Here in the Ohio contingent of Charles & Hudson, we’re looking at rehabbing both our front and back yards — because in a former life they were actually small urban farms instead of lush green space. While we’re all for urban farming, we’re hoping to create lawns so that our little ones have safe places to play this spring and summer that don’t require driving out to a park. However, landscaping has never really been our strong suit — lucky for us, we’re related to a grass expert. We were able to interview Ryan Wharton via Skype (he’s currently serving overseas with the Air Force) and put his Bachelors in Turfgrass Science to the test.
C&H: What would you say are the most important components of successful grass planting and growing, no matter your region or climate?
Ryan: The two most important things to consider when planting a lawn are site preparation and selection of species.
C&H: Wow, look at you go. What do you need to consider when it comes to site preparation?
Ryan: As far as site preparation goes, you need to ensure that the area you intend to plant is clear of weeds. You can do this by spraying them with publicly available herbicides like Round-up. Any broad spectrum herbicide should work. Once that has been done, remove the dead weeds and then you are going to want to till up the dirt some.
Basically you need to have it loose enough to let the grass take root easily, but not so loose that it will run away if watered or if it rains. Also you will want to ensure there are as few rocks and other debris as possible. It may also be a good plan to spray a pre-emergence herbicide at this point, just to ensure some of the nastier weeds don’t come back. Once the site is ready, you have to select a good grass species.
C&H: And how do you know a good grass species when you see one?
Ryan: Honestly, this is a point where it would be a good idea to get some expert help. Depending on the area that you are from, you will have different species that will grow better than others. Most stores that supply grass seed should have at least one person around that at least knows a little about what they are talking about. If not, it is a good idea to find a sod farm or commercial lawn care company.
Most sod farms also sell seed as well as fertilizers (so keep in mind they may try to be selling you on certain products). Either way, they will be able to give you a good idea about which species are most suited to your region. Also, they will usually have good selections of different seed blends that might be worth your while to buy. Once you pick your seed (or sod if you prefer it already grown), then it’s just a matter of following the instructions that the people give you. They can tell you how much seed to put down per square foot as well as watering rates. Keep in mind you will have to water if you are in a climate that doesn’t provide enough rain which most don’t.
C&H: Wow, you really do know about this stuff.
Ryan: I do have a degree in it, sibling.
C&H: Touche. So after you prepare your ground and pick and plant your seeds or sod, what’s the best course of action to get the thickest, greenest grass?
Ryan: Well, watering is the next biggest concern. Watering will vary by climate and species as well as it depending on whether or not you use sod or seed.
Also, as the plants are coming in, you will want to ensure weeds are pulled or killed so that they don’t compete with the new grass, as well as periodically fertilizing (which commercial companies can also help you in selection and rates of application). There are some man made mulches on the market that also have fertilizer built in that can be great for establishing new grass. Other than that, you can just sit back and literally watch the grass grow.
C&H: You make it sound so easy.
Ryan: Because if you do it right, it is.
C&H: Well, thanks for taking the time to sit down with us and share your wealth of knowledge with our readers. And when you’re home on leave you’re going to help us with our yard situation, right?
Ryan: Not a problem. And sure, as long as you pay me what I’m worth.
Ryan’s also agreed to take any questions if you lovely readers have them, so ask away in the comments below and we’ll be back with you soon!
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