The Beautiful Benefits Of A Small Lawn
Although we enjoy tremendously our big meadow-lawn, we also get a great deal of satisfaction from the 12 to 15-foot swath of regular mowed lawn around the house. We have developed some easy procedures for its maintenance. All are in the let's-keep-it-simple vein.
We cut this strip of lawn each week. We feed it with a 5-10-5 chemical fertilizer in early April, an organic one in mid-summer and again in early September, and that's it. Our lawn is more "grass" than lawn in the orthodox sense. We have a democratic assortment of grasses in it and a lot of clover. It's heartening to see the clover in the quick, lush summer periods unfold its myriad furry white flowers, spread its seed, and grow thicker. Some say clover stains clothes and is slippery. But we love the flowers, and sometimes when we most need it we find a four-leaf clover!
Though our lawn is heterogeneous, it pleases us and feels fine to walk on, particularly bare-footed in the morning dew. This is supposed to do something special for you, I forget now just what, but something significant.
Permanently Improve Your Soil
The surest way to success with lawns, as with all parts of the gardening, is to work toward building up the quality of the soil. The slow-acting organic fertilizers do this. Applied midsummer and fall they gradually improve the earth. Among the best are dried ground fish meal, bone meal, pulverized sheep manure and shredded cattle manure, and wood ashes from the fireplace. But in the spring, especially in a new lawn, a quick-acting chemical mixture encourages rapid growth before crab-grass stirs to action. There is another advantage in using chemical fertilizers in the spring. The bacterial action needed to release food elements in an organic fertilizer does not occur until the soil temperature rises above 60 degrees.
Much spring grass growth occurs when the mercury is well below this. The elements in chemical foods are immediately available and promote a quick and welcome early growth. The lawn fertilizer compounds containing urea-form nitrogen are excellent and time-saving too.
The principal of developing a good lawn is to encourage grass growth when weeds are weakest. This means feeding twice a year: in early spring before the perennial weeds really get under way, and in early September when crabgrass and annual weeds have spent their vitality and there are still two months of good-grass growing weather before frost.
Don`t Worry About Weeds
How much weeding you do depends upon your temperament. We make good use of one of the long hollow tubes (Killer Kane is one of the trade names) that contain a liquid weed killer for spot treatment of dandelions and other broad-leaved weeds. Beyond that we do nothing. But if you do pull or spray crabgrass, do it early before it goes to seed. (The seeds can lie dormant in the soil and sprout many years later). So eliminate the crabgrass when young, level the spot and reseed with a good grass immediately. Keep the soil moist until seedlings become established.
Never weed unless it's really fun. My mother used to love it. In her seventies she'd settle for the afternoon on a cushion beneath a large hat with gloves and a basket. This, she always said, was her golf. Our "golf" is a host of other activities—flying kites, swimming, exploring woods. Well—you should take your golf where you find it, and if it is weeding lawns, more power to you. It really does improve them.
Rolling & Cutting
It does seem rather ridiculous the way we feed our lawns so they will grow, and as soon as they grow we cut—and complain about the need for frequent cutting. But then, a lot of things we humans do seem sort of silly and we keep right on doing them. Actually a vigorously growing lawn is best able to resist diseases and weed invasions.
Small lawns are fine. If you possibly can do so, keep yours small enough so you can enjoy it, with mowing quickly done and never a chore. A strip of green lawn makes a pleasant setting for a home. Looking from the inside out, we find it quiet and inviting. Perhaps a robin on the green is in a tug of war with a large and resisting worm. Or maybe a rabbit darts across. Considered from a distance, a house rising from a frame of lawn looks attractive and the fragrance of newly-cut grass is an additional joy. A lawn is indeed important but, for us, acceptable only if it is a small one. Let the rest be meadow!