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Sat, Sept. 21

Column: Easy steps to a picture perfect lawn

Courtesy<br>With its hearty blue flowers, Russian sage is at its best this time of year.

Courtesy<br>With its hearty blue flowers, Russian sage is at its best this time of year.

It was so exciting this week when the best-ever crops of Russian sage and cherry sage, Salvia Greggii, arrived in full bloom! I've been showing them off to customers who can hardly believe such tough plants can be so beautiful. But it's true because any sage is almost like a native plant in the way it adapts to our climate. Over the years I have designed many landscapes and included both of these sages in most of them. Either to plant in the ground or to use in containers, I encourage you to give close consideration to these dependable, attractive plants.

Having pushed tremendous new growth during early summer, by the end of the season, sages and other summer bloomers now are super-sized, in full bloom, and at super-value prices. This is the absolutely the best time to buy and plant any of these garden stalwarts.

Now through the end of October is an ideal time to either over-seed or start a new lawn. For over-seeding simply rake out the dead thatch areas of the lawn to expose the soil underneath. This will give the seed a place to germinate. If seeded directly onto thatchy areas the seed will float and never send a taproot down into the soil.

Read on if you've been thinking of adding a perfect play area for the kids or that patch of green for the dog. To install a new lawn, remove rocks and kill the weeds in the area you've chosen for your lawn. Remove any large dirt clods and correct any irregularities in the grade. Add about 2" of mulch to the soil then till to a depth of 6 inches. Settle the area with a roller or a heavy application of water. Never plant grass seed on "fluffy" soil or you end up with an uneven, rolling lawn. Rake, or "scarify", the surface to form a loosened seedbed. Now you are ready to spread seed.

In Yavapai County there are two varieties of grass that remain green most of the year. One is called the "Prescott Mix," a blend of perennial rye and blue grass. The rich green color is soft to look at and soft underfoot. This old-timers' favorite is the one you see in photographs and magazine covers. Its negative attribute is the amount of water it

requires.

Fescue is the second and the tougher of the two varieties. It is deep-rooted and requires far less water than the "Prescott Mix". It bounces back from heavy traffic and daily abuse from kids and dogs. This is the main reason I chose a fescue lawn for my own home. It has a wide blade yet is soft, and it has that nice clean look after mowing. I typically water only twice a week even during the hottest days in June.

Whichever grass you choose, use a hand spreader to distribute the seed. Don't spread grass seed by hand or you will end up with clumps of seed instead of an evenly distributed seedbed. Right after seeding rake the surface lightly to cover most of the seed with soil.

Apply both Soil Activator and my specially blended "All Purpose Plant Food" over the seedbed. The one additive stimulates deeper roots; the other promotes green blades quickly ready for mowing. To press the soil around the seed roll the entire surface or apply another heavy application of water. Cover the seeded bed with a light layer of mulch. This will regulate moisture, temperature, and keep the birds from finding the seed.

Soils are so warm and moist right now seed will germinate within a few days. Keep the area moist until the plants are established. This probably will require watering once a day. Begin mowing when the grass reaches a height of 1 inch.

If you already have an established lawn you might want to adopt my simple lawn maintenance program that eliminates the need to thatch, aerate, add iron or do anything else. Few weeds dare grow among the blades of grass for fear of being choked out of existence! I use two granular products and rotate them every other month during the growing season. Beginning in March I spread 'Soil Activator' over the entire lawn. This wakens the grass from its dormant state, forces deep roots, and destroys winter thatch buildup.

In April I again use my "All Purpose Plant Food." A 20-pound bag covers 2,000 square feet and works its magic for a thick lush lawn. Just rotate using these two products every other month through November and you will have the best looking lawn you've ever grown.

The November application will keep the lawn green until the harshest cold in February. In March of the next year begin the rotation routine again. Then make sure that your mower blade is sharp because you'll need it to cope with the luxuriant new growth!

Until next week, I'll see you in the garden center.

Throughout the week Ken Lain is at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road, Prescott, and can be contacted through his web site at www.wattersonline.com. Ken says, "my personal mission is to help local homeowners garden better in our mountain landscapes."

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