Soil is a natural resource which nourishes and nurtures varied living beings. However, soil, because of constant cultivation, year over year, has reached a point of self destruction.
Soil does not remain constant and paralyzed in its composition. It is constantly moving and recreating itself aided by minerals, water, oxygen and decomposing plant and animal matter.
Healthy soil should consist of 93% minerals and the remaining percentage is dedicated for bio organic nutrients.
Through constant weather changes, i.e, snow, floods, arid spells, the soil gets robbed of its nutrients. Also, a lot of nutrients are lost in harvesting. By using bio organic material, the soil’s natural nutrient resource can be increased and protected.
Without understanding soil, establishing a lawn is like investing in the stocks of a company without a clue on how the company is actually performing in the stock exchange market. Your money and effort will likely be lost.
So What is Soil?
Soil is a combination of organic and inorganic materials which provide water and nutrients for plants. Soil is not simply one thing, it also contains inorganic material such as sand, silt, clay and small stones. Understanding the percentage of these components will help determine the texture or type of soil.
Soil provides food to the roots of grass, and thus, the soil needs to be rich in certain organic material that is palatable for the grass. The grass roots retain the organic matter they require on the top level of the soil surface; this is called exchange sites. The total number of exchange sites available in a patch of soil is the Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) of the soil. Obviously, if the CEC level is higher, then the soil’s richness is also higher.
Sometimes, probably due to economic conditions or due to repeated cultivation; the soil may be deficient in certain nutrients. This deficiency will have a direct impact on the grass, which will tend to look lack luster, discolored and unhealthy.
Seeing the grass withering in front of one’s eyes can be very disturbing and one may think that the reason is less water supply, and the reaction is to increase water supply. However, too much water can produce its own problems. If in spite of adequate water supply and pest control treatment, the grass looks off color, the best option is to get the soil tested.
Once the results are obtained, the turf owner should provide a good fertilizer which has nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus in a 3-1-2 ratio. Following the schedule provided in the test report is important. Repeating the test once every three or four years will ensure that the land continues to be fertile.
Steps Involved in Soil Testing:
Take a sample of lawn soil to a laboratory for analysis. Lawn soil should be treated differently from soil of flower or vegetable beds.
Soil rich in clay is not ideal for grass. Hence, soil amendments will be required. The best soil for grass is a neutral moderate top soil. In case the soil is rich in claim, removing the top layer by excavation and bringing in new soil is recommended.
Adding soil supplements which are rich mixes (available in shops) or compost (commercial or home made) manure will help to add to the nutrients in the soil.
To tackle weeds, we need to understand weeds. That does not mean we need to learn botany now. We just need to be able to use some common descriptions for weeds to understand them. Weeds are plants which grow where they are not wanted, multiply miraculously, survive in really tough conditions and choke good plants. Like cancer, they destroy good plants and over time, conquer the entire garden area.
Weeds are a sure example of Darwin’s theory on `Survival of the Fittest’. Probably because their use to mankind is limited and their growth is often curbed and controlled, weeds are really armed to survive in the bleakest of conditions and thrive and grow. They are also competent by nature, and they dominate the place they live in.
A few simple characteristics of weeds are:
- They produce seeds abundantly.
- They establish themselves really fast, and they grow and expand at amazing speed.
- Their seeds are `survival’ encoded.
- They compete and drive out other plants to establish their own selves more firmly.
- Weeds are troublesome! A lot of them can cause allergies like hay fever.
- They contaminate good crops, interfere with harvest and they act as hosts for insects.
- They grow during all seasons.
Controlling weeds is sort of like controlling cancer. The treatment should start in the initial stages in order to control the spread. Some methods include regular mowing, pulling out weeds by their roots, and applying herbicide discretionarily. To know more, read my eBook.
Recognize your weeds:
There are a lot more out there, but here are a few easily recognizable ones:
- Those little yellow flowers with tiny leaves are called Wood Sorrel.
- Plantain has leaves which have hard shoots with plain colors.
- Hawkweed resembles the dandelion.
- And the dandelion itself which has yellow flowers.
We actually start managing a weed problem only when we see it. But then the weeds have started germinating long before they appear on the ground. Since they are season resistant, a lot of weeds begin germinating in winter itself. A good weed management program requires that we use a pre emergent and a post emergent treatment. As the words indicate, pre emergent tackles weeds before they appear outside the soil, and post emergent is for those persistent weeds which have made an external appearance.
Weeds are like viruses – there is no one miracle weed killer which kills all. Only the right weed killer will work on the right weed, and that too has to be used at the right time.
You may need to figure out the techniques and the products you need to use to manage your weed problem and to make your garden look healthy and nourished. Once you have tackled the problem, the benefits far outweigh the effort – your lawn will now look smoother, mowing is easier and finally your lawn looks thick with green grass and not with creepy weeds.