Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Languishing Lawn

In the valleys of Southern California, it regularly tops 100 degrees in summer. In my particular micro-climate, pushed right up against the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, the hills trap and intensify that heat so that we also have several days of better than 110 degrees.

It's hot, plain and simple, and not all of the greenery can take it.

My lawn is one. It's St. Augustine grass. It used to look good for around 6 months of the year, and then die back because of the heat or winter dormancy.

We also used to have a big ash tree that shaded much of it but the city, fearing it might have termites, removed it and the shade it provided (when we asked for a replacement, the reply was "we don't have a budget for that"). 

While I missed the shade, I didn't miss raking up all those leaves so I didn't make a fuss about it.

Until I found the other insidious effect...without the shade, my lawn is severely scorched from this blistering summer sun (see the picture at the top).

So, this fall, my big project is the rehabilitation of my lawn. Since I'm the Cheapskate, I've got to find a way to do it that's not going to cost an arm and a leg.

I looked into renting an aerator. Minimum of $45 for three hours...not too bad...but the guys at the rental shop are scaring me saying you better know what you're doing with it and that it's a real bear to operate.  "A gardener can do it for around the same price," I'm told.

Approaching my neighbor's gardener, he tells us at least $800 and that doesn't include the cost of the aerator rental. He'd rather install sprinklers and a new lawn for a cost of several thousand dollars.

My middle and last name might be "Urban Gardener," but he's not quiet getting the first name...

So here's my plan...I'm going to overseed with drought resistant grass.  First, to aerate the lawn, I'm going to wet down the ground real good.

Then I'm getting a metal rake/fork and gouging the ground to aerate and break up the roots.

Some of those clumps are pretty darn tough...look what it did.

Here's today's results. I'm going to do a little bit each day until I'm done. Then, I've got a 10-day trip coming up where I can seed, set the timer on the sprinkler to water everyday, no one will be here to bother it, and - hopefully - that can give it the time and moisture it needs for some quality germination.

Wish me luck!

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved


  1. Lawn rejuvenation is a job! I've done the same about 4 weeks ago - looking great. I used a seed starter fertilizer that is high in P, and also used a variety that will work in my Zone 6.

  2. I do wish you luck; you can do it! We have St. Augustine, too; as you have found, it can take anything but fierce, unfiltered sunlight. Some areas of our lawn look better than others. Please keep us posted of your lawn's progress; we can learn from your experience. :)