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Turf Tips: Renewal Time

by Nel Newman

What’s happened to your green carpet of lawn out front? You fertilize and water and mow and it looks worse every year. You use insecticides and fungicides as recommended, even apply a weed and feed product sometimes, yet the lawn doesn’t thrive. Your problem may be thatch.

Get a feel for your lawn’s health--go barefooted to test for thatch, which builds up when lawn clippings, roots, stolons, and rhizomes fail to compost themselves as your lawn grows. The result is a thick rug between the soil surface and green grass. Thatch is a cozy environment for bugs and diseases, as well as an umbrella that sheds rain and blocks the sun from reaching the turf. If the lawn feels squishy or springy under your feet, grab a ruler to determine the extent of your problem. It's time to act if your thatch mat measures more than one half inch deep.

Thatch, or cavex, rakes should have heavy blades that leer like a toothy crescent moon. By pulling the rake toward you through the grass, you cut thatch loose. If your lawn is larger than three thousand square feet, rent a thatching mower, also called a verticutter or vertimower.

To fill in blank spots after thatching, or to patch dead spots in the lawn, choose between seed, sod plugs, or turf cuttings you’ve rooted. Newly seeded areas demand careful watering and can be very difficult to establish on slopes or in rainy weather. Buy grass plugs or cut your own from purchased sod squares. Saw through the sod mat with a serrated knife to make two square inch plugs. Your own cuttings will work best in areas less than a foot square. Look for fertilizers formulated for new growth, and feed separately from the rest of your lawn for the first year.



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