9.18.2008

Final TV Report

Here's the final television Turf Tips report. It's a look back at how far my lawn has come from May to now. I realize it's a bit of an unfair comparison to show video from May when the grass was just waking from its winter slumber, but I really have noticed a lot of improvement from the start of the growing season to today.

That doesn't mean I'm entirely satisfied. I came up short of my goal of perfection, but I think that's a little unrealistic when you have two kids who like to play soccer in the backyard and a dog that likes to treat the whole yard as its bathroom. The front yard actually looks pretty good, which you'll see in the last video in this story.

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I think the three things that did the most good in turning my lawn around were aerating, proper mowing and proper watering. I had never aerated my lawn in the ten years I've lived in my home and I've learned you should do it every two years. Also, I was cutting my lawn too short most of the time (Steve says 2 1/2 inches at the minimum; a little higher than that is better) and I was not getting an inch of water on my lawn every week which I now know is the right amount.

While this was the last televised tip, I do plan to continue updating the blog until the first frost. Steve tells me that Kentucky Bluegrass will actually continue to grow for a while after the first frost. I'll update soon on how much you should be watering during this early fall period.

BTW, thanks to Steve Sagaser with NDSU Extension for all his help this summer. And also thanks to Patrick Wynne, WDAZ News photographer, who worked every week with me on this project.

9.11.2008

Going Green: Organic Lawn Care

This is a tough topic to tackle in a 90 second television news story, so it's nice to have this blog to get deeper into the topic. The Environmental Protection Agency says 78 million U.S. homes use lawn and garden pesticides. Also, suburban lawns and gardens receive more pesticides per acre than agriculture fields. Add in the high level of emissions given off by lawn care equipment like mowers and weed trimmers and lawn care is pretty hard on the environment.

But there are ways you can cut back or eliminate chemical use if you are willing to lower your standards a bit or are willing to work a little harder at lawn care. Here's today's video Turf Tip:

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Steve also talked about organic fertilizers; which I didn't get a chance to include in my WDAZ News @ 5 segment. I wasn't sure if organic fertilizer meant spreading manure on your yard (which I'm sure would not go over well in my neighborhood!). Here's his answer:

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I'm really facinated by the story of corn gluten; an organic herbicide that was discovered pretty much by accident by an Iowa State University researcher. Here's a link to the ISU webpage that documents the discovery and the research involving corn gluten.

And here are a number of links to websites that advocate organic lawn care and provide tips:

Natural Lawn Care

Beyond Pesticides Group

Environmental Protection Agency Lawn and Garden Page

Natural Resources Conservation Service


So will I try to eliminate pesticide use as part of my lawn care system? There's some pretty scary information out there about these chemicals being carcinogens and sticking around and being found in trace amounts inside of homes. I am pretty vigilant about following label directions and keeping the kids and the dog off the lawn for a day after I spray. I also follow the recommendations found in this University of Wisconsin Extension pamphlet on using nitrogen fertilizers. A number of websites also warn against the use of weed and feed products that combine both herbicide and fertilizers. While I didn't use such a product this year, I have in the past. They make a good point that it's overkill to do both at the same time. I also found advice to spot spray for weeds instead of covering your whole lawn with a hose-sprayer application since you likely don't have weeds on every inch of your lawn. Of course with a pre-emergent in the spring, you can't see the weeds yet, so you want to get it down everywhere.

So while I'm not quite ready to give up chemical and fertilizer use entirely, researching this topic has piqued my curiosity and I may try testing some of these methods like using corn gluten as a pre-emergent herbicide. If there's not too much of a drop-off in results and it's not cost-prohibitive, I'm willing to do my part to go green while trying to achieve a green lawn.

What do you think? Are you concerned about pesticide use in lawns? Leave a comment below.

9.04.2008

Icing on the Cake

Here's this week's Turf Tip in which I offer a few ways to spruce up your lawn to make it look like you hire a professional. I cover three topics: edging, painting and dealing with a fence.


My favorite part of the story is the grass paint. I've never used again, but thought it would be fun to test it as part of a Turf Tips shoot. It actually works pretty well, but it's a really dark green, so it stands out a bit, but not as much as the brown spots left behind by my dog. As I mention in the video, you can buy gallons of paint to do your whole yard. It's pretty costly, but if you are hosting an outdoor wedding or party and want things to look perfect, you can actually paint your grass green. Pretty cool!



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As far as edging goes; I think it really does make a yard look nice. I have an attachment to my weed trimmer that converts it to an edger. It's kind of hard to control so sometimes my line is not so straight! Even so, it looks good when it's done. I really should do it more often. You can reclaim several inches of driveway if you've let it go too long.

I'm really debating right now whether to go after some parts of my lawn with Roundup and re-seed before the first frost. I might just wait until spring and be happy with where I'm at.