My Lawn Maintenance Log - 2007

Starting in 2007, I have opted to do my own lawn maintenance. Up to now, I always had a service take care of it, but I have been not so happy with how my lawn has looked the last couple years. I always thought the lawn guys cut it much too short. So, starting this year, I'm taking matters in my own hands. Oddly enough, much like my woodworking and other home improvement efforts, I'm very much looking forward to this endeavor. This page is my online diary so that I can monitor my progress.

The Plan

4.14.07 - First mowing

4.15.07 - Scotts Step 1 applied at broadcast spreader setting 3

5.27.07 - Milorganite

7.13.07 - Milorganite

9.15.07 - Milorganite and overseeding with KBG

9.22.07 - Bayer Lawn Insect Killer

10.20.07 -Milky Spore

11.14.07 - Last mowing

11.17.07 - Scotts Step 4


10.20.07 -Found Milky Spore at the local Ace Hardware. I mowed the lawn today, and as I was pulling up the clumps of crab grass in the parkway, I did readily see a grub or two. The parkway area of my lawn doesn't look as nice as the main lawn area. In fact, it looks downright pathetic, which is in stark contrast to the main area which is starting to look pretty decent. All the Milorganite, manual weed pulling, deep infrequent watering, and repeated mowing at a high setting is FINALLY starting to pay off! Regardless, it seems that the grub problem is something I'll have to address for years to come. Finding Milky Sport locally was a boon, given I didn't find it at my favorite nursery or the local home improvement centers. Almost thought I'd have to mail order it. I bought a 20lb bag, which is supposedly good for 7,000 sq. ft . - about the size of my grass area in my corner lot. This is going off of the consumption rate of the other products I've bought and their spreader feed rates. Unfortunately, the directions say to use a drop spreader. I do a mild calculation in comparison to the instructions of the other lawn products in my garage, and I settle on a setting of "4" for my Scotts Basic Spreader (to the audience: don't go cheap and buy this bottom-of-the line spreader). Well, 1/3rd of the way into the application, I realized I'm spreading much too fast. Almost by a factor of two! A "2" or "2-1/2" is more appropriate given that this one bag is to cover my whole entire lawn. Sadly, I only covered about 70% of the lawn, but the positive note is that I heavily dosed the parkway area which seems to be most infected with grub activity from appearance. I'll have to apply this 5 more times in the next 2 years and it should be self-supporting for years to come thereafter. The fact that this material is not only reportedly effective but is also organic (good organisms that destroy bad organisms) is kudos in my book. Now lets hope that I didn't kill the grass in my rather large parkway area.

9.22.07 -Didn't find Milky Spore. Went with a lawn insect killer from Bayer (the aspirin maker?) which apparently kills grubs, but also a slew of other insects. I didn't really want to kill off all the bugs, but I'll wait and see the results. I noticed a few weeks that I have rodent dig holes in my lawn from small animals digging up the grubs. I thought my situation was isolated, but my neighbor's lawn across the street looks like somebody randomly dug raked up a large section of dead grass, so he apparently has his problems with rodents digging up his lawn too.

9.15.07 -Got grubs? Darn it. I got grubs. Which may explain the beetles I've seen in my house. Been doing some research. Gonna try an application of Milky Spore.

7.30.07 -My lawn still looks pathetic. In recent weeks we have had lots of rain, so admittedly it does look much better than it has in the past, but now my lawn is rampant with weeds, especially clover. Been trying to catch up with the weeds with weed killer, but its been a losing battle. I only hope that the grass fills in to snuff the weeds out eventually.

5.27.07 -This stuff stinks! I applied Milorganite per the package instructions. This stuff is pungent! Uggh. Found out I have a 4-bag lawn per the standard application settings on my spreader.

5.23.07 -My lawn is fuzzy. My grass has sprouted seed heads which gives it a pronounced "fuzzy" look. I would like to think that this means that my grass is somewhat happy with their environment. Mulching at a 3" height seems to only get at most about 50% of the seed heads. The lawn does look better, but I can't say it yet looks great. Well, I do have to admit that the section immediately between mine and my next door neighbor's house looks the best, but this area is highly shaded throughout the day. If anything, my lawn looks slightly better than my next door neighbor's, but it doesn't look as good as the neighbor behind me, whose lawn looks fantasticly green! There are patches of my lawn which have a darker green hue to it than the rest of the lawn. I wonder if these areas are where I mistakenly did a double pass with the earlier fertilizer application? Hmm. Anyway, it may have been premature, but I increased two zones' (6 and 7) watering times by five minutes apiece. These two watering zones get sun pretty much all day long. We'll see if it speeds things along. Have to apply Scotts Step 2 by this weekend. Need to get a lawn edger. My next door neighbor gets their lawn edged, and you can decidedly see where my lawn starts and theirs stops with the unmanicured look mine has. Maybe I can sneak an edger in as an Anniversary present...

5.10.07 - Programmed the sprinkler system. Laid out some small Tupperware bins to measure how much water each zone put out in a 15 minute perio, after which I can adjust accordingly. As expected, found out I was watering WAY TOO LITTLE in the past! This would most certainly explain the pathetic condition of my lawn these past few years. I adjusted the timer to apply 1" of water once-per-week. Currently, my lawn still isn't looking that great. In my opinion, we haven't had too much rain at all this spring, and I should've probably been watering the lawn sooner. These past couple weeks, I've been pulling out dandelion heads and spraying Weed-B-Gone.

4.30.07 - I mulched at a mower height of 3-1/2" and it BARELY, if at all, grazed the grass. I was actually running over the dandelion heads and it wasn't even touching those either! The GardenWeb guys said it'd be okay if I stepped down to 3" but to resist the urge to lower the mower any more than that. The lawn is still sparse and brown in a lot of areas. but I'm willling to wait, and let the grass grow out. I got the in-ground sprinkler system reactivated today, but I still need to calibrate it for the 1" of water once per week schedule. Changed the oil in the mower and replaced it with Mobil 1 Synthetic.

4.17.07 - I acquired another bag of Scotts Step 1 and finished this application. I also got some hardwood mulch and resurfaced some areas of my landscape beds which were getting thin. I cleaned off the underside of the mower deck. It had a thin pressed layer of green film throughout the underside. It had the texture and consistency of the edible seaweed you'd find at sushi restaurants. It's too bad this mower didn't have a wash-out hose port like other models. I'll have to monitor this, but cleaning the underside of the deck may be a requirement after every mowing it seems.

4.15.07 - I have an Echo SRM-210 2-cycle gas trimmer which I purchased from Home Depot last year. I got the Echo trimmer running after a 7+ month hiatus sitting on my garage floor. It started right up! (After I remembered to flip the Start/Stop throttle switch. Got worried there for a second when it wouldn't fire even after engaging the choke and priming.) Gotta love that Sta-Bil! I had upgraded the trimmer to a solid steel brush blade and also installed the wider professional control bars. I did all this to make maintaining my other property more easier - which is nothing more than a forested lot. Obviously, these trimmer modifications are over-kill for my simple homeowner yard maintenance tasks, so I took off all the pro-atttachments and reinstalled the original grips and controls. I am using an upgraded string head which allows you to insert pre-cut lengths of trimmer line. I find this method much more simpler than trying to maintain the standard spool feeder. I'm so enamored by this trimmer, I have my sights set on an Echo leaf-blower and lawn-edger. After trimming, I fertilized the lawn for the first time using the Scotts Step 1 product. The bag instructs to set the broadcast spreader to 3-1/2. To be somewhat conservative, I set the spreader at 3. The bag says it's good for 5000 sq. ft., but even with this reduced setting, I didn;t have enough to finish my lawn. Which makes me wonder if I'm overlapping passes too much, or if my lawn is really that much bigger than 5000 sq. ft.? Hmm... I'll have to go buy another bag and finish this step. I have the Scotts Basic broadcast spreader. Not knowing any better, I bought the cheapest spreader available, but in my opinion, I think it performed the job adequately, and after having done it once, I really don't think I need anything fancier. I did also pick up a hand held broadcast spreader for the tighter areas and between my small cluster of trees.

4.14.07 - Put 30-wt motor oil and gas into the mower and . . . Mowed my lawn for the first time! Ever! Woohoo! The new mower rocks! The electric start feature is pretty darn cool! I was playing around with the height settings. I have learned that the first cut of the year should be really short. The Lawn-Boy 10796 has height indications right on the wheel height adjustments. The lowest is 1" and the highest setting is 4" if I recall correctly. Being conservative, I set the mower at 1-1/2" and did a run. Half-way through the first pass I found a broken glass bottle on my lawn, so I stopped to collect the glass and through the process ended up cutting my finger! Into the house I go with a dripped blood trail behind me! Eegads! As I was washing out my finger inside the house, I was thinking, "My wife is gonna kill me! (She hates it when I hurt myself.) Gosh, I hope noone steals my new mower!" After wrapping my finger with pseudo paper-towel band-aid and putting my gloves back on, I returned to the mowing task. The mower is really eager to move forward. There is no lever selected pace control. Instead, this mower has what Lawn-Boy calls their Sens-A-Speed variable pace control. When not moving, I pretty much have to brace somewhaton to keep the mower from getting away from me - kinda like an eager dog on a leash. Fortunately if it were to get away from and I released the handlebar and blade/engine control, it would immediately stop because the engine would die out. (Apparently all modern mowers are now made this way. Not quite like my dad's older Craftsman mower which would just idle in place. There are other models with "Blade Control Systems" which instead of the motor stopping if you release the control bar, the blade would be disengaged and stop but the motor would continue to run. However, I chose a model with electric start to facilitate all the start and stops.) So to move forward, I just walk with the mower. If I wanted to move faster, I would simply walk faster and apply more forward pressure on the handle bar. I am not pushing the mower harder, per se, instead I am engaging the drive transmission more fully. Anyway, after a return pass I decided to lower the mower down to the 1" setting. After making half a run, I figured this setting was a tad too low (looks like I was ALMOST scalping my lawn), so I returned the height back up to 1-1/2". The lawn looked great after I was all done, with the striping and even height. This will be the shortest height it will be all season! It's hard for me to imagine that the actual grass height I'm trying to get to will have the mower adjusted to 3" or thereabouts. I had always thought that my lawn care provider was cutting my lawn too short. I used to find scalped sections of my lawn every week, which would piss me off! It's good to know this will no longer happen (unless I accidentally do it myself). The actual act of mowing the lawn took about an hour-and-a-half or so. I bagged all my cuttings for this first cut of the season (as recommended by the know-it-alls), so future mowings should go much faster since I will be mulching. Another realization gotten form this first outing was that mowing is a bit of a workout. Certainly not as challenging as a cycling or running workout, but I did feel my heartrate get up a bit. I'll wear my heartrate monitor during the next time out to measure the actual cardio workout. Lastly, I really enjoyed doing this, and the new mower rocks!

4.13.07 - Plugged the mower in to charge the battery.

4.1.07 - Lawncare and, specifically, grass fertilizers are a new concept to me. I haven't really done any lawn maintenance, aside from mowing my parents lawn as a youngun. So I've been reading lots of how-to forums and instructional websites these last few weeks. I hear/read the horror stories of overfertilizing and burned lawns. So, after a lot of reasearch, I opted to go with the Scotts Annual Plan. At least for this first year, and will be migrating to primarily organice plan in the years to come. I can't say the Scotts system is the best approach, but what gleaned is that it's pretty simple if not fool-proof with outlined schedules and recommended products I can buy locally. Additionally, there are a quite a few Woodnetters who use Scotts, along with a few friends whose opinion I greatly respect. I bought the Scotts products from the friendly neighborhood Ace Hardware (gotta support the little guys!). Along the way, I have found that the absolute best online forum for all things lawn and landscaping related is

3.19.07 - Purchased a lawn mower (or more specifically - ordered) from Ordered an Ariens LM21S3. It has a Honda GCV160 motor, mulching/bagging capability, variable forward speed, rear wheel drive, and an aluminum deck. Funny thing is they sent me a used and damaged mower! It had fuel in it which spilled all over the interior of the box that it was shipped in. I can readily tell the exhaust was covered in soot. A bracket for the throttle control was damaged. The worst thing is that it had a price tag of $249.99 on it but I was supposed to have received a brand new mower for $439.99! I called SpeedwaySales, they apologized for the screw-up, and I was able to send the mower back on their tab. Unfortunately, they had no more mowers of this particular model, so within a week, I ordered a replacement - a Lawn-Boy Platinum Series Model 10796. It's very similar to the Ariens (I already knew what features I wanted), but the Lawn-Boy had the addition of electric start.

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©2007 Cian Perez /