August 20, 2018

Lawn Maintenance

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This chapter in my “How-to” book discusses the establishment and maintenance of a traditional lawn. Assuming that you’re starting from nothing, establishing a new lawn is a monumental task. Just mentioning the fact in casual conversation with your friends will cause them to scatter like a covey of quail, especially those that own a pick-up truck or trailer. The fact that you are considering a lawn is proof that you’ve never done it before, and therefore, have no idea what you’re doing. This is a deadly combination, and no amount of free beer will overcome the handicap.

For the purpose of this chapter, we will assume the destructive phase is complete and we are starting on the constructive phase. All the rocks, sticks, and other debris have been removed, and the ground leveled and smoothed.

If you’re going to depend on Mother Nature to water your lawn, you should start putting money away now for your new lawn next year, but if you’re going to install automatic sprinklers, now is the time to do it. For any lawn larger than 100 square feet, it is impractical to dig the trenches for the sprinkler system by hand. Even though you paid forty dollars at the home improvement store for one of those cute little narrow shovels, they are not for digging.

They are for cleaning out the trench that was dug by a humongous big machine that looks like a giant chain saw on wheels. This machine digs a very nice clean trench, but when all the neighborhood boys come running over to investigate, they can’t help but fill the trench back in while they’re milling around.

Obtaining this machine is your first opportunity to require a pick-up truck. You can use your minivan if you don’t mind driving back from the rental store with both front tires off the ground. The carrier tongue weight is roughly equivalent to that of a fully loaded sixteen-foot stock trailer.

A major advantage of using this machine is that it cuts right through just about any obstruction such as tree roots, telephone and electrical wires or water and sewer pipes. In the long run this saves you a lot of time running your sprinkler pipes around or under these obstacles.
 Once you have all the trenches dug and returned the trencher, it’s time to lay pipe.

This pipe is neat. Anyone can do it. The pipe is called PVC, because it falls into the Pretty Versatile Category. You just lop it off at the length you want, glue it together and drop it in the ditch. Of course, you have to screw on the sprinkler heads, because they have to be easily replaced–after every time you run into them with your mower or edger. But it doesn’t really matter if your joint leaks, because the whole idea is to water the lawn anyway.

After you have completed the sprinkler system and tested it–making for a big, messy mud hole–you must bury your pipe by filling the trench. At this time you’ll discover that cute little narrow shovel is pretty much useless for that job.

With the availability of sod, hardly anyone starts a new lawn from seed. The major difference is that you can carry a whole lot of grass seed in your car, but the equivalent amount of sod requires a truck. Unlike gravel, sod is not a gas, so therefore does not expand to fill the space available. You must accurately determine how much sod you need and buy that amount. Resist the urge to buy extra. Leftover sod is virtually worthless, especially if your kids are past the Easter Basket age.

 Simply lay the sod on the ground, until no more dirt shows through. Trim the sod ends and edges at the sidewalks and driveways and around the sprinkler heads. You will now discover that cute little narrow shovel is pretty useless for this task too.

Now you need to roll the sod using the big metal drum, with a handle on it, that you rented when you took the trencher back. Make sure you fill the drum with water so that it is heavy enough to cause permanent damage to your back and abdominal wall when you try to move it and so that it applies sufficient pressure to seat your sprinkler heads well below ground level.

The roller also makes it possible for you to tell exactly where your water lines are by depressing the sod down into the trenches, this is invaluable for finding those buried sprinkler heads.

Assuming you did everything right, next Saturday morning and every Saturday from now on, you can mow your new lawn and re-pay your desert-landscaped neighbor for the weekend he spent shoveling gravel at 6am.

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