Tips on thatch, groundcover and sod

These tips and how-to's will keep your lawn and garden healthy and beautiful.

Tips on thatch, groundcover and sod

Removing thatch

Thatch is a layer of partially decomposed grass stems and roots at the soil line. Annual raking or aeration often keeps it in check, but if thatch gets too thick, it can prevent water and fertilizer from reaching the roots, providing a breeding ground for insects or diseases. Because this can cause the turf to become spongy, it's more difficult to mow your lawn. To inspect for thatch, use a knife or trowel to cut an eight-centimetre-wide by eight-centimetre-deep (three-inch-wide by three-inch-deep) circle from your lawn. If the layer just above the soil is dark, spongy and more than one centimetre (1/2 inch) thick, it's time to de-thatch.

Here's what you do:

  1. First, mow your lawn to about half its normal mowing height, then make several passes with a power rake, moving both horizontally and vertically.
  2. Be sure to remove remaining thatch with a lawn rake.
  3. De-thatching will stress your lawn, so it's best done just before the active growing season. While you're at it, reseed and fertilize after you de-thatch.

Strategic groundcover

If you don't want to be bothered pulling out weeds and replenishing mulch around your shrubs, cover the soil beneath them with a shallow-rooted, shade-loving ground cover. It will keep weeds at bay while cooling the soil. Good choices include bugleweed, foamflower, pachysandra and star jasmine.

Laying sod

Sod costs about 20 times more than seed, but it provides faster results. First, level and prepare your yard as for seed (skip the initial fertilizing, though). Make sure the soil is moist to encourage rooting. After the sod is delivered, keep it wet. Store it in a shaded area or cover it, if possible. Install it within 24 hours of delivery. Laying the strips in a staggered brick pattern will help those telltale sod lines disappear quickly; this pattern will also prevent the sod from slipping downhill. Moving both horizontally and vertically, roll over newly laid sod with a water-filled roller. Keep your yard moist for the first two weeks with two to six light sprinklings per day. Gradually reduce watering frequency while increasing the duration of each watering. Fertilize after one month.

Everyone loves a great looking lawn, but it takes work to make it so. These tips on thatch, sod and groundcover will have your neighbours envious and wondering what your secret is to your beautiful lawn.

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