4 Readers Share “How I Solved My Worst Lawn Problem”

agropyron repens

Summary: The lawn for some homeowners is the “face” of their home and makes a statement to visitors. Others approach the need for a lawn differently. In the article below, 4 Readers share their experiences and how they solved their lawn care problems.

Lawn Problem Solver #1

For three years in a row after we moved to our new home here, my husband and I purchased our nursery’s most highly recommended lawn seed mixture, tested the soil and fertilized the grass.

Followed Recommendations

We did everything advocated by the local nursery, the research we found online and lawn care bulletins we got from the extension agency. Every spring we planted what we hoped would turn into a lovely lawn, and every fall we ended up with a most luxurious growth of quackgrass!

The neighbors on either side had long since given up and turned over their lawns to the noxious little “Agropyron repens” our neighbors from the mid-west called it witchgrass.

Since it was impossible to dig all out (each piece of rootstock with a joint can produce a new plant) we enlisted the aid of our county extension agent. He advised control by cultivation.

We “plowed” the infested area in June. The ground was left in this rough condition for two weeks. About 75% of the rootstock dried out in the sun and was killed. After this the ground was “plowed” again and finally given a thorough going over with a deep-tined garden rake.

The ground was then left to fallow for the remainder of the season and was not planted again until the following spring.
The neighbors did not have much to complain about, since their lawns look worse.

This time only a few isolated patches of quackgrass appeared and we were able to control them by cultivating during the dry, hot summer months. By fall when the lawn mixture we had sown took hold well, the quackgrass had disappeared and has not returned.

That’s been over 15 years and we continue to enjoy our lawn, year in and year out. Ward George, California

Lawn Problem Solver #2

“This is the softest grass I ever walked in. It feels like a rug. What kind of grass did you use?”

Over and over this past summer and fall we heard similar remarks. And my husband and I would draw a deep breath and think, not of the grass and seed we sowed, but of the months of work and the small fortune we spent on our lawn before we even discussed grass seed.
green manure
We hired a bulldozer to rip up the trees, stumps, scrub and vines. Next came a plow, double-plowing and criss-crossing, tearing out and cutting the tangle of roots.

After a light scattering of lime for lawns, we sowed seed – not grass seed, but soy beans, rye and oats – and, lightly covering the seed, we turned to the house.

While our “crops” were growing, my husband started to build our home and we watched the house come up… and the green come up.

When the green was 6 to 8 inches high, in came the plow again and under the grass went. Green manure! We sowed again – soy beans, oats and rye. And again the plow came in and turned it under.

More green manure! We sowed a third time and this time when the green was plowed under, it was mid-September.

We had filled in around the house with quarry fill, 39 truck loads. We leveled it off to 8 inches below the final level we desired.

We called in the bulldozer again and he pushed all the black, crumbly soil our green manure had made into a great pile.

Then digging into the subsoil he scraped and filled until our plot began to take the shape we had hoped for. Then he pushed around the topsoil, spreading and covering the subsoil and quarry fill.

Next came the rotary tiller, churning up the black soil until it was as light and fluffy as face powder. And finally the hand raking, leveling and smoothing.

By this time it was Thanksgiving. We had bought grass seed, expensive seed. Three kinds – one a bluegrass mixture of a very reliable grass seed grower; another, practically the same mixture but with a growth hormone added; and, third, a precious 2 pounds of “pure” blue grass with which we wanted to experiment.

One day in the middle of January we saw a slight yellow-green color in patches on our brown ground and each day more and brighter green showed. Our grass grew all that winter and by early spring it needed cutting.

We applied a good lawn food and watched the grass grow. The weeds grew too – and crabgrass. We applied a weed-killer and a series of crabgrass-killer treatments.

This was the summer of 2002. We applied no water. Our grass was growing but it didn’t look like the lawn of our dreams.

In late September we applied lawn food again and in October the rains came and our lawn grew thick and green and beautiful. Late in November the lawn stopped growing. They say a twelve-month green lawn is impossible in the Philadelphia area.

In February of that winter we had a late snow and over that snow we scattered lawn food. The melting snow carried it down to the roots of the awaiting grass and they grew and the grass grew. That spring our lawn was beautiful and the talk of the town.

Another summer came, hot and dry. Again the weeds and crabgrass-killer treatments. We did not water our lawn, and as our grass lost its color elsewhere we began to see the bluegrass!

There had been no trace of it the summer before and now we had a sizable patch of bluegrass in the hottest part of the summer.

Summer continued long in ’03. We fed our lawn again in early October and the rains came and the grass grew. It grew and stayed green until the last week in December!

Then a hard frost came and the grass became crunchy under our feet. But on mild sunny days it seems to pull itself up and stand erect. A winter lawn, but still beautiful! Ed Witowski, Penn.

Lawn Problem Solver #3

Our Lawn/Grass Is A Substitute

The grounds immediately surrounding my summer home in northern Wisconsin presented a unique problem during the time when I, like so many gardeners, made the mistake of attempting to solve all my ground cover problems by sowing grass seed. In our situation, this just did not work!

The summer home owned was attractive to us mainly because of a swiftly running brook which cut through the land about three yards in from the road. The heavily forested, gently sloping land also appeared restful and we pictured our “cottage” in a clearing with a murmuring brook, rustic bridge and a gorgeous landscape.

We succeeded in establishing… a clearing, a “cottage” and a rustic bridge. We concluded that ours was a situation where lawn was not the answer to the ground cover problem.

We decided to try another group of plants known as ground covers. We chose for the sloping area behind the “cottage” an evergreen plant. Japanese spurge (Pachysandra), which is about 6 inches high, thrives in a wide range of soils and tolerates wet, shady locations.

Since the plant growth is uniform and limited, the necessity of mowing was eliminated. We found that this perennial slowly spread and that it was easy to propagate by dividing the plants or by cuttings.

We are extremely satisfied with the uniform mantle of green this plant provided – its interesting leaf pattern and its tiny white flowers. In our research we found many plants which could be grown as substitutes for grass: Scotch broom (Cytisus) for sandy places, English ivy and lily-of-the-valley for the north side of buildings, periwinkle for densely shaded places and many more. Alan Niemlec, Ill

Lawn Problem Solver #4

My worst lawn problem was the fact that the nasty job of installing sod had to be done by me. My husband was conveniently out of town all spring and our finances didn’t stretch far enough to include a professional installation.

Our soil difficulties were compounded by the builder’s having spread the subsoil from the basement excavation over what meager topsoil did exist on our small lot. This clay, striated red, blue and gray, was plastic enough so that our little boys could mold of it all kinds of fantastic figures.

On March 15, contrary to all that I had read and heard and especially contrary to the good, free advice of our generous nurseryman.

I decided to go into action, I trench-dug the embryo lawn to a depth of 14 inches. Some of the time, I felt I must be digging up concrete, at other times, it seemed to be a particularly vicious kind of gluey quicksand.

As I worked I found the most amazing treasure trove: beer cans, bricks, pieces of lumber and sewer pipe and even an old rubber boot.

At length, the entire section had been turned over and I had worked in 6 cubic yards of sand, 50 pounds of agricultural lime (our soil had tested slightly acid), 20 pounds of fertilizer and a bale of peat moss.

Then “The Rains Came”! Never had I seen so much rain.? When the soil finally dried out, it was almost as hard as it had been before. I learn the hard way. As I dug it up the second time I worked in two more bales of peat moss.

By now the calendar said May and 14 yards of topsoil and my husband arrived simultaneously on a Saturday morning. But my poor, unfortunate husband broke his foot two hours after his arrival, so unwillingly I went on with the job.

Luckily we live on the friendliest little street in the world and ten able bodied and helpful neighbors, armed with wheelbarrows, rallied around us to spread the topsoil, apply 20 more pounds of fertilizer and grade the lawn.

Three days later I sowed 5 1/2 pounds of a special shady lawn seed mixture the nurseryman had recommended. Then I rolled it, covered it with straw, fenced it off and settled down with a garden hose to await developments.

The lawn is now going into its third year and if I don’t say that it is a firm, well established, thick turf, it’s because of my hypocritical modesty. Audrey Alexander, Ohio

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