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How to Grow Eco-Lawn

When is the best time to plant?
Establishing a New Eco-Lawn
Converting an old lawn
Overseeding Existing Lawns
Seed Installation
Watering your Eco-Lawn
Growing Under Large Trees
Sowing on Slopes
Dormant Fall Seedings
Mowing Eco-Lawn
Dealing with Weeds
Common Lawn Blunders
Maintenance


Patti Moreno the Garden Girl installs an Eco-Lawn



When is the best time to plant Eco-Lawn?

In the Northern USA and Canada the ideal time for you to plant your Eco-Lawn seed is between late August and late September, Labour Day Weekend is ideal (for the best seeding time in your specific area please refer to our Seeding Times Chart. The cool evening temperatures, early morning dews and autumn rains create the perfect conditions for germination and growth. Also, nature has programmed fewer weeds to germinate in fall, so your new Eco-Lawn will establish more rapidly, with less weed competition!

Seeding from mid April through mid June is a good second choice. Maximum germination occurs when temperatures are between 10°C (55°F) and 25°C (77°F). If you spread Eco-Lawn seed in cooler temperatures, it will not germinate until the soil temperature reaches 10°C (55°F).

In the southern states, Southern California and much of the southwest, October to November is generally the best time to sow the seed as this provides Eco-Lawn the opportunity to take advantage of the naturally cooler, moister conditions available at that time of year. Sowing Eco-Lawn in November also allows the turf to get itself established before it has to face the heat of summer(for the best seeding time in your specific area please refer to our Seeding Times Chart

Establishing a New Eco-Lawn

Proper soil preparation is the key to success and is the best opportunity to create a beautiful lawn that will last a lifetime. Taking shortcuts on site preparation will often come back to haunt you with chronic lawn problems such as thatch, weeds and disease.

  • Eliminate all weeds existing on the site.

  • Remove all debris from the area to be seeded. Do not bury construction debris as this will cause problems later on.

  • Rototill the site to loosen the soil to a depth of 3 inches

  • Ensure that there is a gentle grade away sloping away from any buildings, (once a grade of 5% for every 10 feet away from the building, or as your local code requires, is achieved). Grades are very important as too steep a grade can cause erosion and loss of nutrients. Poorly graded sites can result in a water-logged lawn, ensuring good drainage is essential as poor drainage can lead to fungal diseases.

  • Rake the area to smooth the surface and create a good seed bed.

  • Spread a small amount of weed free, organic compost (a 1/4 inch layer equals 3/4 cu. yard for every 1,000 sq. ft.) This will help to start the seeds and the compost will fertilize your lawn for a year. This also helps keep out future weeds and grubs.


Converting existing lawns to an Eco-Lawn

If you have an existing traditional lawn and wish to quickly convert to a low maintenance Eco-Lawn you have a few options:

Organic Conversion

1) For a quick conversion you can apply an organic herbicide to your old lawn. There are now a number of food based organic herbicides on the market. However, unlike non-organic herbicides they do not kill plants with just one application as they do not kill the roots. With organic herbicides you will have to spray your old lawn with the organic herbicide every two weeks for at least eight weeks. Once your old lawn is finally dead, mow the dead grass as short as possible and then roughen the area by hard raking it. Then seed the area with Eco-Lawn.

2) Alternatively, strip off the old lawn to a depth of 2 1/2 - 3 inches and remove it entirely. Then either lightly rototill the existing soil or give it a hard raking to create a seed bed. Then spread the seed, rake it into the soil and if possible, roll it flat with a lawn roller. Please note that if you remove the old lawn the surface of your new lawn will be two to three inches less than it was before.

3) Another method is smother your existing lawn with 4 inches of new soil. This will kill off the old lawn underneath and you can simply spread your Eco-Lawn seed onto the new soil, rake it in and roll it. Please note that the drawback to this method is that when you purchase new soil, you have also just purchased someone else's weeds! You'll need to combat those weeds as described below.

Non-Organic Conversion

You may also kill your existing lawn with a non-organic herbicide. Glyphosate based products such as Round Up or WipeOut work best (if you choose this option - Please read the label first!. PLEASE NOTE: THESE CHEMICAL HERBICIDES ARE ILLEGAL IN ALBERTA, ONTARIO, QUEBEC and MARYLAND). Glyphosates take about two weeks to achieve the full effect. Once your old lawn is dead, mow the dead grass as short as possible and then roughen the area by hard raking it. Seed directly into the dead stubble with Eco-Lawn, top dress with a small amount of compost (a 1/4 inch layer equals 3/4 cu. yard for every 1,000 sq. ft.) This will help to start the seeds and the compost will fertilize your lawn for a year. Water as directed.

Overseeding Existing Lawns

Simply overseeding an existing lawn with Eco-Lawn will not result in an instant conversion to a low maintenance Eco-Lawn as your existing lawn will continue to grow. However, if you were to overseed your old lawn each and every year for four to five years, it will become a true Eco-Lawn. In the meantime, you will need to regularly mow the existing lawn. So while this method will work, it does take time, patience and annual re-seeding. You can accelerate the conversion process by overseeding twice in a year.

  • Mow the existing lawn as short as possible, to one inch or less, preferably with dull mower blades as dull blades will damage the existing grass.

  • Remove all debris from the area to be seeded. Do not bury construction debris as this will cause problems later.
     
  • Fall only: Remove thatch. With a steel rake, deeply rake to loosen clippings, thatch, sticks and above ground roots (or rent a dethatcher for big lawns).

  • Spring seedings, rake the surface only (do not deep dethatch) to avoid bringing up weed seeds to the surface.

  • Rake the area again this time with a yard rake and remove the grass clippings, stones and thatch.

  • Spread a small amount of compost (a 1/4 inch layer equals 3/4 cu. yard for every 1,000 sq. ft.). This will help to start the seeds and the compost will fertilize your lawn for a year.

Seed Installation

Spread Eco-Lawn seed at 15 seeds per sq. inch (a 5 LB bag covers 1000 sq ft) or spread the seed extra thick at 25 seeds per square inch or 7-8 pounds per 1000 sq. feet to help keep out weeds. For small areas you may sow by hand. For urban or suburban-sized lawns use a fertilizer spreader set at about 1/3 open and apply the seed in two passes using half the Eco-Lawn seed per pass - at right angles in a criss cross pattern for complete and even coverage.

Gently rake the seed into soil to just barely be covered, you should see some seed on the surface after raking.

Roll the area with an empty to 1/4-full lawn roller (do not fill the roller more than 1/4-full with water so that you do not compact soil). Rolling seeds in for good soil contact is especially important if you have any kind of slope to prevent erosion.

For large areas, Eco-Lawn may be installed via hydro-seeding or by mechanical planters.

Watering your Eco-Lawn

Water every day (if it does not rain) for 3 weeks in the early morning for 20/30 minutes or what ever length of time that helps it be moist down to one inch. A good way to know how long it takes to put one inch of water on your lawn is to place an old tuna or cat food can on the area you are watering and time how long it takes to fill the can. Set up an automatic timer if you cannot water regularly yourself. In warmer weather or for very well-drained soils, water a second time for 20 minutes at 3 pm. Never water after 5 pm in the evening to prevent possible fungal diseases. After 3 weeks, cut back to watering every 2 days, for the next 2 weeks. Adjust the watering so that your soil will stay moist but not have puddles over night. If you seed in the spring, during the first year only, after the first month has passed, water to a depth of one inch, once per week, in the morning.

In northern climates if you seed in the fall, after one month of watering you should not need to water again except during times of exceptional drought.

In southern climates you will need to water at least once a week for the first full year of growth. Watering to get your Eco-Lawn established is essential to your long-term success.

Please note that if you experience drought conditions in the first year of growth, you will need to water your new Eco-Lawn. Once your Eco-Lawn has gone through a full season, your watering regime will change dramatically. In hot, dry climates such as parts of California or Texas watering will be cut back by 75% over that of traditional, shallow rooted turfs. In most parts of North America your established Eco-Lawn will require no watering except in extreme drought conditions.

Sowing Eco-Lawn under large trees

While Eco-Lawn will germinate and grow under large trees, please remember that it is a virtual drought under those trees (trees need and take a lot of water!), so for the first full growing season, after the initial germination period, please continue to water your Eco-Lawn deeply under the "drip line" of the trees on a weekly basis. This will encourage the deep roots that Eco-Lawn develops to dig down deep. By next year, you should not need to water under the trees at all as your Eco-Lawn will be able to compete with the trees for the water that nature provides. Leaves from trees should be removed in the fall. Mowing them with a mulching mower is the easiest method. The nutrients from the mulched leaves are all the fertilizer your Eco-Lawn should ever need.

Sowing Eco-Lawn on Slopes

On steep, erosion prone slopes, Eco-Lawn should be mixed with with an annual rye grass for rapid soil stabilization. Add 1/2 LB annual rye grass for every 1 lb. of Eco-Lawn seed. When planting on slopes in the fall, plant no later than September 15th in northern climates, to ensure sufficient growth of the nurse crop to germinate and hold the soil. On gentle slopes with no real potential for major soil erosion, seeding with Eco-Lawn alone is fine.

Dormant Fall Seedings

In northern climates seeding Eco-Lawn via a late season "dormant seeding" can be done very successfully. Careful soil preparation, weed control and good timing are essential with dormant fall plantings. The seeds should be planted in the late fall or early winter after a couple of hard frosts but before the ground is frozen. Seed planted in late October through December will germinate early the following spring. If there is any chance of erosion, a dormant seeding is never recommended. Planted in fall, your new lawn will grow rapidly the following spring.

Mowing Eco-Lawn

The reason you don't need to mow Eco-Lawn often is because it grows very slowly. If you prefer a traditional "cropped lawn look," occasional mowing will be necessary, but far less frequently than with other lawns. Ensure that your mower has sharp blades to prevent damage to the grass. A mulching mower works best. Set your mower to a minimum 3 inch (7.5 cm) height. Mowing lower than 3 inches (7.5 cm) will cause damage to your Eco-Lawn as it, like all plants, needs to go through the process of photosynthesis in order to live. Never remove more than one third of the top growth. Mowing too short will damage the turf and reduce its vigor. One of the most common lawn problems is people mowing their lawns too short! Left unmown, your Eco-Lawn turfgrass will form a gentle, flowing carpet of grass.

Note: Even an unmown Eco-Lawn should be mowed at least twice a year. The reason for this is that any lawn that is not mowed will try to form seed heads once it is more than one year old. These seed stalks form in late spring and will stand up to 12 inches tall. They should be mowed as they start to form. You can use a weed wacker to lop off the seed stalks without mowing the Eco-Lawn itself. The second mowing should be done in late fall to "put the lawn to bed" for the winter. When doing this mowing, mow the lawn as short as possible and rake off the debris. This enables your Eco-Lawn to "green up" quickly the next spring and it reduces the possibility of snow mould forming.

Weeds

Please note that most weeds germinate in spring and early summer and this will inevitably result in some weed competition with your Eco-Lawn. Weeds will grow much faster and they can sometimes out-compete spring planted seedings. Once your Eco-Lawn is about 3 inches tall, you can combat those weeds with a variety of organic methods including:

1) Regular mowing which will prevent any weeds growing from forming seeds.

2) Using an organic pre-emergent herbicide such as corn meal gluten (Note: You cannot use corn meal gluten within 5 weeks of sowing new Eco-Lawn seed.)

3) Easiest of all, overseed with fresh Eco-Lawn seed in spring or fall to crowd out weeds.

4) Once your Eco-Lawn is at least three months old you can, if you choose, also use traditional weed killers such as weed 'n feed and selective herbicides that contain 2-4-D if these are permitted where you reside. PLEASE NOTE: WEED ' FEED AND OTHER NON-ORGANIC HERBICIDES ARE ILLEGAL IN ALBERTA, ONTARIO, QUEBEC & MARYLAND.

When your Eco-Lawn is fully mature, it becomes allelopathic which means that the grass itself emits a natural, pre-emergent herbicide that prevents other plants (weeds) from germinating!

Common Lawn Blunders and How to Avoid Them

Don't mow too short. Follow the 1/3 rule - never remove more than one-third of the blade at a time.

Don't water in the evening. Watering at night can promote fungus. Watering at midday is inefficient because much of the water evaporates before it can be absorbed. Watering in the morning is ideal.

Don't stop watering too soon. Just because a few seedlings have popped up, don't assume it's safe to stop keeping the soil moist. Eco-Lawn contains a variety of fine fescue grasses chosen for their various attributes. Some are quicker to germinate than others which will emerge later, so keep watering for at least six weeks after sowing.

Don't apply herbicides too soon. If herbicides are legal where you live and if you choose to use them, you could kill your new Eco-Lawn before it's well established. Wait at least eight weeks after sowing the seed and then follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully.

Don't let thatch build up. Thick layers of dead stems and roots are an invitation to disease. Hard rake the area or use a power rake when needed to remove thatch.

Don't stop watering Eco-Lawn in the first year of growth. Once fully established, Eco-Lawn is far more drought tolerant than traditional turfs. However, especially in hot climates, it is important to keep the top 4 - 6 inches of soil from drying out during its first growing season. Doing so encourages Eco-Lawn to develop its deep root system so that by the second year you will be able to either eliminate watering in northern climates and substantially reduce watering in hotter, southern climates. Remember, watering in the morning is best.

Maintaining your Eco-Lawn

Once your Eco-Lawn is established, you'll only need to water it during extremely dry periods, if at all. If you feel that you do need to water it, occasional thorough soakings are better than frequent light sprinklings This encourages deep root growth and makes your turf more drought-tolerant. Fertilizer should be applied sparingly, if at all. Slow-release, "Fall" fertilizers with high amounts of potassium are best. These encourage strong root development which will keep your turf healthy without creating excessive top growth that requires mowing. With minimal fertilizing and watering, you'll reap the benefits of reduced maintenance, lower costs and a healthier environment!

A thick healthy lawn is the best defense against weeds, disease, drought and insect damage. Over-seeding your Eco-Lawn on a yearly basis (again early spring or Labour Day weekend is ideal) will foster new growth and keep your Eco-Lawn thick and healthy. Overseeding will also quickly repair a lawn that is thin and patchy from winter damage, damage from insects or other damage.
 
 
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