Lawn care page
The .jpg pictures in the links on this page are 200k to 300k big. Sorry, but that's how they came from the camera. Be patient if you click!
I don't really care for yard work. But I really like a pretty, green lawn. So I mow, pull weeds, trim, pick up leaves, prune shrubs and all that other stuff. The reason for this page is to pass along ways or tips that might make your lawn work a little easier. I spend a lot of time and effort looking for the easiest and most efficient ways to accomplish things. That's one of my main interests or goals, finding the 'easy way.' If there is one to find, anyway.
I just bought a new (used) mower. What a difference! I was using a John Deere model 110 with a 38 inch deck and 8 hp motor. I sold the JD-110 to an enthusiast from Ohio. Now I have a Scag STHM Hydro Rider, with 61 inch deck, 20 hp motor and a very small turning radius. It is really SUPER maneuverable! I have pictures from the left, from the right, and one up close of my custom, heavy-duty towing hitch that I added on. I looked into the new zero turning radius mowers, and came extremely close to buying an Ariens EZ Rider with 48 inch deck and 16 hp. But I couldn't try one out first. Nobody around here had one in stock. I did get a chance to drive last year's model with 14 or 15 hp and a 40 inch deck. It handled and mowed really well, but I wanted at least 48 inch cut width for my large lawn. Then I also learned that last year's (1997) models had a less-than-the-best hydro drive system, which made them a bit jerky starting and steering. I also test-drove a Snapper ZTR model and it was pretty slick because it steers with a joystick instead of two separate levers. But it was just too small for what I wanted, and maybe a little too light-duty.
I bought the Scag from George Hofacker Equipment, (616) 784-2998, at 3633 Four Mile, NW, in Grand Rapids, Mich. That's where I drove the Ariens, too. I highly recommend anyone in the Grand Rapids area who is shopping for a good mower to go to George's. I even got to test drive a Grasshopper ($6200) and another, even more expensive ($6800) zero-turn-radius commercial mower called 'Hustler' there. I really would like the Grasshopper, because the deck mounts out in front where it can reach under trees and bushes instead of under the middle (belly mount) of the mower. And it detaches in seconds, which would also be very handy.
If you're shopping for a (riding) mower, don't just think about tractors! They're not very maneuverable, and attachments like snowblowers are very expensive.
In fact, a co-worker of mine has a friend who runs a large hardware store near here. This friend told my colleague that the snowblower attachments in particular are typically extremely over-priced compared with a dedicated snowblower and that they also don't work nearly as well. But at least you can sit down while you're clearing the snow, and maybe even put a little cab on the tractor! I just pay someone with a 4WD pickup and snowplow to clear my driveway. That way I don't have to get up a painful hour early, and maybe find that it didn't even snow, or get up at the normal time and be surprised by an unpredicted blizzard. While I'm having my regular breakfast, someone else is clearing the snow, with a very efficient snow-clearing tool! Now that's my idea of ease and efficiency!
Anyway, about mowers. I talked to lots of dealers and service people while looking for my new mower. John Deere is the standard of comparison for almost everyone, even though, as one said, "You pay a lot for that green paint." But whenever I've needed parts or service for my 30-year-old JD 110, I never had any trouble. And now it's a collector's item!
Ariens also seems to be a respected brand but several dealers told me that they didn't carry them any more, or didn't carry the mowers but still sell the snowblowers. Some said that they just didn't have the name recognition in mowers, but others actually said that Ariens had priced themselves out of the riding mower market. This new EZ Rider looks to me like it might get them back in.
Snapper seems to be a big name, too, and lots of hardware stores carry them. Many of the more specialized "power equipment" companies also do. They make commercial mowers as well as a lot of home or consumer models. I drove their ZTR (zero turn radius) model and liked it. It steers with a joystick so it only needs one hand. The others all have 2 levers, one for each drive wheel. You can't let go with one hand to wipe sweat out of your eyes or swat a mosquito without suddenly starting to mow in a circle! This Snapper ZTR has a beverage holder too, and I guess you could use it, since you only need one hand to steer. The Ariens also has one, but I doubt it's very usable.
Overall, to summarize my own personal, not very humble opinion. Get a commercial mower. They're built very heavy duty and very simple. Strong, not much to go wrong, and easy to fix. They also tend to have maximum maneuverability. And their dealers are normally very knowledgeable and professional.
Pictures and details and specs of many commercial (and other) mowers are available right on the web. Check out my links!
There are a number of agricultural universities with county extension agent offices. Some of these universities even have Turf departments or specialists. And they have lawn and weed information on their web sites. A good search engine will find their current pages for you.
There's also a Lawn Institute with lawn care brochures like "The Best Way To Water Your Lawn" and "How to Pick a Quality Grass Seed" available on the Web. Again, see my links, below.
I've had plenty of trouble with moles in the yard. And I spent a lot of time searching the Web for information about getting rid of them. The consensus is that nothing works well, but traps are better than poisons or smoke bombs. However, I also learned that Glenn R. Dudderar, Extension Wildlife Specialist at Michigan State University found that applying a diluted solution of castor oil "effectively eliminated the visible surface tunneling of eastern moles" at 26 of 27 test sites. I've tried it and it seemed to work well for me.
While there are directions on the packages of 'Scoot Mole' and 'Mole Med' to follow, I also found a recipe in a newspaper. This formula uses substantially less castor oil than called for on the package, but as I said, it seemed to work for me. I'm going to do it again this spring.
The formula and instructions are - [quote]
From this concentrated solution, add water at a ratio of two ounces of concentrate to one gallon of water. This means that your 18 ounces of concentrate will make nine gallons of mole deterrent, which will cover 5,000 square feet.
You are urged to spray the perimeter of your property rather than the whole yard. A 4 to 6 foot band around your lawn will keep new families of moles away for six years. [note: I think this was supposed to say six MONTHS.]
You must "water in" the castor oil to get it into the soil. Don't apply this solution when there is a threat of heavy rains, as the oil may wash away with the excess water runoff. Don't be alarmed if the moles cross the barrier after you apply the solution. It takes time and water to get the oil to penetrate the soil to a depth where the moles tunnel.
[quoted from the 'Sparta/Kent City Advance, April 25, 1995, page 23]
Our local Meijer's giant chain store carries one or both of the brands of castor oil, and so does a yard and garden specialty store here in town. Meijer is much like K-Mart, so the K-Mart garden department probably has it too.
Green Lawns are as Easy as Counting to Four
(An article in a product brochure from Meijer's stores)
Lush, green grass around your house accomplishes several things at once. It demonstrates pride in your property by enhancing the appearance of your whole house. A thick lawn provides a great play surface for your children and pets. And, in what realtors call "curb appeal',' your home's value actually goes up when it is surrounded by an attractive lawn. But too many homeowners don't end up with as healthy a lawn as they could have because they don't follow the right schedule. Too often homeowners haphazardly throw out fertilizer and weed killer twice a year, but often they're using the wrong product in the wrong month. Discouraged when crabgrass takes over, these hasty lawn tenders end up calling in a professional lawn service. It doesn't have to be that way. By following a simple, four- step program over a year's time, you can have the pleasure of watching your lawn come in thick, green and weedless.
STEP 1: Early spring is the time for step one: applying a fertilizer with a pre-emergent herbicide to control crabgrass and foxtail. Because this treatment must be applied before these weed-grasses germinate, do step one some time between mid-February and the beginning of May.
STEP 2: Then mark on your calendar that step two of your lawn- care protocol needs to be done six to eight weeks later. This second application is done with a late- spring to early-summer fertilizer that contains broadleaf-weed control. This product will improve both the color and density of your turf while also preventing weeds - like dandelion or clover from moving in.
STEP 3: Now jot on your calendar that you need to do the third step three to eight weeks later. 'I'his summer application of fertilizer will help your lawn maintain its color. Step three will also boost dried-out lawns into recovery when rain comes.
STEP 4: Finally, the fourth step is fall feeding and needs to be done in late September to mid- November. And if you want more spring green-up without as much top growth, do two fall treatments - one in late September and the second in early November. While this regimen might sound like too much trouble, the new rotary spreaders actually take the work out of fertilizing and weed-killing. It takes only 10-15 minutes to treat the average lawn. That means your investment of one hour a year can, leave your home surrounded by greener, thicker, weed-free grass. Lawns with special problems can also follow this four-step program, but with some modifications. A lawn overrun by weeds might use another step two weed-and-feed in the fall. This extra application can kill the winter perennials, like dandelions, while still providing the fall feeding. Or, if you've reseeded your lawn, you might add a lawn-starter fertilizer to support the new grass. You can have the satisfaction -of a lush lawn around your, home without hiring an expensive lawn service. But you need to put on the right product at the right time. And that's as easy as one, two, three, four!
More Links -
Snapper's web site is www.snapper.com.
home ------------- updated February 14, 2003