« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

Don Kinzler, Published May 24 2013

Growing Together: Keep it real: Artificial flowers on graves a disturbing trend

Every Memorial Day, I discuss death with my family.

Being a man of few words, I limit the discussion to my main concern.

“Do not ever put plastic flowers on my grave.”

Seeing cemeteries awash with artificial color saddens me. Our parents and grandparents valued large gardens, plenty of flowers and windows filled with houseplants.

Unless our deceased relatives were stockholders in Mattel Plastics, I believe their memory is better honored with the real thing.

Because artificial flowers have become so common on Memorial Day, we have innocently forgotten the significance of our actions.

How proud grandma would be with a potted pink geranium memorial. Dad would be honored with a single red rose laid on his grave.

I know it’s an uphill battle, but I am advocating a campaign to decorate our cemeteries with real memorials befitting the dignity of our gardening ancestors. If the plastic cartel comes to break my kneecaps, so be it.

Now let’s talk lawns. Ever notice the guy down the street with the lawn compulsion? We need to thank him. His well-manicured turf guilts the rest of us into action.

Most lawns do not need a complete makeover, although some do. If your lawn has bare or thin spots in about a 75 percent stand of decent grass, then a partial re-do will work. Preferred timing is mid-May to early June, or mid-August to mid-September. The heat in mid-summer makes seed establishment difficult.

First mow the lawn short. Now would be a good time to power rake. Or use a garden rake on the bare spots. Some loose soil should be visible. Add a little fresh topsoil if needed.

For now, postpone the weed-killing. Most broadleaf herbicides require a three week wait before you would be able to seed.

Choosing seed types: Because most lawns have both sun and shade, grass seed mixes are best. Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass do well in the sun, while creeping red fescue prefers shade. A seed mix will allow each species to become prevalent in its preferred location.

A good mix should contain 50 percent to 60 percent Kentucky bluegrass and 20 percent to 30 percent creeping red fescue. On the ingredient label, you will see “cultivar” names such as “Glade Kentucky Bluegrass.” Look for the key root words Kentucky bluegrass and red fescue.

Seeding rate: Follow the label, but a standard recommendation is 1 to 2 pounds seed mix per 1,000 square feet for new lawns. A higher rate of 3 to 4 lbs per 1,000 square feet is needed for over-seeding an established lawn.

How to seed: You can over-seed the entire lawn, or just the bare spots. Use a push-type seeder or spreader. Hopefully you still have the directions for setting the application rate. In a pinch, I have spread much grass seed by hand, but finesse is needed for even application. Plan how much seed to apply to a measured area.

Rake the seed lightly into the soil. Grass seed doesn’t get “planted” like many other seeds. Much of the seed should still be visible on the soil surface.

Watering. The key to lawn seeding success is moisture, which must be maintained uniformly from seeding until grass is visible. If allowed to dry out on warm, windy days, germinating seedlings will literally be fried.

Cover the seedbed thinly with peat moss, straw or retail lawn mulch. Water deeply the first time.

Then, establish a watering schedule with brief sprinklings morning and early evening. Taper off as the grass begins to grow. This process takes about two to three weeks for bluegrass and fescue.

Mow when the grass is 2 to 3 inches tall. After the new grass has been mowed three times, you can apply fertilizer and herbicide. Don’t panic at the amount of weeds that will grow along with the new grass. Broadleaf herbicides applied timely will eliminate them.

Your lawn can be invigorated by adjusting cultural practices.

-- Although now is the time to power rake to remove thatch buildup, many lawns never need it.

-- Optimum mowing height is 3 inches above soil line. This height shades the soil, conserves moisture and reduces weed competition.

-- Wide-bladed “weedy” grasses can be somewhat subdued by mowing frequently.

-- Allow clippings to filter into the lawn. Bag and remove only if a hayfield would result. Clippings decompose into root zone fertilizer.

-- Apply 1 inch of water once per week during rain-free periods. Avoid frequent shallow sprinklings which cause poor, shallow root systems.

-- Fertilize in moderation to keep lawns fresh and green. If fertilized too frequently, lawns become susceptible to disease and choked by excess thatch.

-- Apply liquid weed sprays judiciously. Granular weed-and-feed products require just the right conditions to work effectively.

If we’re all “Growing Together,” none of us will be the one house on the block noticeable for its unkempt, dandelion-infested lawn.

This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

Don Kinzler writes a weekly yard and gardening column in SheSays. Readers can reach him at donkinzler@msn.com.