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Renovating an Old Lawn
by Diana Roberts
Category: Lawn
Good Morning Diana,
How's everything up there in snow country? Myself, I am trying to get my head around large scale gardening again. Trouble is that this whole place has been neglected for about 8 years and
overrun by four large dogs! The two major questions I have for you are:
1) after picking up 150+ piles of doggie doo, how do we rake up a couple of
acres of grass? Are there any good, inexpensive attachments for the lawn tractor? What about aerators?
2) What is the best way to rejuvenate a grown over garden plot? There are raspberries and blackberries in there and apparently we will get buckets full of blackberries. Do I have to till it up first, or put down black plastic to kill the weed roots?????
Yes, I do have spring fever........It comes early in the Kootenays!
When you move into a new place, it's tough to know just where to begin, especially if there has not been a lot of landscape/gardening work done over the years. It sounds like you have a good start by ridding your lawn of the dog leftovers. Though I'm sure you have done it, be sure to also look for any rocks, sticks or high lumps in your lawn before you try to take a lawn mower or tractor over it.
Old grass
The first thing you need to do is mow the lawn if there is any grass still standing, to get rid of as much as you can. Raking up grass by hand is a long, tedious task, unless you have lots of time, especially on a couple of acres. Having said that, getting rid of the old grass is very important. If you have a thick layer of thatch, you must remove it to allow nutrients and moisture into the soil.
My suggestion is to dethatch your lawn with a Roto Rake attachment which fits onto your mower in place of the blade. I have never attached a dethatcher onto a lawn tractor, but you can get them. If you have a book for your lawn tractor, see if there is any information on this. If you don't have a book, try getting in touch with the manufacturer or a local business who sells your make of mower, as they should be able to give you advice on this. If you are not able to dethatch with your lawn tractor you may have to use a push mower for this chore (I know that seems like a huge task, but compare it to raking the whole area by hand!).
Once you have dethatched your lawn you will find that you have massive piles of dried grass, especially if nothing has been done with the lawn for years. You will probably need to rake much of it up by hand (a couple square feet of grass will probably fill a large garbage bag). Once you remove the bulk of the grass, go over it with a lawn tractor, if it has a bagging attachment, to pick up the rest. Hopefully you have a compost area where you can deposit the old grass, though you should layer it with wet compostable material as well as thin layers of soil to be sure it decomposes quickly.
I have looked into lawn tractor attachments and found that you can get dethatchers which mount onto the front or back of a lawn tractor. These dethatchers have long tines which work the thatch out of the lawn. You can also get combination dethatcher/aerator for some machines. I noticed most of the bags which attach to the back of lawn tractors are a fairly good size, so they should hold quite a bit of old grass.
The next thing you need to do is take a garden fork and jab it into the ground in various places throughout your lawn to see what type of soil you have and if it is the same all over. Living in the north we tend to have very rocky, clay soil in much of the area, but I am not sure what the soil is like in your area.
Plug aerator
Over the years, the soil under a lawn will become compacted, especially with a lot of animals running over it, so you will need to bring air into the soil. If you have rich loam, you are very lucky and things will go easier for you because you can use a plug aerator on your lawn. If you have rocky soil, it could damage a plug aerator so you will need to use a prong aerator. Next week I will discuss renovating an overgrown garden/berry patch.

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