Lush lawn

A dark, lush green lawn is not always a healthy lawn. Every year we experience at least short periods of drought during the summer months and very lush lawns are often the first to be badly damaged.

Are you a green-lawn fanatic? To find out, take this simple test:

Do you get upset if your lawn is not the color of a dark green Crayola?

Do you have the feeling your neighbor’s lawn is greener than yours?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, then you are a green-lawn fanatic. But fear not, the lawn counselor is here to offer a little therapy. To begin, repeat this statement 100 times each day, “A dark, lush green lawn is not always a healthy lawn.”

Seriously, this statement is true. It seems that every year we experience at least short periods of drought during the summer months. Many very lush lawns are often the first to be badly damaged.

According to university turf grass specialists, the damage to these lawns could be related to high rates of nitrogen application from mid-April through June. In general, lawns receiving low to moderate amounts of nitrogen (less than one pound per 1,000 square feet of lawn area) in late spring survive the summer in better condition than those receiving greater amounts. Typically, lawn fertilizers contain more nitrogen than other essential plant nutrients, so when calculating rates of fertilizer to apply, base the rates on the nitrogen component of the fertilizer. Of course, irrigating drought-stressed lawns may lessen the damage, but during drought, periods water conservation must be a priority.

Not only does excessive nitrogen application reduce drought and heat tolerance of turf grass, but it may also have other side effects. Leafspot disease is more prevalent in lush green lawns. An increase in the rate of thatch buildup is also noticeable. Thatch is the organic debris which accumulates on the soil surface between grass stems. Excessive thatch levels interfere with water infiltration into the root zone of grass.

So, don’t be a green-lawn fanatic. While your neighbor may be visibly gloating over his or her greener lawn, you will have the inner satisfaction of knowing that your lawn is healthier.

CHORES TO SATISFY THE SOUL

Here are some tasks which, upon completion, will provide even more inner satisfaction:

• Transplant seedlings of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra and vine crops if you have not already done so. Now that night-time temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees, tender crops such as these should resume growth quickly after transplanting. Also, sow seeds of beans, corn and other warm-season crops.

• Dig up suckers, i.e. young shoots, which are popping up outside the boundaries of your red raspberry planting. These suckers arise from the sprawling roots of raspberry plants and, if not controlled, they’ll spread into adjacent flower beds or vegetable garden.

• Create a mini-garden of your favorite annual culinary herbs, such as basil, sweet marjoram, cilantro, dill, summer savory and parsley. If no room in the yard, plant these in pots. A large, wide pot will accommodate a mix of your most commonly used herbs and it can be placed for easy access from the kitchen.

• Don’t wait to control flea beetles chewing holes in vegetable crops. These beetles occur in large numbers and can quickly defoliate a plant. Though the beetles dine on a variety of vegetables, including eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, tomatoes and sweet corn, they are now devouring early-season crops, especially cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, mustard greens and lettuce. Covering these early-season crops with floating row covers prevents infestations, but it is too late for that now. To control flea beetles already on plants, apply neem oil or a biological insecticide containing Beauveria bassiana, e.g. BotaniGard. Other pests to look for in the vegetable garden include: aphids, asparagus beetle, striped cucumber beetle and Colorado potato beetle.

• Be careful when cultivating around garden peas. Peas have shallow roots that are easily damaged. I put a light layer of straw mulch around peas to protect them from my heavy-handed cultivation technique, and to keep weeds down and soil moisture high. The mulch will also keep the ground cool, something pea roots enjoy.

• Begin hilling potato plants when they are about 5 inches tall. By hilling, I mean drawing soil up against the base of the plants. I use a garden hoe to do this. Hilling soil against the plants will keep any potato tubers from being exposed to sunlight. Another technique is to place straw mulch around the plants as they develop. That technique makes harvesting of the potatoes quite easy.

• Reserve space in the vegetable garden or create space in a lawn area for a cutting garden consisting of annual flowers. Among the best annuals for a cutting garden are cornflower, cosmos, larkspur, marigold, snapdragon and zinnia.

• Plant bluestar (Amsonia) as a filler in shrub borders. This native plant with light blue, star-like flowers requires little care and is a great addition to the low-maintenance garden. It blooms in June and July. In fall, its leaves turn gold in color. Plant this and other perennials this month.

• Prune back the new growth of mugo pines by one-half to two-thirds to create a more compact and shapely plant.