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
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
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
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
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
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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