Introduction to the Shed: How to Approach My Lawn
Yeah, we just want to thank everybody for tuning in and listening to our podcast. We're totally new at this. And given the situation going on currently around the world, we decided to give this a shot, mainly because we have a lot more time at home. And frankly, my lawn, Andrew, here, is a complete mess. Just an absolute mess. So I have here with me today, Micah Gould. Hey, Micah.
Hey. And don't worry, my lawn is a complete mess as well. So this will all be theoretical recommendations as far as fixing up your lawn.
So I just moved into this new house and we've just been doing all these remodels, and I've just been seeing this clover patch just get bigger and bigger and bigger in my lawn. And my lawn is mostly just moss anyways. So I'm just not starting out in a great spot. But before we get into our lawn, did you just want to provide a little background on your expertise, Micah, just why should people be listening to you?
Yeah, so in general, my background didn't really start in horticulture, turf grass management at all. As my wife puts it, people don't go to school for that. So I ended up getting into that profession, as I transferred to Oregon State. I originated with a sports medicine background, and then ended up switching my major to turf grass management. Which at Oregon State, is your horticulture. Many of these programs across the US, sometimes they're in ag, their soil science-based horticulture, you can go multiple ways about it. And way back in the day also, you could get into turf management through business as well. So you see a lot of more wise, older superintendents, may not have even got their background through ag initially. So basically what happened, got my degree there. I [inaudible 00:02:20] transferring to Oregon State, was really into the field for a couple of years, I'd say. So I got fortunate enough to get into a grad studies program, the Masters program through Oregon State in the hort program. So pretty much extended my time there. Ended up getting a Masters in that, and while doing so, still focused in turf grass management. Pretty much had a lot of extension work, presenting to the public. A lot of the main audience was Oregon public schools. So we would go train all these grounds keepers or property managers essentially, of all the different districts, school properties and parks and rec, essentially as well. So did that sort of work. While in the background, my focus was golf courses, working around that area. So worked a few golf courses, did some internships. And then at the end of the grad studies, I ended up switching over to golf course management as assistant superintendent, be it at a local course over here, Langdon Farms. So didn't actually get into that too long until Barenbrug called. So I'm actually doing more of what I did back in grad school, doing this extension work. Pretty much being a resource to all of our end users for overall turf grass management. And tailoring or honing in the cultural practices to these Barenbrug varieties. Hope that didn't take too long, but that's how I ended up where I am now.
I guess we just get right into it then. So, honestly, Micah, I don't come from a background in horticulture. My background was, and our neighbors would always make fun of me and my dad about this growing up ,is whenever I would go mow the lawn, it was just this huge dust cloud that would follow me around the lawn. Because all we had was basically dust down in southern Oregon.
It's like a little Snoopy episode.
Yeah, exactly, exactly! So I don't really know anything about proper lawn management. And honestly, I don't really even know where to start when it comes to caring for my lawn, or assessing how do I even go about fixing the problems my lawn has. So what recommendations, if any, I mean, where would you say, "Okay, Andrew, this is where you need to start. You need to do X or Y."
So first of all, like you're not alone at all. I would say only a very small percentage of people, A, have a background in horticulture or really have a green thumb and have sought out their whole life to perfect this art of landscape management. So you're not alone there. And ultimately I came from the same background as a kid. Ironically, I grew up with not really irrigating our lawn, doing some of the main cultural practices. And so ironically, we ended up having really old, mature, fine fescue bentgrass lawns here in the Valley in Oregon. And pretty much, the standard mature lawn throughout the entire Valley, is you don't really irrigate it in the summer, if you aren't doing that it pretty much goes dormant and you start maintenance again. So getting back to your question. I break it into two parts. First there's educating people on the primary cultural practices of mowing, fertilization, irrigation. And if you want to look at it, "What can I do now," I guess. So there's the ideal world of, "Here's what I want to work towards." So with that information you'll be prepared to know when to mow, know how low to mow, applying the right fertilizers and when to apply them. Irrigating in the right frequencies, and knowing the strategies behind it. But as I look at a photo here of your lawn, it's hard to just jump to, "Oh yeah, I'm doing everything right," when a lot of the things that might be present, like a whole bunch of moss or have a whole bunch of clover, migth actually impede even some of the progress. Or you could get to that result much quicker with some renovation strategies. So it's a two-part and they're integrated to each other. So it's, yeah, "Where do I start now?" As well as, "Where am I going to go with that in mind?"
Okay. Okay. And those two things, we have the cultural practices on the one hand and then renovation strategies on the other, was that the second point?
Yeah, so it's hard, which came first, the chicken or the egg. Do you educate people on ... This is probably just my own personal struggles of educating is, do you get people to know where they should go first? Or we're right now in spring where things are popping real quick, it's about to be a good time to start seeding. Just what can I do now real quick to solve some of the immediate issues? But making sure you get to where you need to go.
But yes, you mentioned the cultural practices and those can be broken down into just mowing, fertilization, irrigation. And what we call the secondary cultural practices instead of primary are cultivations, like thatch management, air and soil management, and general overseeding practices. But I guess it's a take your pick, where do you want to see the lawn going? Or what can you do right now, first or last and work back. It's sometimes pretty tricky, but-
"And I think in general, because I'm always trying to simplify things, not just for who I'm trying to educate, but for myself. Because over time, it becomes just like a bigger picture perspective."
I mean, I get that. So I mean, obviously most of us are at home right now. So I'm sitting here looking at my lawn right now. And I guess if I'm hearing you correctly, I probably am thinking even a step ahead of where I should start. Because I'm thinking, "Okay, how do I deal with this moss and clover outright?" But if I'm understanding you, you're saying, "Well, Andrew, you probably should start even a step further back from that and look at your lawn as a whole and say, 'Okay, how can we renovate this whole law, to provide a good starting point?'" And then seed and then start these good cultural practices. Am I hearing you correctly there? Or I'm just trying to figure out if-
I think you're pretty spot on. And I think in general, because I'm always trying to simplify things, not just for who I'm trying to educate, but for myself. Because over time, it becomes just like a bigger picture perspective. So for instance, like in your lawn, I see there's a lot of fine fescues. I think that's primarily what it's made up of. There might be some creeping bentgrass in there, colonial bentgrass.But the giant thing you're saying you're looking out of your window at, is your big old patch of clover there. And I do see a lot of moss-
The only thing that's green.
Yep, it is the greenest, for sure. And side note. So I'm looking at this image and I'm thinking, clover's in patches, usually more than one location of clover. But I mean this stuff, if you guys can see this, literally is a perfect semi-circle that almost looks like it was a landscape bed at one point. So it's hard to even tell as someone buying a home, "What did I inherit and what was done before?" But it just has that weird shape where it's almost pure clover. And I don't know if I have a up-close photo of that, but it doesn't even look like there's much grass or any in there at all.
There's not much. I didn't even think of that. Wow.
And I mean, overall looking at this lawn, I mean, besides the clover and the moss, it looks predominantly fine fescue and it's still pretty pure. A lot of factors come into play here. How long or how old is the house, when was that built? When was a neighborhood established? You could see the tree there, it's a little sized diameter. So, at least maybe 15, 10 years maybe. But it's hard to say what the goal is. Do you want it to be a pure, fine fescue, or are you okay with low inputs, low maintenance? Do you want it to be something else? Because a lot of people will ... That dystopian type, "I want to make this my own. It will do things for me." Or the crowd that is okay with not imposing your will on nature, so to speak, and letting it do its own thing. So say you want to go this fine fescue route, but you don't really have honestly too much work to do here. If you want the whole lawn to actually be lawn, then there is removing that clover, and clover can be pretty tricky to remove. If you're going something other than glyphosate, but glyphosate will take care of it pretty well.
Okay. So I mean, so that's if I went just, "Man, I'm going to be a total turf nerd and just really solidify this lawn." I mean, if I was just more along the lines of, "Hey man, I just want to mow my lawn when it needs to be mowed, and water it when it needs to be watered. But other than that, I don't really have a preference." What would your recommendation be, if that's what I thought.
I would say, I mean, you've got pretty much one of the most ideal species for that kind of a management type or goal. Because I mean, fine fescue for the most part, I mean you barely have to fertilize it. A lot of golf courses is even ... Maybe they're fertilizing once a year, maybe even less, or they are fertilizing multiple times a year, but in very, very, very small doses, which we call spoon-feeding. But of course, it depends how much traffic you put on it. Like on a golf course, putting green, they're probably going to be fertilizing those fine fescue greens much more often or frequently than something way out in the deep rough where no one's really stepping on a whole bunch. Or even if they did, the quality doesn't have to be there as much. So if you've got pets or you're always on the lawn, that could lead to turf getting beat up in some cases. But if you don't, then I'm pretty sure you'd probably be fine going a hundred percent fine fescue or at least attempting. But you seem like a person who wouldn't really care if there's a little bit of bentgrass or other species mixed in. It's more of a, "I want general green and not maintaining too heavily."
So I see this and I think, okay, there's shade. So what? Fine fescue is actually really good in shade. I'm thinking there's probably deeper lying issues as maybe the irrigation system, which yeah, I believe you have one. Maybe the previous homeowners didn't quite tailor to the needs. Maybe it didn't need that much water, they're over-watering. Combining with these shade factors and then, increasing moss, decreasing fine fescue over time. And who knows how that clover patch started. But beyond that, you can look to the other half of your yard where it looks for the most part pretty much fine fescue. So, getting these kind of renovation, little key features done, then you can start looking to the mowing, the fertilization and the irrigation practices that will really improve the lawn.
I don't want my neighbors to hate me.
No, that is me in my neighborhood. I got a whole bunch of dirt working on some other landscape construction projects, and I think it's the wife that hates it the most!
Okay, great. Awesome. Well, I think you've given me ... Well, you've show me that. I'm not even really thinking about this right at the moment, so that's been really helpful. Yeah. Is there anything else you would recommend, Micah, before we wrap this thing up?
For the most part, some people might take this as ... Or they might approach this type of lawn scenario as how I took it in a way. I had a whole bunch of weeds, whole bunch of other type of grass in my lawn. I actually had a giant maple tree just smack dab in the middle of this lawn, about the size of yours, which is probably not even a couple thousand square feet. So some people might go to one spectrum of wipe it all out, take everything out, spray it all out. Which I went that route, mainly because I didn't have much grass to begin with. But in your case, I don't think you need to go that route. Maybe treat the clover, you treat some of the moss there, which is often in the form of iron sulfate. At a lot of lawn stores you can get a ... Lawn stores, whatever, Home Depot, Lowe's, there's Moss Out and all of that-Yeah. So treating that. And ultimately after you treat that, you're actually going to want to dethatch that out. So to actually get grass growing, you're not only remove the problem, which is the moss, but the core issue, which ... I'm not saying you're going to cut down your tree. I'm just saying that sheen is moisture is often a contributing factor. So I see this and I think, okay, there's shade. So what? Fine fescue is actually really good in shade. I'm thinking there's probably deeper lying issues as maybe the irrigation system, which yeah, I believe you have one. Maybe the previous homeowners didn't quite tailor to the needs. Maybe it didn't need that much water, they're over-watering. Combining with these shade factors and then, increasing moss, decreasing fine fescue over time. And who knows how that clover patch started. But beyond that, you can look to the other half of your yard where it looks for the most part pretty much fine fescue. So, getting these kind of renovation, little key features done, then you can start looking to the mowing, the fertilization and the irrigation practices that will really improve the lawn. Not only that, but we call this in turf grass world integrated pest management. And when you look at a pest triangle, which is another aspect we often call, you've got your host species or host environment, say in this case, there's not really a problem. But say by the tree, maybe your host would be the moss. Your species would be your fine fescue, and the environment would be the shade. So the shade is interacting, helping the moss, maybe decreasing fine fescue. But like I mentioned, there's probably more to play into that with some of the irrigation practices. But together these IPM practices of mowing, fertilization, irrigation, core aerification, overseeding, they all play a part into just pest management overall. And that could be weeds. It could be insects, all sorts of other things that are decreasing the quality of the lawn and actually increasing the maintenance and inputs required to maintain the lawn. So that's where you can invest a little bit into the lawn, and you actually get more benefits or rewards out of it in return.
I feel like a lot of that was over my head. But I am glad to have you help me with my lawn.
Well, I hope it sticks a little.
I hope it does too!
I can get into a role back in the days, educating some of the school grounds and I just black out and start talking to much.
No, no, no, it's good. It's good. It gives me a place to start! At least trying to think through this and yeah, it gives me hope for this lawn. So, thanks for your time, Micah.
Yep. Thanks Andrew. Anytime.