John Flower

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since Apr 03, 2013
New Zealand
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Recent posts by John Flower

Ted, moss is an indicator that there is poor drainage. Anything you do to improve drainage will reduce the moss. Your aeration, overseed, and top dressing plan seems like a reasonable plan. You can top dress with compost as many times a year as you wish if the climate allows it. Long term following the suggestions in Mr Wheaton's article (mow high, water deep, leave the clippings) will help reduce the moss. You may never get rid of all moss, but you can make it better.

Also consider the possibility that large trees nearby may cast shade and reduce airflow. Their roots will also take nutrients before the grass can get them. Moss does better than grass in constantly damp, nutrient poor conditions.

Fix the drainage through compost and a better mowing regime and come back to looking at pH in a years time.

Do you have any photos of your lawn?
1 year ago

John C Robinson wrote:I have a Ryobi battery operated mower.

I have been mowing at the highest setting, but the grass gets matted down and often looks like a deer has been bedding on it, or something. Also, I have to cross-cut at least twice to try to hit the grass from all angles. It does not "stand-up" well to be cut. I cut the grass about every 4 days at this time of year. It's necessary to cut at least that often to keep within the 1/3 rule.

The issue shouldn't be lack of water. The grass received 1" of water about 3 days ago. The grass is a mixture of KBG, fescue, rye, and white clover. The crab grass hasn't shown up yet.

I have read about tall fescue. I'd rather deal with what is here than start over with something else. I have gypsumed and limed. The pH was 5.1, so the liming is going to be a year long process, at least.

I haven't put a ruler to the wheels of the mower, but I assume it's about 3 1/2 to 4". Is it possible that the battery operated mower doenst have the suction to stand the grass up for cutting? Am I just keeping it too long?

Photos would help. Below are some general suggestions,

Did you suddenly go from low to the highest setting on your mower? I've found that sometimes it is better to raise the height of the mower slowly, over weeks, or months. The reason being that grass will tend to flop if it isn't in a dense sward. The more leaves you cut, the more the grass is encouraged to put out side shoots - which thicken the turf. But if it is sparse, and floppy, then less is cut, you won't get a dense lawn. You need a dense lawn to force the leaves of the nongrass plants vertical for cutting. Try reducing the cutting height until you do get a good cut, then keep that height for a few weeks and raise it one increment each mow until you feel you aren't getting a good cut. Keep this height until you do and then raise the height. And so on.

  • Your mower may have a weak engine
  • The batteries may be old and not putting out as much power
  • Your blades may need a sharpen.

  • Perhaps borrow a mower and compare the cut?

    Tall turf looks crisp if it is edged well where it meets a path, or solid edging. Long handled edging shears, as well as rotary disc edgers, will give your turf a strong edge. This may sway some neighbours in your favour.

    Frequent cutting is a sign of health. A sad lawn grows slowly. This observation may not apply to you.... I live in a neighbourhood where no one fertilises their lawns, nor do they weedkill. The only thing they do is mow on the lowest setting. So my lawn grows fast in comparison.

    A lawn is a fantastic thing. It is part of my cultural heritage, my ancestors have had lawns for hundreds of years. There is nothing better for playing outdoor sport on, nor a a better surface for a picnic. Turf supports a different range of animals from other forms of planting.... and without one your garden would have less biodiversity. Turf also fulfils a similar role to gravel in a Zen garden, a patch of tranquillity from which to admire the rest of the garden. Be proud of your lawn.
    4 years ago
    Moved out of this property last month. Here's a final photo after 6 months of mowing high and leaving the clippings.

    6 years ago

    Cherrie Ward wrote:I just read your online piece about organic lawn care for the cheap and lazy (that's me!). What is the role of thatching and aerating (removing plugs)? Also, I have a growing circle of white's nearly I just let it be and then focus on some organic fertilizer in the fall and spring? Anything that will help reduce it now? I know, I've been suggesting people ADD these to their lawn, but *ducks for cover*, I rather just like the look of lawn, lawn, and the bees in the clover are an issue for going barefoot (I have plenty of other places for bees).

    Hi Cherie,

    Dethatching is done when there is a thick mat of dead grass roots above the soil restricting water, nutrients, and air getting into the soil. If your grass is long and you're leaving the clippings the thatch may well reduce over time. This is because the clippings feed the microbes that breakdown thatch (as does organic fertiliser). Some thatch is a good thing as it prevents weeds from germinating. Be patient.

    Aerating can help improve drainage, and it loosens the soil allowing grass roots to go deeper (a good thing). In a healthy lawn the worms do this job rather well. Mowing high and leaving clippings will
    a) hide worms from predators when they come to the surface
    b) provide food for the worms
    If your ground is heavily compacted aerating will speed up the process of getting your lawn to optimal health. It also brings microbes to the surface that will help in dethatching and releasing nutrients from grass clippings and organic fertiliser. Overseeding and top dressing with compost should be done at the same time to get the best effect. Note this is neither lazy nor cheap. This is best done when the lawn is growing quickly as it does in spring and autumn. That way the grass can quickly recover.

    You have clover because of a nitrogen deficiency in the soil. Once the grass has enough nitrogen it will out compete the clover. Some universities recommend a late summer fertiliser rather than autumn. They suggest that this can extend the growing season further into winter. Top dressing with compost is a gentle way to fertilise your grass and can be done now.

    6 years ago
    UC Davis suggests solarization maybe useful. This is killing weeds by covering the ground with plastic and using the sun's heat to kill everything. Here's an excerpt from that, specifically mentioning Bermuda grass:-


    Soil solarization controls many of the annual and perennial weeds present in California. While some weed species seeds or plant parts are very sensitive to soil solarization, others are moderately resistant and require optimum conditions for control (good soil moisture, tight-fitting plastic, and high solar radiation). Solarization generally does not control perennial weeds as well as annual weeds because perennials often have deeply buried underground vegetative structures such as roots and rhizomes that may resprout. Rhizomes of bermudagrass and johnsongrass may be controlled by solarization if they are not deeply buried. Solarization alone is not effective for the control of the rhizomes of field bindweed. Control of purple and yellow nutsedge, as well as field bindweed arising from rhizomes and some clovers, can be inconsistent, even under favorable conditions.

    Check out their full Solarization Article
    6 years ago
    I've been using a reel push mower for the last two months. The clippings blend in invisibly when I mow. Even clippings as long as 5cm. Reel mowers are harder to push if your grass is a lot higher than the cutting height. Therefore I recommend getting one that allows you to adjust the height, Fiskars make one that can go from 2.5cm to 10cm. This model also shoots the grass forward, so your feet stay clean. I prefer my reel mower. It's quieter so I can use it at 9pm or 6am in the heat of summer. It takes me the same length of time, or less to mow. My wife who has never mown in her life has even used it, she finds it fun. They're also safer because when you stop pushing the blades stop moving. Also, the grass blades look like they've been cut with scissors, they have a crisper edge compared with an impact cutting petrol mower.

    I still have a petrol mower, with a catcher, just in case it rains for a long time and the grass gets too long. Hopefully I never need it.

    As for smothering, our local council cuts 5cm - 10cm off some public parks and walkways. The clippings do turn brown, and hang around for a week or so. But the grass is some of the best looking in the city. Not a biggie :).
    6 years ago
    I use a reel push mower. I've had one for the last two months. It's of a design that throws the grass forward. I only ever see a few clippings where the grass meets my driveway. A quick sweep and it's done, or just let the wind blow it away - quicker than emptying a catcher. I would recommend keeping a motorised mower with a catcher for those times where your grass has grown a lot e.g. after a prolonged rainy spell, or after being away for a few weeks. Also some reel mowers can go from 2.5cm to 10cm in height (Fiskars make such a model). This height range solves the issue of push mowers being hard to push through long grass. I much prefer the push. My wife who has never mown a lawn in her life likes to use it. It's quiet too! I've used it early in the morning and at 9pm at night, to avoid the heat of summer, because it's so quiet. Also no vibration in the hands. I find it takes the same amount of time, or less, to mow (I have a 300sqm lawn).

    In terms of smothering, it's unlikely to be an issue. The city council where I live regularly chop 5cm - 10cm off grass in parks, walkways and verges around town. The public grass is some of the best looking grass in the city. But it is a a little unsightly seeing the clumps of clipping. They mow some places about every six weeks.
    6 years ago
    I'm a little out of my depth with fertilisers. My understanding is that seaweed has a wide range of nutrients. So this is good for your lawn. Use it. However it has little nitrogen, which grass loves. Chicken poo does.
    6 years ago
    A complex fertiliser may also help get things going. Blood & bone, mature decomposed chicken poo, organic fish hydrolysate (not emulsion) from a sustainable source, almost any fertiliser that comes from a plant or the bum of an animal will do. The key here is complex, simple fertilisers with words like nitrate, ammonia, urea, etc in them are a poor choice. Complex fertilisers are broken down by microbes, at the request of plants, meaning right amount of food at the right time. It's the nutritional difference between a potato and a spoonful of sugar for a human. One will give sustained energy the other will give a rush and then a crash. Because they require microbes they work best at higher temperatures, so spring, summer, autumn. My preferred times are late summer and late autumn. But many people do spring and autumn. My understanding is that grass spends more energy on growing leaves in spring, and then roots in autumn. I prefer roots. The conflict in timing advice may have more to do with simple, quick release fertilisers. In spring they can cause a surge of leaf growth, whilst neglecting root growth. The grass needs roots to store food to fight disease. I suspect this is a nonissue with complex fertilisers. Compost is the top fertiliser, but takes the longest time to work. Again not lazy, not cheap.

    Over time grasscycling and clover may be all you need to keep your lawn fed - that's what nature does. Except she would use the animals to trim the grass. Animal poo contains microbes that are good for the soil, and the chewing of plants helps decomposing too. But it is no fun for playing soccer on.

    Overseeding with clover right now may help. The nitrogen made by it will help the grass to grow.

    When you say your spike only went in 10cm, was that because it was hard to push, or did you hit stones? Let us know how you get on.
    6 years ago
    G'day Carreg,

    You say it's mostly grass. That's good! Grass is designed for being walked on. It is easier to grip than other plants and doesn't wear out as quick. Given the rainfall and shade, shallow depth of dirt (have you actually dug a hole and checked, or at least pushed a fork in?) it's never going to be the greatest lawn. Following Paul's tips of mow high (never water in your case! sounds like you get oodles) and leave the clippings will improve things over time. How much time? I don't know!

    You could speed it up by buying a few bags of compost and top dressing. At 4x5m I reckon the job would take 30 minutes. Aerating with a manual core aerator would help too, about 15 minutes work. This will help water to drain, provide a pace for seeds to grow and help compost get deeper into the soil. Then you could overseed with shade/rain tolerant grasses, yarrow, roman chamomile, microclover (there are some great clovers which have fewer flowers than regular clover - less bees), and any other plants you want. In order aerate, overseed, crumble your cores by hand, then top dress. I recommend crumbling your cores because if you walk on them whilst they're wet they'll bury live grass in the dirt which will impede their growth. But these are not the lazy options . Usually these things are done during the time the grass is growing, which in your climate might be from late spring to mid autumn.

    Aerating video:-

    Overseeding video:-

    Top dressing video:-

    Easy peasy.

    6 years ago