Crabgrass & Drought: Be Patient & Smart

This photo was sent to us from Jeff Borkowski of Massachusetts, where the lawn is watered daily — contributing to the massive population of crabgrass. Ironically, this stand of crabgrass in the North looks a lot like a healthy carpet of St. Augustine or centipede grass in the South.

By this week in August EVERY YEAR almost universal afflictions seem to overtake lawns: They’re either baked out brown, overrun by crabgrass, or both. Sometimes people phone us and we hear the desperation in their voices; most times they email begging for help, as if there’s a magical solution.

In a line: Don’t Fret and BE PATIENT

WITH REGARD TO THE CRABGRASS your best bet is to understand that the plant is an annual and it will be dead as soon as we have our first frost, which depending on where you live can be four to 12 weeks from now in the temperate zones of the nation. Spending time treating it with an herbicide just makes no sense.

The best thing you can do is to learn why you have so much crabgrass, or goosegrass or similar annual plants. It’s almost assuredly due to one of two reasons: your lawn mower and your watering regime. Soil has something to do with it, too, but the mowing and sprinkler are always the first things to look at.

In a nutshell, the mower should never be set below its highest setting at anytime during the mowing season until after the first frost. Mowing low opens the soil under the lawn to all kinds of sunlight, which causes the crabgrass seeds to germinate. Once that happens, look out. You’re going to get crabgrass, which just loves the heat of summer as much as the cool-season grasses (bluegrass, fescues etc.) don’t like it. Right now the crabgrass is thriving just as the lawn grasses we want are probably trying to go brown and dormant.

Secondly, your watering should be restricted to once every five to seven days depending on your soil type. Too frequent waterings will cause crabgrass to continue to germinate throughout the summer.

If you water infrequently, but deeply, the roots of the grass plants learn to grow downward to get their moisture; crabgrass roots are shallow and won’t compete as well if the moisture is 6 inches deep or more.

The simple test is to take a shovel and dig up a small patch of your lawn where lawn grass is growing; get down all the way to the bottom of the roots to see if the soil is moist. If not, water some more . . . until the soil is moist to the touch to beneath the root zone. Then don’t water again for at least five days; you’ll be able to stretch this out longer if your soil contains a lot of clay rather than sand or silt.

AS FOR DROUGHT AND BROWN LAWNS in most cases you can be assured that the lawn isn’t dead, it’s just dormant. Turning brown is a grass plant’s built-in mechanism for survival during periods of time when no natural rainfall occurs. As long as we get at least some moisture in the next six or eight weeks, the lawn will come back to green sometime in September.

If, in the worst case scenario, it is dead it still makes no sense to try to do anything about it in August. Plan a renovation for after Labor Day.

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Mowing Alert: Don’t!

With more than half the United States in a drought and much of the continent in warmer-than-normal conditions, the best advice for your lawn right now might be this: Ignore it.

That’s right. Ignore it. Don’t mow. Don’t water and don’t fret. Sure, if you don’t water the lawn it may turn brown, but that doesn’t mean it’s dying, it just means it’s going dormant. Turning brown is a lawn’s natural protection system. It will turn green again when the rain returns.

For those of you with irrigation systems that you feel compelled to use, review this post on proper watering:

And for goodness sakes don’t mow unless you’ve had plenty of rain and there’s more rain in the forecast. Mowing a lawn automatically stresses it out; mowing during heat, or when heat is on the way, only makes matters worse. Here are the mowing tips to review: If you feel you must mow no matter what, be sure to obey the rule about proper height of the blade — meaning you should mow the lawn as high as possible.

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Drought Heightens Need for Proper Watering

Last Thursday, with a heat index of 105, I witnessed a sprinkler system spewing water high into the air at noontime near Washington, D.C. This morning, after more than an inch of rain yesterday, I heard my neighbors’ sprinkler system go off at 5:45 a.m. in Rhode Island.

And after an optimistic drought forecast offered up by the National Weather Service earlier this spring, the map, above, is beginning to look more typical for this time of year: It’s getting dry and it’s likely to stay that way.

If we want to grow lawns and landscapes, we’ve simply got to get the watering thing right. To that end, here are links to a slew of articles we first posted three years ago:

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oxalis triangularis and fern

Placing potted fern in the middle of two oxalis triangularatis, I dont know which should steal the show. Fern has always been exotic in nature with its beautiful leaves, but oxalis triangularis comes in colourful, with deep purple butterfly look  leaves. If we look closely there is a hint of red somewhere within purple leaves. Whitish stems and pale pinkish flowers place oxalis triangularitis within the category of being exotic too. Both plants just grow…, and they don’t react too much with poor watering and fertilising.

Putting them in line, I wonder which one looks better or
they simply complement each other as a package.
fern in the middle, flanked by oxalis triangularis
The combination of strengths will complement each other 
and balance out individual weaknesses 
which will lead to overall enhancement 
of the team.

bangchik and kakdah, 
Tanah Merah Garden

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Gardening: Start Thinking About Your Garden

It’s that time of the year again, folks. The temperatures are warming, the snow is melting and the buds are showing up on the trees. Spring is coming fast, and it’s time for you to start thinking about your garden. Don’t let the season of life pass you by without putting out some beautiful flowers or yummy veggies.

1. What are you going to plant? Your first decision should be what you are going to plant: flowers, vegetables or both. What kind of flowers or vegetables are you going to grow? What are their soil, food and acidity needs? What kind of pests do you have in your area? All these are questions you should ask when choosing a plant to grow. Pick ones that you like.

2. Choose Your Plot. If you haven’t created a garden before, then look outside and decide what spot would be good. The ideal spot is flat with few rocks and some decent sunlight. Rope off the area you want as your garden. You are on your way.

3. Prepare your plot and plant the seeds. Till the soil and take out any rocks and roots that are present. Add fresh potting soil and fertilizer to get the acidity level right, and make your rows for planting. Follow the instructions for planting the various plants and cover the bulbs, seeds or saplings in dirt. You officially have a garden.

4. Grow your plants. The plants are going to need constant care in the form of watering and protection from the elements. There will still be some cold nights, and they should be covered up to resist frost. Use a blanket or other breathable material and do not use plastic. Watch out for predators like insects, rabbits and squirrels, who like to nibble on your vegetables and flowers.

5. Harvest. If you planted vegetables, then after a few months, they will mature and be ready to put in your favorite salad or sold at the local farmers market.

There are few feelings as fulfilling as seeing a heap of fresh vegetables that you grew or a field of bloomed flowers brightening up an already gorgeous spring day. Take advantage of the weather this season and make a garden!

Image Source:

Related posts:

  1. Gardening Project: Native Plant Garden
  2. How to Start a Flower Garden in Five Steps
  3. Get Started Gardening

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I’ve just ordered clover seed for Mr. I’s lawnette.

I can almost always find a fourth leaf clover if I need one

Dear readers, you know many things about my garden philosophy, so, you may have been surprised when I agreed to add the lawnette. (Pay No Attention…the full story) That was for my dear Mr I. In all the years I’ve been gardening, he’s only requested one thing~ “a patch of green” and I agreed.  I do like the restful effect that  it has on my otherwise busy natural garden.  But, after two years of decidedly nonlawn care, we have concluded , that it’s time to seed the brown patches with Trifolium repens, Western Daisy and a few other low growing beauties. 

Western Daisy and other wildflowers in our son’s former play area

Our patch of green will move from a monoculture to a polyculture.  It will be alive with bees and other critters.

Newly sodded monoculture Winter 2009

A polyculture lawn will be perfect for the Garden of Benign Neglect.  We’ll have the  green expanse that Mr I wants, while, taking care of my need to be a smart gardener.

Clover just makes sense.

  • Does not need supplemental watering
  •  green all summer
  • requires very little mowing
  • needs no fertilizer
  • grows in poor soil
  • feels great on the tootsies

But, more importantly,

It’s wildlife friendly.

  • Larval host to  butterflies
  • Provides nectar to butterflies
  • Seeds for some game and songbirds
  • Attractive to honeybees. 


To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,  
One clover, and a bee.  
And revery.  
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.    
Emily Dickinson 

This post was written by Gail Eichelberger for my blog Clay and Limestone Copyright 2011. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

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Maintenance-Free Gardens: Everything You Need to Know (Guest Post)

Maintenance-Free Gardens: Everything You Need to Know

A flower garden in full bloom is every gardener’s masterpiece. And like most great masterpieces, each brush stroke is calculated, the color palette chosen in advance, and the overall composition exists in the artist’s mind well before touching brush to canvas, or in this case, trowel to soil.

Although we all appreciate the beauty of a healthy garden, few actually take the time to create their own. Perhaps it is the unwillingness to devote hours each day tending to the garden that stops most people. But the best gardens are virtually maintenance free, and with proper planning you can create a masterpiece garden that requires minimal upkeep. Just follow the tips below:

  • Tangling With Weeds

Weeds are every gardener’s enemy, and many a gardener spends his days battling them on every front. However, with a little preemptive strategy, most of these battles can be avoided. Weeds sprout up in new gardens because their roots were hiding below the otherwise pristine looking surface. So make sure you eradicate these roots from the very beginning. Dig up all the soil in which you will place your garden. Dig deep enough to reach all the roots. Turning over the soil will dry up roots and prevent weeds from running rampant in your new garden.

  • Paths Offer Potential

A common mistake many gardener’s make when hastily planting a gardening, is to inadvertently block off sections of the garden. This will cause headaches in the future, especially if you’re forced to climb through prickly bushes every time you need to prune your favorite shrub. There’s no need to bushwhack through your own garden. Instead, integrate pathways through your garden. Stepping stones or even paved walkways will allow you to reach each section more easily. You might even consider hanging those pawleys islands hammocks in a secluded nook. Garden paths greatly expand your garden’s potential.

  • Place Needy Plants Nearby

Remember that favorite shrub hidden in the back of the garden? If you had placed it in front of those prickly bushes, pruning wouldn’t have been such a hassle. Some plants need more attention than others. Why not plant them in the most convenient place possible? This will make your gardening experience much more enjoyable.

  • Make a Lawn for Mowing

When it comes to mowing the lawn, all yards are not created equal. Some lawns seem to take forever to mow despite their small size, while other much larger lawns are a breeze to mow. Designing a lawn without sharp angles and multiple obstacles will make mowing easier. Stick to slowly curving edges and rounded corners. If you can mow the entire perimeter without stopping and turning, then you will love mowing your lawn.

  • Moveable Plants Add Depth

Keeping some plants in containers is a great gardening strategy. Not only are decorative pots attractive additions to your yard, but they also allow you to rearrange your garden effortlessly to create a new look. Additionally, pots increase the types of plants you can keep in your garden. Even those plants that are a little fragile can appear in your garden, because you’ll be able to move them to safety in the event of a heavy rain or sudden heat wave.

  • Go Native and Save on Water

Native plants offer advantages over non-native species, because they are well adapted for the climate. This means they will not need daily flooding to stay healthy, and this will save you from a hefty water bill. Of course, you don’t need to limit yourself to native species, but keep in mind the water needs of each plant you do choose. Keeping thirsty plants together will make watering much easier.

Integrating drip irrigation into your garden plan is a real time saver. Pair it with a lawn sprinkler system, and your watering needs will be virtually maintenance free. Of course, the expense of this might be prohibitive for some. Fortunately, soaker hoses are a great alternative. Regardless, of the watering method you decide on, consider it during the design phase to best implement it into your garden.

  • Pruning Keeps Plants Healthy

Pruning is essential to keep many plants healthy, but you can limit the time required to prune by choosing low maintenance plants and by pruning for the right reason. Some people choose fancy, artificially shaped plants, only to discover it requires lots of effort to maintain their original shape. Instead of pruning for for aesthetic appeal, prune with the health of you plants in mind. Additionally, many plants require little pruning. Those that grow more slowly generally require less pruning.

Closing Thought: By visualizing your perfect garden and creating a composition well before playing in the soil, you’ll be able to create a garden environment, which is time efficient, easy to maintain, and a pleasure to look at. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and design your own masterpiece garden!

Author Biography:

Jay Chua is an online publisher and passionate gardener. When he’s not tending to his own garden, he’s reading and writing about gardening or working on his website,, which provides useful information on many of the newest and greatest backyard seating options. His site offers reviews that can help readers decide on the right hammock chairs stand or choose between the best metal porch swing.

Originally written by Dave @ The Home Garden
Not to be reproduced or re-blogged without permission. No feed scraping is permitted.
All Rights Reserved.

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A Review of My Rain Barrel

This summer I finally went out and bought my own rain barrel to install on our house. I’ve been looking for a long time for food grade barrels to make my own but they seem to be increasingly hard to find as the idea of converting them into rain barrels is becoming increasingly popular. I found this Fiskars Rain Barrel (Fiskars 5996 Holden 48-Gallon Rain Harvesting System) at one of my local box stores and decided to bring it home.

Rain Barrel Installed near the shade garden.

The installation was fairly easy and only needed a hacksaw to cut into our gutter downspout and a drill with a paddle bit for making the hole into the rain barrel. The kit fit into a 1 inch cut out on the downspout and then hose was easily attached. The water spigot was simple to put together also. I made sure to add a few concrete blocks (that part cost less than $5 for 4 concrete blocks and 1″ caps) underneath the rain barrel to raise it where I wanted the barrel before installation since that would make it easier to get water out either with a hose or a watering can.

I’ve been very happy with its performance this year and I can’t stress enough how much a rain barrel helps in the garden. I don’t use the water I collect in it for the vegetable garden but I’ve used it just about everywhere else! The only thing that bugs me is that it’s actually $10 cheaper now than when I bought it! (currently $54.95 with free shipping at Amazon.)  Isn’t that always how it works?

No products were given to me for this review however affiliate links to Amazon are present.

Originally written by Dave @ The Home Garden
Not to be reproduced or re-blogged without permission. No feed scraping is permitted.
All Rights Reserved.

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How to seed and fill in bare and thin spots in your lawn

How to seed and fill in bare and thin spots in your lawn

Spring and Fall are the best times to fill in bare and thin spots in your lawn with grass seed. Any area the size of a basketball will probably fill in on it’s own by the end of summer if you fertilize, water and mow properly, but for larger areas, fresh grass seed can help speed up the process. Keep in mind, if you are going to plant grass seed, you will use these tips for large or small areas. First, choose the right seed for your lawn by reading this article.

seed germination ingredients

3 Keys to Growing Grass Seed

  1. Moisture: it seems obvious, but no plant can grow without proper watering. This is especially true with grass seed, as the moisture triggers the actual germination process. The secret here is constant moisture. Allowing the seed to dry out in between waterings will kill it. Grass seed germinates at different rates. Ryegrass sprouts in about 7 days, whereas Bluegrass can take up to 2 weeks … BE PATIENT! :)
  2. Seed-to-soil contact: The seed must be wrapped in soil. The soil beneath is used for rooting, and the soil above supports the young sprout as it reaches for the sky. Soil also retains moisture and heat.
  3. Heat and sunlight: Temperatures must be above 40 degrees at night in order for most grass seed to germinate. Ideally, temps will be in the upper 50s and lower 60s during the day. Sunlight is important because the young seedling needs to create its own food through photosynthesis so it can keep growing. The energy stored in the seed is only enough to give it an initial push.

The pictures below illustrate the seeding process. In this example, I am using Scott’s Tall Fescue blend seed and Scott’s Lawn Soil as a seed covering. Normally, landscapers use a slurry mixture of peat moss and top soil in equal parts to cover the seeds, but Scott’s now sells their “lawn soil” as a seed covering which saves you the hassle of mixing.

Another very good quality grass seed is the Eco Lawn Fescue seed sold online. It is cold hardy and can be grown in sun or shade with outstanding results!

The lawn soil bags are $3.50 each at Menards. One bag is enough to cover an area 3 feet by 3 feet when seeding.

Here are 2 other articles that relate to this one if you care to learn more.

“Grass seed types for your lawn”

“Growing Grass in Heavy Shade”

lawn bare spot

seed in bare area of lawn

cover the seed with soil peat moss mixture

pat soil for good seed-soil contact

finished bare spot seeding

Below are a couple updated pictures taken just 2 weeks after the above pictures. You will see the germination is very favorable.
Keep in mind that quality seed is very important!

bare sport seeding 2 weeks later

bare sport seeding close up

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