A novice lawn question!

Discussion in 'HortForum' started by Keith Elliott, May 2, 2021.

  1. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Rising Contributor

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    OK, so I have looked through a number of posts and indeed I have found several regarding lawns. Here's our present lawn situation.

    Last year, we started a small lawn on the high side of our property alongside the driveway. We used turf to do this and it seems to be pretty good, considering that what I know about lawns would fit in an egg cup.

    We have frequent visits from the local deer populace, and given that the ground was quite soft before the winter, and again this spring, their darling hoof prints have left a whole lot of holes. We have been told that coarse sand possibly mixed with some topsoil, and then re-seeded might work.

    Are we on the right track? Thank you in advance.

    Additionally, we did a 2nd lawn on the next level down (it's a very steep property) which we started from seed. This one has plenty of crabgrass (yes, I learned how to I.D. it very quickly) and a few other lesser weeds. This is the lawn that the deer use as their hotel. They frequently will lay down here for extended periods, usually at night, leave hundreds of their calling cards and hundreds of the dreaded hoof prints. There are many small areas, usually a square foot or less, which appear to be quite dead. Although with the rains over the last two or three days, the lawn in general certainly is perking up. It's about 1500 square feet or so. As a result of all this deer use, the ground has become very bumpy.

    When we started the lawn, we got in (I think) two truckloads of topsoil which we spread everywhere as carefully as we were able. We also ran it all through our screen which managed to remove thousands of pieces of wood. Right after we sowed the seeds, we had a torrential downpour which managed to literally wash most of the seed off the ground. It does slope slightly southwards towards the lake so perhaps that shouldn't be much of a surprise. That made it necessary for us to buy a whole lot more seed and start over from scratch.

    The ground seems to be packed pretty hard to my way of thinking and it's difficult to pull the crabgrass out without using some kind of wicked looking tool. I'm in the process of adding a screen around that lawn and the new veggie raised bed section on the next level down in an attempt to dissuade the deer from staying here constantly. Any advice?
     
  2. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Absolutely, a light top dressing with thus to level out the dips is what I would reccomend. But 'not' too deep. If you find when the grass works it's way through and looks established and the dips are not level, then apply a little more.
     
  3. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Compaction of soil is not good for a quality lawn. So I reccomend spiking (3 inch minimum) to loosen and aereate the area. This is something that should be done yearly in early Spring. It is not a one of job I'm afraid.
    Hollow tining tools are used and very effective. I used to do this yearly in Autumn and re fill the holes that the plugs were removed with course grit and sand. This helped with drainage and compaction issues, something I learnt very early on in my golf pro days from the course green keepers.
     
  4. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Rising Contributor

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    Thank you indeed! I took a closer look at the upper grass alongside the driveway, which was done with turf on top of fresh topsoil. It actually looks quite good and just has a number of hoof impressions from the deer. Those holes are usually about 2" to 3" deep and there's quite a few of them.
    On the lower lawn, there's an abundance of bare spots and it definitely feels very solid. The top lawn is quite soft by comparison. The hoof holes on the lower lawn are nowhere near as deep, suggesting that the ground there is considerably harder.
    I just looked up hollow tining tools and I see that Fisker makes one with two tines on it. Looks quite sturdy to me. I suppose I could weld one up myself, but it wouldn't look as good or last as long! If you're familiar with the Fisker tool, could you pass along your opinion of it by any chance? A friend of ours over at Scotch Creek has a rental store, but he doesn't have anything like that available. Other than the local golf course, there doesn't seem to be much grass up this way.
     
  5. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Contributor

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    I have a key thought about this - knowing that you are rural (based on your other posts) — are any of these areas part of your property septic system especially septic field where the Waste Water has left the distribution box and is evaporating and draining thru the lines?

    Us country people know that the modern septic system esp on slopes is worth more than any car most of us have ever bought new!

    I am sure you’ve already considered these details

    Maybe the golf course greens keeper in your village can advise - and spare some bits of turf etc ?

    I don’t think the deer will ever check out of your cozy hotel!

    If it is your septic drain field ... It’s important not to top dress with overly moisture retaining material because those long « pipes » both drain and evaporate

    Our coast lawn is on the septic field and does very well over a thick bed of sand - like they build golf course greens

    I don’t know the native grasses in the forested North Okanagan (South Thompson) but maybe that would look nice instead of struggling with suburban lawn ?

    PS - on our Okanagan acreage - we purposely chose a deer friendly (wildlife friendly) fence because it’s obvious they have old time trails on the slopes ... and so many vineyards around us have those huge tall prison looking fences that have changed wildlife habitat significantly
     
  6. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Hi Keith, I'm not aware of Fisker tools, but tbh any make will do as long as they do the trick. It does sound like you do have a compaction problem, whereby water and oxygen is not getting to the roots.
    If you have a garden fork then that will help by spiking the area and using your weight to push it down a few inches. Don't be afraid to give it a wiggle as well. As this opens up the soil.
    Regarding the deer marks, do give it a soil and sand top dressing and gently brush it into the surface. You will be surprised at how it dissappears. In a week or two you won't know you have done it and it will be level. If not then reaply when the grass appears to be growing away well. But as I said before, not too thick as this will starve the turf of light and it will die.
    So don't spend money when a fork will do. I'm sure your lawn will look good with just a few simple steps. Btw a Japanese deer scarer is very effective. The slightest click and they are gone.

    D
     
  7. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Rising Contributor

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    The septic system here is one of those "Eco-Flow" devices. As you say, outrageously costly. But it works trouble free year round, and apparently needs to have the filtering medium replaced about every 15 years or so. Since there are only two of us here, we suspect that it may even last longer. It gets inspected annually just to make certain that everything is in good working order. So with this system there are no drain lines as in a normal style system. It looks like a giant inverted plastic swimming pool and gets installed using a big excavator. The lowest drainage level at the bottom of this contraption is about 6 feet, maybe a little more, below ground level, so I doubt that has any effect at all on the grass.

    The deer screen, it definitely isn't a fence, just some very fine nearly invisible cloth, is getting done right now. What we are doing is to get some steel posts in the ground and attaching this screen material with zip ties. It is actually very difficult to see this screen as the cloth itself is made of extremely thin material. I will have to get some photos going here so that it's easier to understand. We tried this product around a small terraced piece of the garden which has bulbs and it is working OK so far. About the only part of the garden which has survived the deer.
     
  8. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Rising Contributor

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    Yes indeed, we have a garden fork, so I will try that first. There's no doubt that we have that compaction problem, but just on the lower grass. It may be worth noting that Anglemont has the highest percentage of rocks in the ground anywhere in the North Shuswap area. The building inspector told us that the rocks are so predominant here that it is normal now to require an engineers' report before getting a building permit issued. Rocks anywhere from inch size up to 14,000 lbs. That was the biggest one we found so far.

    I did find a few different brands of those hollow tining tools, but honestly, some of them looked as though they wouldn't survive the first use.

    Oddly enough, I have a deer scarer here which I got years ago when I built a Japanese style garden down at the coast. I didn't give that a thought until you mentioned it. Now I should note that the missus talks to the deer here, and while I'm pretty certain they don't understand a single word, they are not afraid at all. They will just stand there looking right at us. We can commonly get within 15 or 20 feet of them and they aren't bothered in the least. However, her generous nature is rapidly vanishing as she isn't at all happy about the loss of 95% of her bulbs this year.

    I will get going today on using that fork idea. I expect if I wiggle the fork enough that the holes might be large enough to accept some sand. I will call the local gravel pit to see what they have available.
     
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  9. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Rising Contributor

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    Either I forgot to eat my Wheaties, or that ground is far harder than I thought. Even with trying to drive the fork hard into the ground, the tines barely penetrated just one inch. One thing I didn't do was to water the ground beforehand. I understand that makes it much easier. When the fork idea didn't pan out, I took a pin bar, about 18" long, and slugged that into the ground with a 3 lb. hand sledge. Even that took 5 or 6 hits to drive 3" into the ground, so I fear we are talking some serious compaction here. That was on a bare spot of ground. Where there is grass it is better, but not by much.

    What we are now considering doing is to take the rototiller over the worst side of the lawn, which would be the south side, add some fresh topsoil and re-seed from scratch. Alternately, I just might use a pick to break up the bare spots, dig out the worst of it, add topsoil and seed that. Given that I'm knocking on the door to 79 later this year, the less physical work, the better.

    I made progress on the screen around the area today, got all the steel posts in the ground. I found a 1" square steel bar, about 3' long, sharpened one end by cutting off the outer edges to a point, and drove that into the ground to a depth of about a foot. The steel posts we are using were apparently designed to hold chain link fencing...got them from the big orange store. They fit snugly in the holes we made.

    Hah! Got the photo thing figured out, now you're in trouble! Took this pic a few minutes ago, around 9 a.m. here under partly cloudy skies.

    IMG_4450.JPG

    That's the lower lawn. Several bare spots on the south side and the ground is hard. The septic tank location is now obvious, with the far side tank being that Eco Flow gadget.
     
  10. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Rising Contributor

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    The area where the lower lawn is was at one time just a part of the slope. It needed to be roughly levelled out for the septic system. Prior to this pic, it was covered with weeds, many up to 4' tall. We did our best to oust the weeds and then Jeff, a young fellow who keeps his trailer at the bottom of our lower lot, helped us screen and spread the topsoil. That grey fence has since bitten the dust and we re-cycled much of the wood into the raised beds.

    IMG_3802.JPG IMG_3807.JPG IMG_3810.JPG
     
  11. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Tbh Keith, that lawn looks pretty darned OK to me. So you are doing a lot that is right. But as we discussed, compaction will over time make things worse, so the more you do the better it will be.
    If you are bringing in top soil and re-seeding , then you have to opportunity to give a deeper amount of soil with around 25% sand, this will enable you to aerate your lawn so much easier over the coming years and aid good drainage.
    Regarding the poles, I presume this is toadd fencing to stop the deer. Now from my experience of watching deer for hours at night and very near me. They can jump silly heights and even from a standing position. Your fencing might then keep them in due to the drop. Your own herd, lol.
    So good luck with the preparation of the new seeded lawn and do add some sand.
    Look forward to seeing some more photos.

    D
     
  12. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Rising Contributor

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    How I wish we had known about the sand when we first started this little project. What a difference that would have made. However, no excuses any more. We are planning on getting a load of sand very soon. As for the olympic jumping deer, there are at least two different breeds of deer here, possibly three. The bigger ones can really jump, as you say, but the little guys can't quite get up that high. The deer screen will be about 7' high, and after talking to several of the neighbours, we think it should do the job. If we can just convince them to visit the B & B right across the road from us (he feeds the deer!) then all will be good.

    Here's a few of the offending spots.

    IMG_4432.JPG IMG_4433.JPG IMG_4434.JPG

    And an unwelcome grass visitor.

    IMG_4435.JPG
     
  13. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Rising Contributor

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    Now, regarding the screen we are installing, what I did was to use this chunk of steel that I found and add a bit of a taper to the end. Then drove that into the ground for a foot or so and dropped the posts into place. There is never any way to know just how many rocks you are going to hit on the way down, and so when the steel rod hits a rock it usually will get deflected sideways. So if the posts aren't really vertical, blame the rocks that I can't see.

    IMG_4412.JPG IMG_4410.JPG
     
  14. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Thats pretty good evidence Keith and the dreaded Couch grass to add to your problems. Do dig this stuff out as deep as you can, as the smallest amounts left behind will return with a vengeance.

    Good luck against the Olympic jumping deer..
     
  15. Keith Elliott

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    Surprisingly, there isn't that much of the couch grass there...yet. But I do have one of those wicked looking implements with which to remove it. One thing I have noticed so far, is that the roots aren't that deep yet. Doubtless, given more time, that grass will rectify that little shortcoming.
     
  16. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    It will Keith, so a really 'thorough' removal is needed. Good luck.
     
  17. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Rising Contributor

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    Another question. A few weeks ago I used one of those thatch removing blades on our cordless mower. I think that might have been a serious error. Because much of the lawn isn't really flat, it scalped the higher parts and ignored the dips. I won't use it again. What is the preferred way to remove thatch? Thank you.

    IMG_4451.JPG
     
  18. Keith Elliott

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    One other thing I learned a few days ago, is that once your lawn is strong and healthy, it will usually prevent the couch grass from growing. Is that true?
     
  19. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    A wire lawn rake ( fan shaped) or an electric scarifier that will save so much time and effort. I used to do this every Spring and then scatter some grass seed.
     
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  20. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    A week lawn with patches will allow couch grass to get in. But if there is no room for the couch seeds to get light, then you are right it won't take hold. But animal droppings will bring it in, so as you have deer it will get in.
     
  21. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Contributor

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    Well that is an impressive slope terrace view

    I have the same red « yard hydrants » (Merrill brand) and they totally seized (the handle) so I got the blue painted brand fr irrigation supply and a lot of drain rock to go in the connection pit

    The mechanism inside the long supply upright pipe was completely orange color metal corrosion and seized up (we pulled it apart to look)

    Careful your happy deer don’t rub and break the connections (we have a post next to hydrant) — obviously you disconnect all hoses fr hydrant to winterize it

    Yes - our coast lawn has lots of clean sand under it - just like a golf course green.

    So glad to see pictures of your neighbourhood
     
  22. Keith Elliott

    Keith Elliott Rising Contributor

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    We have one of those fan shaped spring metal rakes, and it does a so-so job. Last night I was searching for something similar but better, and I ran across a rake from Cdn Tire which looks pretty good. I have just been advised by the boss that we are going over to Notch Hill this afternoon to return a favour to a lady who gave us hundreds of small plastic pots a few days ago. We had used up the few that we had, so now we have a goodly supply. From Notch Hill, Can Tire is only about another 20 kms or so, so I will get that rake today. It will be a freebie, as I have lots of Cdn Tire money to spend.
     
  23. Keith Elliott

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    We have had to institute a dropping patrol every day now to clean up the deer nuggets. Almost have it down to a fine art now! Even this morning, there were four more deer right on that lawn, even though Val was working but a few feet away. They are almost fearless here.
     
  24. Keith Elliott

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    We call those standpipes. Two years ago, one of the connections at the bottom broke and we had to dig down and fix it. It happened after the snow was on the ground so we didn't realize that it was damaged until after the snow went in the spring. What a mess that made! No troubles since then, and yes, of course, we disconnect any hoses as soon as we get the first frost.
     
  25. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Good to hear Keith, but go careful as it can take a lot out of us oldies.
     

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