GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2005 show9
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Show #9

Gardeners have a love/hate relationship with their lawn. They love how it looks when healthy but hate the time and energy it takes to maintain. Today we discuss grass types, caring for your lawn, repairing, weeding watering and fertilizing.

We're visiting Jekyll Island Georgia on the Southern coast of Georgia. Jekyll Island has a rich history starting with Native Americans. The first settlements began in 1740 when the Island was given to William Horton who was the top military advisor to James Oglethorpe who founded the Colony of Georgia and was in charge of the garrison at Fort Fredrico at Saint Simons Island. The club that eventually sprang forth originally had 100 members who could join by invitation only. The club house was the center of activity and was completed in time for the main season, January, in 1888. A number of members then started building their own cottages. Amongst the club's members were J.P. Morgan, William Rockefeller, Joseph Pulitzer, Cyrus McCormick, Theodore Vale, the President of AT & T. The list goes on. When thinking of any business important during that time, probably even today, those people were involved in the Jekyll Island Club. There is a quote from Muncie's Magazine from the early 1900's that says that during the height of club season, 1/6 of the world's wealth would be dining in the clubhouse. This wonderful 240 acre, 33 structure, National Historic Landmark is fortunate to still be around. The activities of the club then and now were and are geared towards the outdoors. Even in January and February the temperatures reach the 60's and 70's, thus enjoyable. Back then hunting, biking, lawn bowling and croquet were big sports, although just being outdoors, enjoying the lawns, the landscapes, the marsh and the beach were unique and enjoyable. The grounds were made to look their best in the middle of winter, January and February. To accomplish this hardier ornamental plants were utilized and they would overseed with Rye Grass. Through painstaking effort the grounds are still maintained much the same today, for example the croquet court is still maintained beautifully. That effort is spearheaded by Kevin McLean, the horticulturist at The Jekyll Island Club Hotel.

Sally Groves is the head of the Jekyll Island Croquet Club. They play American Six Wicket Croquet. The object of the game is to go around six wickets twice. It's a vicious game and a combination of billiards and putting because you can hit a ball and it will careen off and go where you want it. All this is possible because of the beautifully maintained grass, the job of Kevin McLean.

Kevin moved to Jekyll Island from Atlanta. He likes it here, it is a much slower pace. Kevin tells us about the croquet court. It is Tift Dwarf Bermuda, used mainly for athletic fields and probably not ideal for use at home. There are many varieties of Bermuda. The advantage of Bermuda over other warm season grasses is that it is tolerant of traffic and loves full sun. It is a low maintenance grass. As the temperatures rise Bermuda greens nicely. When it gets cool, after a frost, it goes dormant and turns brown for the winter. The Croquet court grass is very fine textured, it's comfortable to walk on. If mowing grass at home cut to between 1 and 1/2 to 2 inches tall. As the summer progresses bump that up to at least 2 and 1/2 inches.

Charlie notices another type grass that has a broad blade leaf. It is St. Augustine, Bitter Blue St. Augustine. St. Augustine is a common turf grass on the Georgia coast. It has a nice wide blade, can handle the sun or shade and stands up well to traffic. It is fairly disease and insect resistant. It is a great grass if you have kids or pets running around the back yard. Both Bermuda and St. Augustine are warm season grasses, in the South they grow well. If in the North, you'll grow different grasses-Kentucky Blue Grass, Perennial Rye Grass or Tall Fescue. You must find the right grass for your environment.

Charlie next notices a fine leaf textured grass. It is a Perennial Rye. Since the St. Augustine is a warm season grass it will go dormant in winter, it turns brown. Kevin likes green grass year round so they overseed in the late fall with Perennial Rye Grass. Come Spring and Summer the Rye dies back and the Bermuda or St. Augustine will green up, meaning they have green grass year round. We look at a transition zone where the St. Augustine grass is greening and the Perennial Rye is dying back.

Kevin tells us how he overseeds the lawn in the Fall. He cuts the St. Augustine short, then puts out the Perennial Rye Grass with a starter fertilizer, they keep it wet for 10 to 14 days after that and it germinates quickly. Rye grass will usually germinate in 7-10 days, but make sure to keep the seeds wet because once they're watered the first time they need to stay wet until they come up. Kevin doesn't use Annual Rye Grass, instead uses Perennial Rye. It costs a little more but he gets much better results because it doesn't have as much weed seed in the mix.

Many people have bare spots in their lawn in the Spring and Summer. Kevin has just such a spot. It is at the edge of a walkway, a lot of people walk through, golf carts have taken a short cut and bikes roll across the area. What has happened here is all that traffic has knocked all the air out of the soil, the grass roots died, the grass shoots died and a bare spot is left. Let's fix it. If the soil wasn't so compacted a rake could rough it up a little but this is compacted, thus a shovel is needed. Break the soil up well. This loosens it up not only for the air but also so other ingredients can be mixed in. He makes the loosened soil fluffy, clumps need to be broken up. This will allow the seeds to take hold. It may be necessary to dig up some of the grass. Then rake it, smooth it out. Remove debris like stones or gravel. Create a level bed, make sure it isn't below the level of the sidewalk. If it is low or sunken it will collect water making it hard for the grass seed to get established. Kevin then adds compost, a half inch thick. He next adds Melorganite or another good started fertilizer. This one is good because it is non-burning. It doesn't need a lot just a handful. Sprinkle it on. Then add the grass seed, Kevin in this case is using Rye Grass. With good watering it will fill in quickly. Keep the seed wet or the seed will die. It will probably need watered every day for 10-12 days although the seed will probably come up in 7-10 days. If for some reason you can't water every day you could put a little mulch or straw on top. This will shade the soil, keep it cooler and moist so that the grass seed will germinate.To keep people off this area for a while you might want to put up stakes or yellow or red flagging, even string, anything to keep people off the area for a while. Since some St. Augustine is nearby by the end of the season the St. Augustine will have filled in and it will look great.

Abraham has a great idea for dressing up a driveway so it will look as good as the surrounding lawn. Abraham today is dressing up the driveway with concrete stamping. This is a flat surface with plain concrete. He wants to give it character to go with the outdoors. The design could be flagstone, brick or cobblestone. He will use a stone design to go with the house. This is the entrance to the house. It is an introduction to the home as well as the yard. Abraham is using a concrete product that is tinted. It can be tinted any color you might like. It can be found at home improvement centers or local paint stores. It adheres to concrete, is specifically made for concrete stamping. First he makes sure the area is clean, then tapes the area where working. The tape will create the actual design box, he then creates the design within the box. He puts down a base coat, it will act as his grout lines for the stone. He uses a medium grey. The next part is fun, start designing the rock formation. After studying rocks, he pulls out some colors that he believes will provide a realistic rock look. He wants colors that compliment the house, thus chooses khaki grey as a base, he then adds a little bit of Georgia clay copper color, as well as some black to give it a natural depth and texture. After designing the rocks he starts adding the colors of the stones. He trowels on the first base, the shape of a rock. The first base color is the lightest color, he then darkens it with other colors adding accent. He adds color randomly and when done it looks like rocks. Finish with a sealer and you have a beautiful rock looking entrance to your home.

Fertilizing your lawn can be confusing. At Jekyll Island they fertilize twice a year. The first time is when they have 90% green up on the St. Augustine and then again in the middle of July, which is the middle of the growing season. That's a great tip, if growing warm season grasses wait till it starts greening up before you fertilize, if you fertilize too early you're wasting time. If in the North and growing cool season grasses, like Kentucky Blue Grass and Fescues you'll want to wait to fertilize until Spring and Fall, that way you're feeding the roots and not the tops. You don't just want lush growth because you'll be mowing all Summer long. Kevin has a fertilizer company that takes soil samples and then mixes a custom blend for them. The average homeowner won't have this luxury but should have a soil sample done by their County Extension Service to find what nutrients are lacking and what nutrients are present. Kevin recommends a fertilizer that's good quality, with a slow release Nitrogen because you don't want a bunch of top growth, while not feeding the roots. Use a slow release fertilizer several different times during the growing season so you're slowly feeding the lawn and it's slowly growing. To apply fertilizer Kevin uses a spreader, either a broadcaster or a drop spreader. Normally the bag will tell how many pounds per square feet to put out, then calibrate your spreader to put that amount out. Kevin uses Melorganite which is composted sewage sludge. It's a great fertilizer, it doesn't burn and it keeps deer away. The smell keeps them away. It breaks down slowly and feeds the soil. After fertilizing watering is important.

When watering Kevin uses pop up sprinklers, an underground irrigation system that covers a majority of the property. These run 3 times a week for 40 minutes an evening. Kevin knows this because he knows how much water his sprinklers put out and how much water his lawn needs. You normally want to put down between 1 and 1 and 1/2 inches per week. To determine how much water your sprinklers put out there is a simple test. All you need are some coffee mugs. Place them around your sprinklers, in this case 6 or 7 mugs are placed around the sprinklers randomly. Run the sprinklers a set amount of time, in this case we run them 15 minutes. After that measure the cups. In 15 minutes the cups collected 1/2 of an inch of water. Multiply that by 4 and the sprinklers are putting out 2" of water per hour. With this information you can then determine how much water you're adding to your lawn each hour, then each week.

Moles can be a problem. You can identify Moles as a problem if when you stick your finger down a hole you can feel a tunnel. There is a safe way to rid your lawn of Moles without harming other pests, insects, pets or family. Castor Oil produces an odor that Moles don't like. Get it in granular or liquid form, sprinkle it around the area. You'll see more Mole activity in the first few days because they'll get agitated but quickly they'll move somewhere else. Don't use a castor oil from a grocery because it has been de-odorized, thus won't be as effective. Another method is to use a new bait on the market that looks like an earthworm. It's actually coated with a poison so be careful around children because they might think it's edible, which it is not. Create a little opening in the hole and stick the earthworm in and cover it. The Mole comes through the tunnel, munches on the earthworm, eats the poison and dies.

Weeds are the bain of a gardeners existence. Many people reach for something and spray. There are many cultural things that can be tried before spraying. Cutting the grass correctly and ensuring good drainage will go a long way towards preventing weeds. If water is puddling on top of the soil you know you're going to have to do something, some drainage tiles, bringing in more soil to level it out, somehow improve the drainage. With conditions like this you will not only have problems with weeds but funguses as well. Drainage is important. Cutting the grass higher can help and leaving the clippings on the grass shades out weeds. If you have shade you won't have a lot of weeds. If weeds don't germinate, if they don't have sun to germinate, weeds won't be as much a problem. If your lawn is healthy, has a good strong root system, if you have a nice thick lush lawn it will be hard for weeds seeds to get going in that environment.

That said we look at a weed that causes problems in Georgia and Florida. It is called Dollar Weed or Pennywort. It is a tough weed because it has a waxy type leaf and it's hard to eradicate because it's difficult to get the pesticide through the Cambium layer. This weed is the most active in the spring and in the Fall, in the Winter it goes dormant. You would only want to spray when it is actively growing. That's a great tip. Spray for weeds only as a last resort and then only when they're actively growing. At that point the herbicide will translocate the herbicide down into the weed and kill it. If you do it at other times of the year you're probably wasting money and time.

No one likes weeds along pathways and rockwalls. If you have broadleaf annual weeds or grasses that are hard to dig out as an alternative to using harsh chemicals use an organic herbicide. There are some based on vinegar, some are actually 25% acidic acid and stronger than vinegar. It is safe and can be purchased in concentrate form. On a sunny warm day spray it on the leaves and it will kill them within 24 hours. If you have tenacious perennial weeds like Dandelions you may need to use multiple applications.

Kevin has one particularly difficult spot. Grass won't grow. When that happens he utilizes ground covers. In one spot he has used Asiatic Jasmine. It is aggressive and will cover an area quickly. It looks a lot like Vinca one might see in the North but doesn't bloom. It has evergreen foliage and is a nice green ground cover. Asiatic Jasmine can handle both sun and shade and is fairly insect and disease resistant. It is durable, you can walk on it, trample through it, it is woody but the stems are pliable enough that they don't seem to break. Kevin keeps it cut back, not so much the height, but the runners, because it is vine-like.

Kevin and Charlie summarize tips and ideas for a beautiful, healthy lawn. One of the main priorities is to cut and cut often. Only cut 1/3 off the blade, don't scalp your grass. Also remember not to over water your lawn because that will invite weeds and disease into your turf. Have good drainage, good drainage is important. Use compost and mulch. Have a soil test performed regularly, find out what nutrients you need to suppliment-fertilizer or lime. Then remember to fertilize at the correct time of year for the grass in your area. Different regions have different things to pay attention to, so zone is important.. Make sure you don't water too much. If you do all these things the insects, the disease and weeds should not be much of a problem.

Thanks Kevin for showing us this beautiful Island and thanks for your tips on lawn care.


Jekyll Island Club Hotel

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By Biltmore
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Christmas is a special time at Biltmore, in Asheville, N.C, and has been ever since George Vanderbilt welcomed his first guests to his new home, Biltmore House, in 1895. That year started a tradition that Biltmore’s guests enjoy today. To learn more click here for an interesting article.

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