me the initial steps to hooking up the sprinkler line to the water line. He knew the process. The rest of the steps were part of a puzzle I slowly figured out. My neighbor left me on my own to hook up the
rest of the new sprinkler system. Some may call it a 'learning experience.' I like to think of it as a 'watch and learn.' experience. He watched, while I learned."
Once Russell got the new sprinkler system pipes, connectors, and sprinklers in place, he rented a rototiller and carefully turned over the soil, so it could breathe. Then he let the turned earth sit for three months to "see what weeds would come up."
Ninety days later, he carefully cleared the lawn area of weeds that had claimed the territory. Then he graded the ground with a rake to prepare for seeding. He mixed in 8 bags of top soil in the front yard to add nutrients.
The Blythe, California native used a seed mixture for his first new lawn. "That did not turn out as well as I expected.
I did everything right, but it just was not a good quality mix of various grass seeds."
He learned his lesson the next time around. He used strictly Marathon seed. This was the result of a lot of research and impromptu question and answer sessions with other Ladera Heights residents. Russell would talk to anyone he saw working on a lawn and asking enough questions about seeding versus sod, watering, and fertilizing to figure out what would give him the best chance of success.
He first considered using Marathon sod to avoid weed problems. When he computed the cost of covering his front and back lawn areas with sod, he decided on a more pragmatic route, using pure Marathon seed.
Surprisingly, he could not find this particular seed at the big box stores. He went to a smaller nursery, where he purchased pure Marathon seed at $21 a bucket. He brought back three buckets.
"One and a half buckets would have covered the front and the back law areas. " Russell commented. I overdid it with three buckets, but I wanted to make sure I had really good overlapping coverage,
He was rewarded quickly. Fresh, dark green Marathon blades started sprouting in the finely raked soil in less than a week. He cut the new grass for the first time 4 weeks after putting down the seed.
He soon found out that grass seed often can have a mind of its own.
"It came up unevenly, with bare spots here and there. Watching the grass grow gave me a lesson in patience. I watered twice a day – in the morning and in the evening."
Gradually, magically, the Marathon filled in evenly.
"I had a lush, dark green Marathon lawn in two months. It's like everything else – you've got to keep after it."
Russell's efforts to keep his lawn lush include fertilizing with Bandini Super Green every three months.
"I covered 5,000 square feet in the front yard with one bag."
He also has successfully upgraded many other front yard and backyard features.
"I put in every tree and plant, except for two trees int he front and backyard areas. I find it relaxing to get outside on the weekends, prepare the soil, plant, and watch everything grow."
Russell first learned about grass and crop care as a teenager in Blythe, California. He earned extra money as a teenager tending to a large lawn and vegetable crops on his grandfather and uncle's farm. The arid climate sent the daytime temperatures past 90 degrees for nearly 180 days of the year.
"That was more backbreaking than I liked as a teenager. But, I made $250 a week in cash. My grandfather always said, 'You always want to keep money in your pocket.' He made me work for it."
Watering can image courtesy of scottchan/www.freedigitalphotos.net.