My recipe for a healthy lush lawn

Last year, my front lawn and parts of my back lawn were decimated by grubs.  It was a hot and very dry summer in Ottawa last year and the lack of rain over a period of many weeks coupled with some extreme heat beat my lawn into submission.  That hot, dry weather also encouraged significant grub growth.  Actually, the grubs didn’t do all the damage last year.  The damage went over the top thanks to some huge crows and a few night critters like racoons that dug up my lawn recklessly to find and eat the grubs as appetizers.  The damage started in July and continued right through to October.  Here is a picture of my front lawn today:

Lawn photo for blog

As you can see, there is a recovery process in motion – there are small signs of life.  For today’s post, I thought I’d take a departure from the personal finance and investing stuff and tell you what my recipe is for a healthy lush lawn this year, on a modest budget of course.

1.      Bye Bye Thatch

Thatch is dead and/or dying matted grass that accumulates on top of the soil.  Thatch prevents air, water, and fertilizer from reaching the soil.  This is not good folks.  So, I removed the thatch this spring with a metal rake.  It took me a few hours last weekend and this past weekend, but I raked our 0.5-acre lawn from stem to stern.  After the snow melted this winter, our lawn was brown in colour and very thin.  Every year actually, Ottawa’s harsh winter weather wreaks havoc with our lawns. To promote the recovery process, thatching was a must.  Getting rid of the thatch didn’t cost me a penny, just my time.  At least the weather was good when I did it.

2.      Hello Seed

I’ve read that overseeding is a great way to recover your lawn from winter; it will green up the lawn, thicken the turf and introduce new varieties of grass to existing turf.  Overseeding will also help crowd out weeds and withstand more bugs.  I typically use a hand-held spreader to overseed our lawn, going just above the seed manufacturer’s recommended spreading rates.  Unlike thatching overseeding will cost me money.  I decided to purchase a few bags C-I-L Golfgreen Grass Seed this year.  No, this is not a sponsored post.  I read this particular grass seed contains endophytes which should help my lawn and ward off grubs.  You see, endophytes are fungi that live inside grasses or plants in a symbiotic way.  Endophytes are natural and quite desirable (I’ve learned) in turf grasses.  While living off the host the endophytes will produce alkaloids that are not appealing to many insects; these alkaloids are essentially toxic to armyworms, chinch bugs, cutworms, green aphids and webworms.  Endophytes are basically a biological insecticide.  To date, I’ve purchased three bags of C-I-L seed at about $13 per bag ($39 total).  I’ll probably need a few more bags in a couple of weeks as I continue the overseeding process.

I’ll also need to buy some more good soil to mix the seed with.  To date, I’ve spend about $20 on soil and will likely need to spend at about $20 every month going forward mixing the seed with good organic soil.

3.      Welcome White Clover

With my degree in Biology, I probably should have remembered the benefits of clover in a lawn.  Clover not only greens a lawn, even during dry spells but it’s a natural fertilizer for your lawn by fixing nitrogen.  Using white clover on your lawn, you don’t have to buy any more lawn fertilizer – ever.  While nectar from the flowers clover produces might attract some bees now and then, you can rid yourself of this issue by mowing your lawn at a modest height, cutting the flowers during the blooming season.  The best part about white clover, apparently it is toxic to grubs.  A 500-g bag of white clover costs about $10 at my local hardware store down the road.  That small bag should cover a few hundred square feet.  I’ll probably need many bags this year (maybe another 5 bags ($50)) to encourage clover growth in areas where my lawn is well-established and where I’ve needed to start the lawn almost from stratch.

4.      Just Add Water

Based on seeding instructions, I’ll need to water my lawn liberally for about 7-10 days in a row to promote seed germination.  After that, I should be able to cut back to 2 days per week, eventually 3 days per week in another month.  Seeds cannot germinate unless there is good seed-soil contact, sunlight and lots of water for nourishment.  I’ve read you need to water your lawn enough to get the soil wet to about 4”-6” down or the equivalent of 1″ of rain per week.  It is not frequent watering you need for your lawn (once established) but deep, prolonged watering that will produce and maintain a healthy root system.  We have a well, so we don’t pay city water or sewer fees but I’m very water conscious so I don’t want to water the lawn recklessly.

Over the spring and summer, I’ll repeat the cycle of overseeding, adding clover and thorough watering.  When I need to mow the lawn I’ll keep the clippings on the grass and avoid cutting the grass too short.  I’ve read 3″ is a good height to maintain deep grass roots.

Hopefully…that should do it.

When I add it all up, the supplies to recover my lawn this year will cost me a few hundred bucks.  Not a killer expense but certainly enough money to be spent.  Last year was a disaster for our lawn.  Hopefully this approach on a modest budget will bring it back into top shape.

Got any tips for my lawn this year?

8 Responses to "My recipe for a healthy lush lawn"

  1. Thanks for this article. Just as an FYI: nematodes in my experience (and my neighbor’s) aren’t likely to be 100% effective. I applied them for 2 years, religiously following the instructions. I found the lawn was say 50% better in the spring, but 50% less grubs still leaves your lawn looking like p**p.
    The only solution that seems to work is a chemical one, unless you want to reseed your lawn every year.

  2. when I had a small land, I used to simply pay $400 per year and get the most awesome lawn ever. Now, I’ve moved and I have 33,000 sqft… I think I have more dandelion than than anything else! hahaha!

  3. Hi Mark
    I have the same problem with grubs. But my lawn still looks pretty bad.
    I was told to spray nematodes (Green Earth brand). Applied some last fall and last week. Just wondering what you thought of nematodes.

  4. Wow, that sounds like you have had some struggles but none the less, so have I. I had loads of thatch in the back yard which I removed. I’ve dug out all the weeds, seeded and fertilized and I must say that I could brag about how green and lush my grass is now. If you would have seen it when we moved in, boy was it a mess. A lawn needs love and attention. If a homeowner just leaves it then be prepared for crap grass, weeds and who knows what else. I overheard my neighbours talking about how green my grass is and the wife piped up, well he waters it all the time. That’s right, I do and I have a rain barrel to do it with as well! Free water is good stuff! Thanks for sharing Mark…. good luck!


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