Monday, May 28, 2012

The Neverending Lawn Saga

I love the anticipation (and appearance) of fresh fruits and vegetables that comes with this time of year. But having a whole other part of the house to take care of (the yard) sure adds to the chore list.  It wouldn't normally mind, but my yard has been a major thorn in my side.   Let me show you why... Advice is welcome!

The Province of Ontario banned the use of many pesticides about three years ago. In theory, I like the idea of not putting chemicals on my lawn or having to endure neighbour's chemicals. In practice, it makes lawn maintenance more challenging.

Here's my lawn shortly after the snow melted (some time in March):

By "lawn", I mean, weed graveyard.


I don't know what happened -- it was fine in July of last year:

Either we killed it with a lack of water...or the city's arch nemesis, grubs, got to our lawn. Grubs have been a growing problem around here since our winters aren't really cold enough to kill them off and nematodes (the non-chemical solution to grubs) requires a lot of water to be effective and are still not 100% effective when applied correctly. All you have to do is walk around various neighbourhoods in Ottawa and you'll see large patches of lawn missing or in various states of (dis)repair.

In around April of this year, here's what our weeded lawn looked like:

Not exactly the perfect spot for a picnic.  So depressing!

I asked around (local nurseries, Master Gardener's of Ottawa, neighbours, etc.) and got advice ranging from adding 2 inches of top soil and reseeding to resodding.

In the end, we decided to till the entire yard, add some compost, roll and reseed.  Kudos goes to R for doing all of the work.

See that pile of sticks in the corner?  Those are roots coming out of the ground.  There must have been a tree planted in our yard at some point.

See that crazy branch in the picture below?  Also, dug out of the ground...

Here it is up close:

Dealing with the portions of the lawn with existing grass was actually the most difficult since we wanted to level the soil.

After tilling the lawn, R spread compost lightly throughout:

After getting rid of the remaining grass, raking the lawn flat and spreading compost, we rented a lawn roller from Home Depot.

Hoping to be proactive, we opted to seed with a fescues mix.  Fescues is a variety of grass seed that tends to be more drought resistant and less attractive to grubs.  The trouble with fescues it that it germinates more slowly and seems to take longer to create an established lawn.  We went with Eco-Lawn

After about three weeks of watering regularly (early in the morning, if there wasn't any rain forecasted for the day), here's what our lawn looked like:

I wish I had a great after-picture to share with you...but it's still a work in progress.  It's looking greener, but a lot of what's there is weeds.  FML! 

I think it's going to be a multi-year project to get our lawn back.  Worst comes to worst, we'll just give up and re-sod (R also likes the option of paving it...but I don't see that happening).  But, I took the above picture into Green Thumb Nursery, where we bought the seed, asking whether it looks okay and she said it looks normal and to just keep watering.  

The clover is particularly aggressive:

R's new plan is to weed daily, add more seed and water twice a day. 

On the bright side, the garden is planted.  

The soil looks a bit strange at the moment, after the torrential rain we had yesterday...But I think all of the plants are in tact.  We planted 4 tomato varieties, cucumbers, 3 lettuces and 4 herbs.  I'm aiming for something low maintenance because I don't think we'll have much time for gardening later on in the summer.

R even suited up in his "impenetrable superhero suit" to remove a couple of wasp's nests that we found.  



Hiker said...

What a lot of backbreaking work!!
Keep wondering what the ++ chlorine content of municiple [government covering their buts post Walkerton]water is doing to the plants?

kat said...

Oh man I feel you! We have similar problem & most of our yard is shady to boot. We ended up enlarging the patio, adding a lot more perennial/wild flower gardens and finally hiring a lawn service to help keep the rest healthy.

That Girl said...

I miss having a yard, but that definitely seems like a lot of work!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

And the battle begins. A few years ago my brothers neighbourhood was completely devoid of grass from grubs. They all resodded or did exactly what you have done. Such a lot of work to keep it green.

A Canadian Foodie said...

That is an epic story and great to have it all in photographs. Now why didn't you lay sod after all that work? Why plant seed where it would be so much more work with undetermined results (weeding - etc). I am curious as in Edmonton sod is not that expensive anymore. It used to be... and was thinking it may be very expensive where you are... Can't wait to see the final photo! :) Valerie

PG said...

A Canadian Foodie -- maybe in the end, sod would be better. But we opted to seed because it's less expensive, I wanted to put down grass that would be less susceptible to problems in the future (which is why we went with fescues) and our lawn was pretty bumpy (from roots, probably), so we wanted to flatten it out anyway.

Pickles said...

I feel for you. We were hit by grubs too (and the critters that feast on them). Thankfully, it's a relatively small patch because we have a small yard so we've gone the seed route too. Sod adds up quickly. Next year we're going to pull up most of the grass and do some landscaping -- oh what a big project that's going to be.