In fall sowing, which is the best, there is no need of sowing anything with the grass seeds. Sometimes in spring sowing a sprinkling of oats or rye is sown, which germinates quickly, and by its growth shades and protects the little grass spears till they are up a few inches. In a few weeks the oats are mowed off with a scythe and the grass takes care of itself. This, of course, is quite unnecessary where you sprinkle occasionally. Our climate is uncertain - no two seasons alike - but although I have seen many acres sown for a lawn in August which was a disappointment because there were no rains, yet it is by far the surest and best time to sow.
There are many seedsmen, leading firms, who give great attention to the preparation of lawn grass seed, and when ordering you should say whether the soil is a clay loam or sandy, whether it is boggy or moist, or high and dry. Some grasses are more suitable for shade than others. Most of the reputable firms charge a good round sum for their " extra superfine lawn grass mixture." Possibly it is not the seed that costs so much as the "extra superfine," for which you always have to pay high, whether it be in a coat or in cod-liver oil.
If I am asked to lay down a lawn, I just buy a good clean sample of red-top (Agrostis vulgaris), and add a few pounds of white clover, which is best sown separately, as the little weighty seed will find its way to the bottom of your bag or box and not be distributed evenly with the grass. The fine mixtures of the seedsman are all right and a few dollars are of little consequence in such an important and permanent undertaking as making a lawn.
Most of the grass seeds are very light and will fly in every direction, much preferring the openings in your face to the ground. When there is a very gentle breeze blowing steadily in one direction is a good time to sow. You will soon find out then where your seed is settling and gauge your distance accordingly. About thirty to forty pounds of grass seed are usually sown to the acre and five or six pounds of white clover. If a small plot of ground, it is easy to know when you have sown enough. And don't be afraid of sowing too thickly. There may be two little plants spring up where one would do, but it will be a case of the survival of the fittest. The stronger will crowd the weaker out. Therefore sow plenty of seed. Neither in spring nor fall is it advisable to keep the newly made lawns mowed closely, so you must waive appearance for the benefit of the grass, at least for the first season.
The care of lawns is something I have thought and talked about for years, for I am convinced that in two features our city and suburban lawns are greatly mismanaged. The only time our lawns want rolling is in the spring. Then they certainly need it. Winter and heavy frosts have heaved up places here and there, and, more than that, have heaved up the roots of the grass, much of which perishes if not pressed back by the roller. Boiling (and this time it should be done with a good heavy one) must be done when the ground is drying after the frost has left it; when it is soft and pliable but not wet and sticky. The mowing machine will do the rest for the remainder of the season. Rolling is all right, and if you have time roll often; no harm done.
The practice of strewing stable manure on the grass in November, with the idea of protecting it, is all nonsense. It brings you a great crop of all kinds of weeds, and that's about all it does. If you put it on with the idea of nourishing the roots you are mistaken. The fertilizing properties of the manure have passed through the soil while the roots were inactive and have not benefited the plants. With excessive watering the roots are often brought near the surface and at the same time continually sprinkling impoverishes the surface soil.
So one inch of good loam to which has been added one-half pound of bone meal to the bushel, and this soil thrown on the surface of the lawn and worked in by the back of the rake just before rolling, or even after, will do more good than all the manure you can put on. Then you have given the grass something to feed on and you will see great results in a few weeks. Although an inch over the whole surface may seem burying the grass, it will soon disappear when moved about by the back of the rake, and after the first good rain you will not notice it.
The other feature I object to is this continual sprinkling, and many of our citizens who have grass surrounding their houses are insane over the matter. " Henry, you had better put the sprinkler on the front lawn." I have seen this done while yet the rainbow was in the sky, the effect of a receding storm that had an hour before poured out its liquid gifts in copious quantities.
The grass that suffers most with this idiotic treatment is that beneath the shade of trees and buildings. We know scores of places that are resodded or seeded every season, or at most every alternate year, and simply because it is drowned out. "I can't get the grass to grow under the trees," is the continual plaint. It grows under the shade of trees in our orchards and so it does in our large cemeteries and public parks, and greener than it does in the sun, simply because the farmer and the park and ■cemetery superintendents do not water it. They do not have the time, and would not if they could.
A Well-Kept Lawn.
This continued watering brings the roots to the surface only. to perish. It produces a weak, forced growth of the grass. What better combination could you have to wear out a lawn than keeping up a continual forcing of growth by water and then clipping it off short with the mowing machine?
You will ask, "What better can you tell us to do, for we are determined to have a green lawn" First, if your lawn has been sodded on a hard clay or sown on an inch or two of poor sandy soil, dig it up and dig deep, and put in lots of manure. If you can't do that and your lawn turns brown with a week of hot weather in June, then water thoroughly once a week and then let it alone. Once a week is often enough for any lawn if thoroughly done. And under the shade of trees remember that much less is needed.
If a very dry summer, a good soaking once in two weeks is ample for grass that is heavily shaded with trees. Unfortunately this, in many cases, is near the sidewalk where your man or yourself delight to stand hose in hand in your shirt sleeves and nightly pour ice water (for cold it often is) on the tender grass in hot evenings of June, remarking to every acquaintance who passes: "Hot enough for you?" The struggling blade of grass would say, could it make you sensible of its desires, "Shut up and shut off and let me breathe in the warm night air; I am shivering with the cold and my feet are wet." In protracted drought grass will turn brown. The poorer the soil the browner the grass, but it can be kept green with an occasional watering. And leave alone this everlasting and daily sprinkling.
I should say in conclusion that all lawns, big or little, should be under-drained with tile or some other means as good. You can get on the lawn earlier in the spring and later in the fall, but more important than that, it is better for the roots of the grass than land that is boggy and saturated with moisture. All lawns may not need it, but most do.
The mowing machine keeps down all troublesome weeds except dandelion and plantain. The latter perishes if cut an inch below the surface. For dandelion I know no cure, and there is a rich prize for the man who will discover some effectual method for its extermination.