Tag Archive for weeds

Lawn Renovation Even in Sauna Weather – Got to Get it Done!

Hi everyone! We had an unbelievable amount of rain here this year, almost double our annual rainfall total. The air feels like a sauna even in October. It’s been hard to spend more than a few hours outside at a time in the heat and humidity — but you know I can’t stay inside, and there’s work to be done!

This type of steel rake is my favorite choice for de-thatching the lawn and preparing the soil for overseeding. Just look how much debris it removes!

This type of steel rake is my favorite choice for de-thatching and preparing the soil for overseeding. Just look how much debris it removes!

My priority now is renovating the lawn. Normally, I would finish this completely in September, but the weather has put me behind schedule. To do this right, I started by weeding the entire lawn by hand, as opposed to using an herbicide. When planning to overseed, one needs to make sure not to have any chemicals on the lawn which could interfere with the new seed sprouting.

I am using a specialized steel rake to get every bit of thatch out of the lawn — a tool I inherited from my grandfather. This is THE most grueling step. After de-thatching two-thirds of the lawn, I have collected more than a dozen full bags of debris (don’t worry — you know it’s going to the compost heap). I’m impressed with how effectively this steel rake pulls out the thatch — and it loosens the surface, which makes for great new seed contact into the top soil.

Everyone who walks by while I’m working asks me why I don’t just use a machine for this, but if you saw how much better this works you’d know why!

This is a photo of what the plugging machines do. They really don't get any thatch up, and compared to the steel rake- well, there is no comparison-

This is what those plugging machines do. They really don’t get any thatch up, and compared to my steel rake — well, there is no comparison, not to mention that the plugs of soil the machines leaves behind look like, um, something else we don’t really want to see…

I bought a premium seed that has a variety of grass types: some that sprout within a week to stabilize the bare spots, and additional varieties that will be sprouting over the next few. This mix also had a seed-starting fertilizer mixed in, but if the variety you purchase doesn’t have this, I’d recommend using some.

Keeping things moist while the seeds are doing their magic is key, but with all the rain we’ve had, I’ve only had to water the new seed a few times.

With the combination of sod, seed and fertilizer you can hardly see where the old tree stumps used to be!

With the combination of sod, seed and fertilizer you can hardly see where the old tree stumps used to be!


I’m happy to say that I finally was able to easily pull out the last of the roots from two pear trees which used to grace the front yard. Now those areas are much smoother in elevation. The vast majority of the surface roots came out with the tree, but a few deep ones remained. On these areas, which were quite large, I used a couple of pieces of sod and more seed around the edges to completely fill it in. Now you’d never know that those were trouble spots!





Once the new seed reaches three inches tall, you can start mowing. We gave our newly-seeded lawn its first mow this week.  I have a tip for this, too: Set your mower to highest level first, because after a few weeks of not mowing, the existing grass will definitely be quite long and would clog the bagging chute. In a couple of days, set your mower to the normal level and cut it again. This way your lawn won’t be stressed as much — and you won’t create new thatch by using a clogged mower!

Yes! Nice new seedlings emerging. What a good feeling that is-

Yes! Nice new seedlings emerging.












The front yard is finished, now on to the back-

The front yard is finished, now on to the back…


I’m hoping the weather will cooperate so I can finish up my raking this week, but (if you can believe it) we have a new hurricane bearing down tomorrow night, and two more in the Atlantic pipeline. Hope everyone stays safe, and best of luck — I’ll be back with some pretty fall flowers next week!







Happy Fall !

Happy Fall!

Unwelcome! Weeds and Insects…

An unwelcome byproduct of all this heat is really tough weeds and some very unwelcome insects. I have some effective, yet safe, alternatives for you to try in your house and garden to get rid of these unwanted visitors.

Household vinegar is a safe and inexpensive way to kill weeds.

As far as the weeds are concerned, we are getting a huge amount of them this year. I religiously put down pre-emergent (gluten-based) granules in my yard and garden beds every year, but this year we have had so little rain that they are not leaching into the soil as they are supposed to. There isn’t even any dew in the morning, things are getting so dry. As a result, the oxalis, carpetweed, sedge and even some crabgrass are sprouting. If at all possible, try to pull them before they go to seed and multiply, if there aren’t too many.  If you have an overwhelming amount, I would suggest a spray of a selective herbicide that targets weeds only. Most of these now are available with spray containers attachable to hoses. They are quick and simple to apply.

On walkways, a simple non-toxic and inexpensive way to kill weeds is with household vinegar. I fill an old spray bottle with white vinegar and spray away on all my brick pathways, and within hours the weeds are dead! This also works to spray on cement sidewalks, in cracks, or joints where they seem impossible to remove in any other way. It is totally safe to walk on by people, pets, or wildlife.

An easy method to get rid of ants is with Borax. Simply sprinkle it onto ant hills.

For getting rid of bugs, whether it’s ants or fleas, my favorite method is with boric acid. You can buy it in the laundry section of your supermarket (I use the  Borax 40-mule team brand.) Just sprinkle it on ant hills or encircle your house with it.  A couple times through the summer months should do it, but if you are lucky enough to get drenching rain you might need to reapply. The insects walk through it, ingest it, and carry it into their nests, which gets rid of them all. You can even sprinkle it on your carpets, and furniture indoors. (Just sprinkle it on — let it sit for an hour or so — then vacuum it up.) This will get rid of all kinds of bugs that you or pets might have brought in from outdoors, but in the amount used, it will not be toxic to us or our pets.

If your bushes are being attacked by spiders, it’s because they are attracted to places that are dry and dark. This is easily remedied by opening up the bush by pruning out some of the branches, creating better air circulation and light, and then really washing the plant out with the hose (each branch!). By doing that, it will create the wrong type of climate for spiders to hide in. There are also predator insects which can help rid your plants of other insects; for instance, ladybugs will eat aphids, and praying mantis will eat spiders. Some of the predator bugs are available for purchase through garden centers and online.

I would love to hear from you with any non-toxic methods you know of regarding weeds or insects. There are so many highly dangerous products on the market, and I’d love to share any safe alternatives. We only have one Earth, so we need to protect it!

Update- I have recently heard of a great way to get rid of fire ants. Club Soda- pour it directly into the center of the ant hill, and within a couple of days it will be gone. The carbon dioxide will kill them without harming the environment. One-liter should be enough for 2-3 anthills.

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