Bumpy, rough lawns

>> Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I have one of these. It was bumpy when I moved here. It was bumpy, lumpy and treacherous to walk on. And mowing was no picnic either. Almost every neighbor I talked to about it told me the same thing. They told me that the lumpiness is caused by an over-abundance of earthworms. I believe earthworms in the lawn is a good thing. Earthworms anywhere is a good thing. From hearing them talk this soil should be rich enough to grow anything I wanted without having to add anything to the soil. I was thrilled to hear that this might be the case, but I found it difficult to believe that the noble earthworm was the cause of my bumpy, rough lawn.

Since I had never lived anywhere where I had to take care of a lawn, I was a lawn-maintenance virgin. And as such, I could not dispute what I was being told so I began reading and searching for other causes of bumpy, rough lawns.

There are several possible reasons for bumpy, rough, uneven lawns. Older lawns become uneven and bumpy as the Turfgrass gradually thins. These lawns have less foliar growth and cushioning effect than thick, dense Turfgrass.

When I first moved in the grass was browning and thin in some areas and so I thought this must be why this lawn is lumpy. The solution seemed clear, if I simply feed it and water it on a regular schedule I could ‘save’ this lawn by myself. This great delusion began in the Summer of 2004. By the end of 2005, after following the commonly prescribed practice of weed & feed at regular intervals, it was very clear to me that what I was doing was not working. After two Summers, two Autumns, and one Spring, I still had no idea how to save this lawn and I still had brown areas, thinning grass and a bumpy, rough surface along with ever increasing water bills.

During this time of indoctrination by fire, I had dug up the lawn in several places looking for these nefarious earthworms but never did find more than a handful. I didn’t find the rich mountains of castings that I was told was creating the ankle-twisting mis-adventures that I had come to expect from simply walking across the lawn.

Other reasons for lumpiness could be poor maintenance, shade, insects, diseases and other factors. I suspect it was poor maintenance. There was no way it was shade because the lawn is in full sun all day long except for under the fruit trees and the grass was lush and thick there. As far as insects and diseases, I didn’t see anything that convinced me that these were the causes. And there are the ‘other factors’. I don’t have a clue what these could be. Maybe moles, voles and other rodents but that is not the case. Never saw any of these here.

Everyone said I should aerate. That should level it out in no time. They reasoned that aeration helps open up the soil to allow air and water down to the grass roots and thereby create a more lush turf. I can’t help but think that if I have such an abundance of earthworms then my lawn is already very well aerated by them. But, I had someone come out to aerate anyway, because it is good practice to do so. The ground was so hard that it was basically a waste of time.

So, if the ground is too hard to aerate, then earthworms is not the cause of my lumpiness.

Spring of 2006 came around and I was not looking forward to fighting a loosing battle so I spoke with a lawn service guy and decided to let them take care of it all for a couple of years. I figured I would pay close attention to when they came around and make note of what they used and then I would be able to take it from there. It is now two years later and my lawn has never looked better. But, I still have lumps.

Their advice was pretty much the same as everyone else who has lived around here for years. Aerate. Is this just a commonly accepted ‘cure-all’ for lawn problems? Even though it obviously does not work.

Just today I read an article that mentioned the freeze/thaw cycle here in Utah. I suppose it is the same in every northern state but it never occurred to me that this might, if not cause the problem then at least it could be contributing to the problem. If this is the case then the only course of action now is to sprinkle top soil and reseed every year. This may have to be the way to go because I don’t think it will ever ‘cure’ the lumpiness.

I guess I am just going to have to live with it. Or, I could replace all of it with wildflowers and sell my lawn mower. Now that sounds like a great alternative.

4 comments:

Anonymous April 7, 2008 at 11:00 PM  

Thanks for your thoughts. I too was told earthworms were the culprit when asking around about lumpy lawns. But your observations are mirrored by my own. I seriously doubt worms cause this lumpyness. I do have some alternate theories however...

The freeze/thaw cycle you mention is one I haven't heard of before, but it makes sense. I like that theory.

My theory lies with native utah grass..I have observed in my own yard that kind of bumpy ground and found several different types of grasses growing in my yard. I couldn't water the back yard for a season due to broken pipes and lack of time to fix them, but after nearly all the regular grass died I noticed there was left over a very hardy and lumpy, yet fine grass. My wife says this is native Utah grass which grows in the mountaains. The grass is cute - it seems to grow in clumps and raise the earth with it - however unlike crabgrass it looks like ordinary and desirable (find bladed) grass. We like the stuff, but it does warp the ground and raise it anywhere it grows for some reason. Over time this kind of growth could really make your lawn a lumpy bumpy turf.

This year we roto-tilled the grass in the backyard and plan on planting again. I don't know if this is the best solution but it's one I'm trying (we are also trying to eliminate the pesky thorns and morning glory that started growing back there as well. What a mess!)

Good luck with your lawn and thanks for sharing!

Mark April 7, 2009 at 3:03 PM  

IT'S SIMPLE. TO RID YOUR LAWN OF THE LUMPY BUMPY, GO DOWN TO HOMEDEPOT. RENT YOURSELF AN AERATOR, THE ONE THAT POKES HOLES IN YOUR LAWN AND LEAVES BEHIND PLUGS. MOW YOUR LAWN SHORT. MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR SPRINKLER HEADS, ARE IF YOU HAVE AN IRRIGATION SYSTEM, AND WHERE YOUR INVISIBLE FENCE FOR YOUR DOG IS BURIED BECAUSE YOU DONOT WANT TO HIT THESE WHILE RUNNING THIS AERATOR OVER YOUR LAWN. NOW RUN THE AERATOR OVER YOUR LAWN VERTICAL AND HORIZONTAL. WHILE YOU WERE AT HOMEDEPOT YOU WOULD HAVE GOTTEN A THATCHING MACHINE ALSO. COMMON ONE IS A BLUE BIRD OR RYAN ETC. SET IT SO THE TINES ARE RAKING THE TURF AREA WHEN YOU RUN IT OVER YOUR LAWN. NOW RUN IT THE OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS OF WHAT YOU DID WITH THE AERATOR, HORIZONTAL AND VERTICAL. BRING BACK BOTH MACHINES. NOW IF YOU HAVE A 10000 TO 15000 SQUARE FT. LAWN AND HOMEDEPOT IS 5 MILES AWAY YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH ALL THIS IN ONE DAY AND STILL HAVE DAYLIGHT. NOW WHILE YOUR AT HOMEDEPOT YOU'LL NEED A 40 LB BAG OF SCOTTS SUN AND SHADE SEED MIX. ENOUGH SCOTTS STARTER WITH CRAB CONTROL TO COVER THE SQ. FOOTAGE OF THE AREA YOU JUST DID AND GRANULATED LIME. GO HOME NOW IF YOU HAVE ABOUT AN 1HR AND A HALF TO TWO HRS OF LIGHT LEFT YOU CAN FINISH TODAY. FIRST WITH A LEAF RAKE GO OVER THE AREA IF THERE IS DEBRI KICKED UP FROM THE THATCHER. RAKE IT AND PICK IT UP. NOW GET A FERTILIZER BROADCAST SPREADER AND SPREAD YOUR LIME USUALLY THE SPREADER WOULD BE OPENED 3/4 TO ALL THE WAY FOR LIME. WHEN YOU HAVE COVERED THE AREA WITH A NICE EVEN COAT OF LIME 8 FT PASSES ONCE OVER NOW IT'S TIME FOR YOUR SEED . SET THE SPREADER A LITTLE UNDER TO HALF OPEN AND 6 FT SWATHS OVER THE AREA TWICE VERTICAL AND HORIZONTAL. NOW TAKE YOUR LEAF RAKE AND WITH THE RAKE UPSIDE DOWN RAKE OVER THE ENTIRE AREA JUST ENOUGH TO COVER THE SEED AND GIVE IT GOOD SOIL CONTACT. IT'S LIKE RAKING ONLY THE RAKE TEETH ARE FACING UP. THEN FERTILIZE THE AREA WITH STARTER FERTILIZER WITH CRAB CONTROL. THE SETTING SHOULD BE ON THE BAG. SET UP YOUR SPRINKLERS AND WATER EARLY MORNING FOR AN HR ENTIRE AREA AND DO THAT UNTIL THE LAWN IS ESTABLISHED. MAKE SURE IT GETS AN INCH OF RAIN OR IRRIGATION EVERY WEEK AND PUT IT ON THE SCOTTS 1234 PLAN AND YOUR LAWN WILL BE THE TALK OF THE TOWN GOODLUCK. YOUR FRIEND AND LANDSCAPE MAINTENANCE GUY MARK MLM

Greg W April 8, 2009 at 7:54 AM  

Thanks Mark. I have been aerating twice a year now for the last three years with very slow results but the rest of your recommendations is a bit more intensive.

I have been planning on getting more serious about correcting the problem and I do appreciate your instructions.

Thanks again, very timely.

hydroponic January 21, 2010 at 4:37 AM  

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