The green, green grass of home
April in Bermuda sees the start of an uptick in temperature, which makes it a good time to concentrate on carrying out work on the lawn, be it verticutting, aerating, fertilising, repairing or laying a new one.
Three grass types are grown for residential lawns here: St Augustine and its hybrid Floratam, Bermuda grass and Zoysia.
There are those who use ryegrass, but it is seeded only for overwintering and dies off around May or June.
St Augustine and Floratam are usually installed as plugs.
For quick cover, which results in less weed produced, install at six inches apart in March or April, before the high temperatures kick in adding stress.
It’s best cut with a rotary mower, using a blade set at three inches.
Bermuda grass can also be installed as plugs, set at the same distance as for St Augustine or over an area seeded at a rate of three pounds per thousand square feet.
Sow half the amount in one direction, the other in the cross direction for a better coverage and quicker infill.
It can be mown with a rotary mower or, if mown low, a reel mower.
Zoysia is a slow-growing grass and an aggressive grower. It is best mown with a reel machine and, for best appearance and maintenance purposes, kept low.
It is best installed by putting plugs as close as possible for quick cover and weed control.
To install a new lawn requires good preparation and a level, firm, uniform depth of soil.
Uneven depths of soil show later as a variation of colour on the surface, the deeper soil being a darker colour.
Most properties do not have the benefit of deep soil which, during dry periods, is a boon in keeping grass looking greener.
I suggest, if at all possible, to create a situation in which “poor” soil comprises the base of the lawn to a depth of nine inches and a further nine inches of “good” soil to finish level.
After applying three inches of soil, roll and repeat to finished level, this will arrest settlement and give a firm surface on which to work.
A firm surface should show a faint outline of a footprint when walked on.
When planting plugs, be careful not to disturb the surface by repetitive coverage of the same area when walking.
Soil should be moist when installing plugs or sowing seed, as this will encourage quicker root activity and seed germination.
After installing plugs gently rake over the surface using the back of a fan, to level any disturbed areas and remove any stones.
Gently water the area, especially during sunny days, to keep soil around roots moist.
Once growth occurs, water more heavily two to three times per week to encourage new roots to chase after moisture and thus establish a firm root system.
When new growth becomes constant, apply a light dressing of starter fertiliser and water so as not to burn roots, which can happen on dry soil.
Keep on top of weeding as any competition will take moisture and nutrients from the soil, thus slowing infill of sward.
Repairing or improving existing lawns can be a difficult task and is contingent on several factors including grass type, amount of weed vis-à-vis lawn grass, condition of existing grass ie height and density, soil depth and how “level” the grade; a level lawn gives an even cut.
Weed killers should be specific to grass species as one type does not fit all.
Check with your supplier for your correct type.
If the lawn has more than fifty per cent weed coverage you might want to consider starting from scratch as weed location is more than likely distributed throughout the lawn and, unless the grass type is vibrant and healthy, it may not fill in adequately to “overcome” the weedy areas.
In shallow soil, grass could well be suffering during dry spells which is a difficult problem to overcome.
Occasional top dressings of 50:50 fine peat and sand will, over time, increase depth — but very slowly.
Regular fertilising during the growing season should be part of the maintenance programme starting in April.
Always apply before rain so it is washed down to the root zone.
As lawns usually cover a fair area of a property, a good, green, healthy lawn will immediately make an impact and complement the rest of the garden.