I’m installing a new lawn. Which is better, peat based sod or mineral based sod?


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I’m installing a new lawn. Which is better, peat based sod or mineral based sod?


The answer to this question depends on the intended purpose of the lawn. Peat based sod is for what I call the “classy” lawn or the “look but don’t touch” lawn. Peat based lawns are very high maintenance. They require vigilance and uninterrupted care. The benefits of a peat lawn is that it will achieve much darker colour than mineral based lawns. Peat based lawns will also achieve a much thicker, pillowy soft density. The drawbacks to a peat lawn is that they dry out very quickly. Two or three days of thirty degree heat will quickly stress the lawn. Peat lawns are also somewhat more susceptible to insect problems and are distinctively more susceptible to disease. Peat lawns also suffer quickly under even light or medium traffic. When properly cared for, peat based lawns look absolutely amazing; the key word being “look”. Just don’t touch. If you have kids…

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My lawn suffered a lot of winter kill this year. Is there anything I can do to help my lawn recover and how can I keep this from happening?

Winter kill was extremely prevalent this spring. Several factors contribute to winter kill. The most likely cause of most winterkill this year was last years dry conditions. Although we did get some moisture last fall, it didn’t come any where close to making up for what the ground was missing. Yes, some people had astronomical water bills and still got winter kill, but most people just don’t realize how much of that water burned off before it penetrated any further than two or three inches down, or how tremendously shortchanged we were by Mother Nature we were. Take a parched lawn. Freeze it. Then let 100 centimetres of snow melt over 4 weeks, then ask it to go through a growth spurt. Only the strongest plants are going to survive the ordeal. How fast the snow melts, how many times the meltwater under the snow on your lawn freezes and…

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I have these strange ant hills all over one section of my lawn. They’re just single holes with a ring of dirt around them. Not the hills you usually see. What can I do about them?

These aren’t ant hills at all. You’ve had a swarm of night crawlers nest and hibernate in your lawn over winter. Night crawlers are worms. However they aren’t your garden variety worm. These ones are much larger. They’re the thick long worms that fishermen use. In the fall they burrow vertical holes in your lawn where they hibernate until spring. They usually emerge almost all at once, overnight of course. They don’t usually cause any serious or permanent damage although they can sometimes leave your lawn very bumpy, like you’ve got golfballs under your lawn when you walk on it. Given this years’ extremely wet conditions, the soil has remained very pliable. It’s not likely you will find this bumpy result of their activity. When the bumps in the lawn do occur, the best remedy is an aeration to reduce the compaction in the soil. In extremely serious or dry…

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I would like to top dress my lawn. How much should I put on my lawn and when is the best time to be doing this?


The best time to top dress your lawn is in the spring. No matter how much top dressing you apply, you will be smothering grass plants that need oxygen and sunlight to survive. In the spring the lawn grows vigorously and is easily able to punch through the top dressing. Many homeowners also seed when they top dress the lawn. Spring is an advantageous time to do so since conditions are usually cool and moist. Under any circumstances, the rule for top dressing the lawn should be; lots of thin layers rather than one or two thick layers. How thick you go depends on how long your lawn is. As a general rule, you can apply top dressing to a thickness that is equivalent to one third the height of the lawn. If your lawn is three inches tall, spread top dressing at a thickness of one inch. If you…

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How can I get rid of quackgrass?


There are no known effective means of getting rid of quackgrass in a lawn. The problem lies in the fact that quackgrass is a grass plant species just like the Kentucky bluegrass that makes up most of your lawn. All species of grasses have common hormones and process their food almost identically. Therefore any type of herbicide or other chemical control will also kill the Kentucky bluegrass that you’re trying to keep. Digging up quackgrass might sound like an easy enough solution, but it’s actually the worst thing you can do. Quackgrass has incredibly extensive roots. Digging it up, you will never be able to get all of the roots out. In fact, the roots that are left in the soil will sprout new quackgrass plants in greater numbers than you had before. Unfortunately, all you can do to keep quackgrass in check is to keep your lawn mowed often….

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How can I tell if my lawn needs to be aerated?


Aerating is a process that involves pulling small finger-like cores out of the lawn. The cores should ideally be 2.5-3 inches long. The length of the cores is dependent on how hard or compact the lawn is. Aerating is performed to correct compacted soil, improve drainage, improve water and fertilizer penetration and absorption, improve heat and drought tolerance, and improve the effectiveness of weed control. If you have heavily compacted soil, aerating every year, or even twice a year for a couple of years will dramatically improve your situation. If you want to realize the full value of watering or want to maximize the effectiveness of your fertilizer and weed control applications, aeration will certainly improve the response that your lawn will have. Ultimately, aeration is a good idea if you have a lawn that isn’t in the best shape. Alternatively, if you have a great looking lawn and want…

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How long should a lawn last?

general grass

I always like to think of the lawn like a human body. Eat your veggies, get lots of exercise, take your vitamins, take medicines when you get sick and so on and you will likely lead a long healthy life. Spend your life drinking, smoking, and doing drugs and your body will probably pay for it. A well cared for lawn should be expected to last anywhere from 30 to 40 years. Most lawns will likely start to show their age at about 25 years and will likely need to be “renovated” at least once or twice by adding a few layers of soil, seed, and by aerating annually in order to extend its life.  

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My property backs on to a ditch and some railroad tracks. I’ve tried everything to stop the thistles from coming into my back lawn. Is there anything you can suggest to stop them?


Thistles are probably the most difficult weeds to control in Manitoba. The Canada thistle can grow to over 6 feet tall! Just imagine the root structure that supports something like that. That’s where your problem lies. Thistles reproduce in two ways; through seeds, and through rhizomes. Rhizomes are shallow roots that run close to the surface and eventually sprout new plants. Thus, where you find one thistle, you will likely find a whole family of them. They will spread into your lawn from a neighbour’s unkept flowerbeds as well. Unless the entire family of weeds is wiped out, they will continue to be a constant problem. Treating the few small thistles on your side of the fence will not solve your problem since you will only be poisoning a small segment of the cluster. You may weaken the root mass, but not enough to kill it. It will continue to…

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What should I do with the old weed and feed product I have in my garage?


Use it for what it was intended for. Much of the active ingredient(s) will have dissipated within the container, but your lawn will still likely benefit from what remains of nutrients that are still lingering in the product. This is certainly the best alternative. Whatever you do, do not throw unused fertilizer or weed control products into the garbage since it will inevitably end up in the landfill, which is not where these products belong. If you have some other type of fertilizer or pesticide you need to dispose of, give it away to someone who might use it or you can call an environmental agency that properly disposes of petroleum products and other chemicals that pose a potential danger to the environment.

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Should I mulch or bag my clippings?


The answer to this question depends on how much time you have to dedicate to your lawn. Mulching is the better way to go. Mulching returns nutrients to the soil regularly and evenly. However, mulching must be done properly! During periods of excessive growth, your lawn may need to be cut as often as three times a week! If you are mulching your lawn and notice the clippings on the surface of the lawn, you are well on your way to a mess of problems. To mulch correctly you must cut the clippings into small enough pieces that they fall into the lawn. You should not see any clippings on the lawn. If you do, the clippings are not being cut into small enough pieces. They will not break down fast enough, and will begin to accumulate in the lawn and form a thick layer of thatch very rapidly. These…

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