Lawn Triage

I’ve decided one of the big drawbacks to owning your own home is the lawn. The problem is, it’s such a nice benefit, too.

Our lawn is in a sickly state. Part of the problem is that we live in Central Oregon, which is in large part the High Desert— during the summer there are extremes of temperatures where the mercury can soar into the 90s during the day and drop to freezing at night, during the winter it’s uniformly cold, and year-round it’s fairly dry. So right there, this area is extra hard on lawns. If you can get them started in the sandy, sometimes-alkali soil, they require a lot of water and care.

Despite all this, there are many, many nice lawns here. Hell, we even have a huge number of golf courses in the area, so I know lawns can be done. So what’s the deal with my lawn?

It’s irregularly shaped, with lots of curves. This makes mowing it a pain. It’s got several small pine trees, a couple of fir trees, a small birch and of course, juniper trees growing in it, and they suck up a lot of the water. We have a crappy irrigation system, which seems to selectively miss parts of the lawn. And finally, we don’t really know what we’re doing with it. I had to buy Lawn Care for Dummies to buy a clue.

So today, I dethatched the lawn. “Thatch” is a layer of organic matter that forms between the grass blades and the soil line. (Lawn Care for Dummies, page 198.) When the thatch buildup gets too thick, it hinders healthy lawn growth. So you apparently need to dethatch your lawn every year or two (I’m not really clear on how often), but we hadn’t done this in the 5 years since we’ve moved in. Last year we had the lawn aerated, and that helped a little. So this time, we dethatched.

We rented a dethatcher, which is kind of a like a big lawn mower, heavier and more awkward. Let me tell you, it’s pretty slick. It went over the grass like a mower, and the whirling steel blades inside shredded the thatch like nobody’s business; just pushing the thing around, you wouldn’t know you were doing anything except for all the dead organic matter being left behind. It actually went pretty quickly, about 45 minutes— the same amount of time, typically, it takes me to mow.

However, the cleanup of all the thatch took me the next 4 hours. ‘Nuff said.

Hopefully, this will do something for the lawn. Tomorrow we’re doing more, including spreading seed on the bare parts and fertilizing. And then watering the shit out of it.

Lawns. Who needs ’em?