Lawn Care Forum banner
1 - 20 of 145 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
376 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm considering a backyard reno. I already have a mostly Bewitched monostand with other grasses on the outskirts. The main reason I want to do this is to level out the back and try to maintain KBG (will be Bewitched) or PRG (SS9000 blend) as low as possible. It's going to take some drastic changes to get everything level. I don't know how much of the BW will survive it so I might just start over from scratch.

As of right now I can't mow lower than 2" without getting close to scalping. I've never tried 1.5" but it will definitely scalp several areas down to the soil at that height.

My main question is how do you guys maintain it at 1"? I know wardconnor and pete1313 both have experience with this, but I've seen other members (from the other forum) mowing KBG sub 1" and you never see them after June. That makes me think their lawns get decimated over the summer. I have very sandy soil. It's common for people to water 3-4x a week here over summer. Would I need to water every day or close to it? And syringe more often? Also regarding fungicides..what are the main diseases you deal with at those heights? This question is for anybody with cool season grasses, particularly KBG and/or PRG maintained at 1" or lower. Thanks.
 

·
Super Moderator
Bewitched KBG (38k sqft)
Joined
·
2,328 Posts
I personally don't think that maintaining KBG/PRG at 1" is as tough as some make it out to be. It is done all across the world in soccer pitches, baseball fields, etc. at 1" and lower. Sure they have crews that maintain it, better soils, irrigation, and budget, but you don't see any of those fields getting decimated. It does take the right equipment, and some knowledge.

In regards to scalping. A good powered reel mower (one with a full width front roller and rear roller/drum) will scalp less than a rotory. This is due to the way the rollers will hug and follow the terrain. My yard has lumps and bumps and hills, but I haven't seen any scalping when cutting at 7/8". In comparison, I cannot cut lower than 2.25" with the lawn tractor(54" rotary deck). When I tried, it scalped a few hills down to bare soil. Also, KBG can be leveled by topdressing with sand just like a warm season lawn, just not as aggressively.

As far as maintaining it, cutting at 1" or less has the potential of putting the lawn under more stress, but not if maintained properly. Make sure you mow often enough so you don't cut more than 1/3rd of the blade off, water enough, aerate, use a PGR, try and encourage the roots to grow as deep as possible since close mowing reduces root mass, and maybe have a preventative fungicide plan. That is pretty much all I do. Try and not let the grass get stressed.

For watering, what I have done in the past on Bewitched and currently doing on my Northern Mix (at least until I kill it) is water at 80% of ET every 3-4 days. But that was on a silt loam at my old property and on a clay loam currently.

For preventative fungicides, the only thing I have sprayed in the past was serenade. Although I am in northern Illinois so disease pressure may be more or less depending on your location. I believe that cutting short really helps with alot of the foliar diseases as it allows the canopy to dry out better. Cutting shorter can make the grass more susceptible to the soil diseases however. This is due to the root mass being potentially less. Anything you can do to try and increase root mass will help. Summer patch is one disease I would pay attention to if cutting shorter. Being in northern IL summer patch is not much of a problem, but if it is in your area I would consider looking into a plan that included Heritage and Companion.

Ward will chime in later as I'm sure there are some points I missed. Cutting shorter does take alittle more effort then cutting at 3", but once you get up close and see and feel close mowed KBG, i dont think you will ever go back!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,124 Posts
I use a manual reel mower and mow the back daily, cuz I can. The crazy thing is it takes off a decent amount each time and it is getting super thick.

The lawn is very bumpy but the manual reel handles it fine. I will be posting all year long because I want to see what happens ;)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
376 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the replies so far. Grassdaddy, I've seen you mention this which got me more interested.

Pete, I wasn't aware the difference in HOC could be that drastic with a reel vs rotary. Does it have to have a front roller to be able to get that low or will any reel allow me to do that? I found a cheap scotts manual reel on craigslist that I'm looking to pickup to get the experiment going (but it doesn't appear to have any rollers). Also found a fiskars & craftsman but they are a bit far from me. I only have around 1.5k backyard so I don't mind using a manual reel for now.

Maybe I can get away with just a 1/3rd partial reno on the really bumpy areas. Any tips on what kind of sand to ask for or will any do if I pick up a yard or 2? How much sand per K did you end up needing at your old BW monostand?
 

·
Super Moderator
Bewitched KBG (38k sqft)
Joined
·
2,328 Posts
It doesn't need a full front roller to go low, but a full front and rear roller will help reduce scalping a bumpy yard. If it has individual wheels and one wheel goes into a low spot, it will cause the reel to drop down and scalp. But if it has a full roller, it will float over that low spot. Also if you mow over a high spot the full roller will ride up and over it to minimize scalping. I truly believe you will have a hard time scalping with a "greens type" reel on most lawns when cutting at 1".

Mason sand is what you want, or Topdressing sand if you can get it. .375 cubic yards will do roughly 1000 sq ft to a 1/8" depth. .750 cubic yards will do 1/4" depth. It will take multiple Topdressings to get it where you want. I did 3/8" deep (or just over 1 cu yd/k) on my bewitched and it handled it but was too aggressive. Had me worried for a couple weeks.
 

·
Super Moderator
Bewitched KBG (38k sqft)
Joined
·
2,328 Posts
LIgrass said:


Here's the one I found for $40 just a town over from me. I don't want to pester the guy but he says barely used it and that's about it he knows. Does this look like it would do?
It should cut that low, and for $40 might be ok to start out with. But like I said, it will scalp more. And also will not stripe as well as a full roller greens type reel mower
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
376 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Pete1313 said:
It doesn't need a full front roller to go low, but a full front and rear roller will help reduce scalping a bumpy yard. If it has individual wheels and one wheel goes into a low spot, it will cause the reel to drop down and scalp. But if it has a full roller, it will float over that low spot. Also if you mow over a high spot the full roller will ride up and over it to minimize scalping. I truly believe you will have a hard time scalping with a "greens type" reel on most lawns when cutting at 1".

Mason sand is what you want, or Topdressing sand if you can get it. .375 cubic yards will do roughly 1000 sq ft to a 1/8" depth. .750 cubic yards will do 1/4" depth. It will take multiple Topdressings to get it where you want. I did 3/8" deep (or just over 1 cu yd/k) on my bewitched and it handled it but was too aggressive. Had me worried for a couple weeks.
Excellent info again. Thanks!

What I think I'm gonna do is start at 1.5" and see if anything gets scalped with the reel. Work my way down and take it from there to see where major leveling is needed.

I ended up picking up that reel. It turns out it's the 20" scotts classic reel. Wasn't sure from the pic. It looked in good shape. The only issue is there's a little bit of rust on the outer part of two of the blades. The cutting surface itself had some caked on gunk but no rust that I saw. It's a little hard to get started from rest, but once it's in motion it's a piece of cake. Everything else looks to be in good working order. I cut the back in close to the same time it takes to do it with my Honda. It's actually a really nice clean cut, very even at 2" despite the yard being a little over 3" to start. Very enjoyable except for the tight starts.

Did I make a bad buy because of the rust on 2 of the blades and is that what's probably causing the hard starting? or can I clean it up a little (scrub the rust off with a brush, clean the bearings, WD-40? etc) to get this moving a little faster from rest. I also saw there's a way to adjust how much contact the blades make with the cutting surface to make it easier to spin.
 

·
Super Moderator
Bewitched KBG (38k sqft)
Joined
·
2,328 Posts
You are going to want to lube up any bearings, adjust the bedknife and then backlap it to get the cutting surfaces cleaned up. I'm not exactly sure on that model how to get it spinning in reverse. I can probably figure it out with some closer pics. But maybe start a new thread in the equipment section and see if anyone has more experience with it.

Sounds like a good plan to slowly take it down, observe how it goes and level as needed. You already have bewitched which can tolerate a low HOC. If it were me, I wouldn't want to start over from scratch if I already had good grass. I would try and level out what I currently have as well.
 

·
Super Moderator
Bewitched KBG (38k sqft)
Joined
·
2,328 Posts
Info on backlapping reels

http://grounds-mag.com/mag/grounds_maintenance_back_lap_reels/
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,720 Posts
This is a long post. Get a drink and sit down.

First things first. I love to talk grass because it is so rewarding for me working in the lawn and seeing progress. I want to write this up because someone asked and I please ask that if what I say about how I personally care for my lawn does not suit your fancy then please refrain from any negative comment. Whenever people talk cool season grasses and low cutting heights for some reason the hate/criticism starts. I guess haters are gonna hate. I have yet to see such critical/negative comments on TLF which is why I like it here. There is not only 1 way to make your lawn look awesome. I do not write up this post to boast.

Let me preface by saying that I am definitely a lawn care RULE BREAKER. I always break the 1/3rd rule and I never measure anything I put down other than when I measure the PGR and Tricloplyr. Everything else I put down I like to look at as it comes out spreader and say "that looks about right." If it does not look right I adjust. I do not measure or weigh my fert. I know .. I know... I am wasting product and money and could damage my lawn but this system works for me.

I cut my lawn at .625 (5/8) inch with a Toro Greens Master 1000. I have KBG and PRG

Water

Maintaining at 1 inch or less definitely requires more water. I find that if I am not watering a lot then the grass dries out very quickly and starts to go dormant brownish. I have a well and am not on the city water source, which is very expensive, so I only have to pay to pump the water I use. I water a lot but have never measured my water usage formally. I just water until it looks about right and is good and wet. My wife hates that I water this way but I like it because it makes the lawn green ( I really need to try FAS). I have terrible clay soil under the sod. I am pretty sure that my watering habits are doing the lawn a dis service by watering frequently vs infrequently. What I am doing works so I do not plan on changing it. I find that when I go a few days without watering the lawn starts to look dry. I live in a very dry climate. Utah is a desert state so we have a lot of clear sunny days and long stretches with no rain. You pretty much have to irrigate if you expect grass to grow. The humidity level is very low. We only get like 3 to 5 days each summer in the 90s. I am at 6000 feet above sea level so it's a cold climate. I generally water at least 4 times per week. I have an underground sprinkling system and have large rotors that generally water for about 45 minutes per zone. My neighbors and passer byers love the look of my lawn. For some reason they proceed to make jokes about how my sprinklers run a lot. I do not have any fungus issues or diseases related to water. Not yet at least. I do not use fungicide or bacteria like serenade. Maybe I should try that. I personally think the lawn looks better when its damp or slightly wet.

I maintained my lawn at .75 all summer in 2016 and it stayed green all summer as long as it was watered enough. ATY was a short lived experience for me as I joined around August 2016. I quit them in March 2017. I did not post any of the summer 2016 pictures being that I joined later summer and laid low to figure out the wizard before I post.

Here is a picture of my lawn taken on July 9, 2016. It was not scorched.



August 7, 2016 not dried up



Here is a picture of it taken on August 4th 2016 after 10 days on vacation with little to no water and also no mowing. The water really makes a difference in this dry climate. The water is critical for me.



Effort

Mowing at 1 inch or under takes a lot more effort for sure. You have to mow a lot more often that you would when you mow tall at around 3 inches. I really like the look of a 3-inch lawn but like the look or 2 or less way more. I have always been a low-cut lawn kind of guy, say around 2 inches, but decided to reel low about 2 years ago.

Before I bought a reel mower I used to cut as low as my rotary mower would allow. I mowed for a few months this low with the rotary. This did result in scalping like Pete mentioned. This is due to the mower sitting on 4 points on the grass rather than 2 wider 20+ inch rollers. It also left yellow rings in the lawn from where the blades torn the grass tips. The rollers on a reel mower tend to bridge the gap over depressions or high spots. The rollers have several functions in my eyes. They roll the grass for striping, help avoid scalping on uneven surfaces, and help flatten the lawn over time. The greens mower is heavy and it flattens out the bumps and high spots over time like a steam roller only a smaller lighter version. Mowing when the soils is damp also helps to flatten it out.

In order to reel cut low you need to scrub out that heavy thatch layer or crown. If you cut low for the first time or more you are going to cut into that crown spongy layer at first. This layer is like a spongy thatch layer and is hard to describe. This material needs to be removed and thinned out. My lawn had a bunch of this stuff when I decided to cut low. I used a power rake seeder machine with a delta reel blade to cut this out. I went over it in several directions and pulled out a lot of dead old material. Keep in mind at this point my lawn was only 2 years old grown from seed. I vacuumed this removed thatch up with my rotary mower. Removing this significantly thinned out the lawn. You can also accomplish this with a manual thatch rake. If you are wanting to go low you will need to thin your lawn out. These are all my opinions so take it for what it is worth.

After I thinned the lawn out I over seeded with PRG heavy. Going with the PRG was my best move IMO in going low. It added a beautiful look to the KBG. I would do it all over if I had to do it again. If I knew then what I know now I would started with this mix when I seeded.

Opening up the canopy will invite weed seeds but as you cut the grass low it will start to grow out and not up so the roots spread and the grass knits together and gets extremely thick. Don't worry that it is too thin. With fertilizer and mowing it will thicken up quickly.

I figure I work in my yard 20+ hours per week. I know this is insane. I enjoy it.

Leveling

I was anal before I seeded and tried to make it as flat as possible before I put the seed down. It looked good but was not as good as I would have liked it. I also had some settling issues from the irrigation trenches. Because of this settling, and my OCD, I have leveled with sand about 3 times. The results have been amazing. You can level with sand but you need to be careful not to smother the cool season grasses or it will die and will not grow through. Level with small layers of sand. The trick to leveling for a KBG lawn is to cut the lawn as short as you feel comfortable with. Then you can spread your sand in a thin layer. Because you cannot go heavy on the sand layer you have to do it in multiple rounds of leveling. Leveling with sand is truly is a multi-season affair. You will want to buy a fine sand but not powdery sand. Do not get sand with small pebbles because it will kill your reel. I think I found 3mm sand. As mentioned in other threads, masons sand will work well. Buy the sand in bulk and not from big box stores. Use a drag mat and push broom to work sand into the canopy. Let the sand dry out before you use the broom. Leveling with sand on cool season grasses can be done and is worth the effort you put into it.

My suggestion to anyone renovating or starting from scratch is to drag drag drag before you seed. You cannot spend too much time getting it flat prior to seeding. When you think its "good enough" then drag some more. Dragging with a motorized something (lawn tractor, 4-wheeler) will make your life so much easier when leveling.

Picture of the leveling on September 3rd 2016



Picture after leveling on October 8th 2016.



Mower

Get a GOOD reel mower. They are more money but are well worth the cost if you are serious about going reel low. The greens mowers are ideal because of the weight and the rollers. They flatten the lawn over time and help with scalping because of the rollers. The high-speed gas-powered reels make all the difference in the world. They spin fast and are designed to accomplish just exactly what we are trying to achieve. You will need to learn about reel to bed knife adjustment. This is crucial for a good cut. Every time I mow I check the reel to bed knife adjustment. I adjust it every time so that it cuts paper easily. Do not mow through sand, rocks, sticks, dog poo, or general debris. Leaves are okay but sand will shred the reel and dull the blades quickly.

Enjoy

Sit back and enjoy mowing. Expect a lot of complements and people amazed at how it looks. They will all want to know how you did it. I tell people it takes TIME. I also tell people to start by bagging (bagging controversy I know) and mowing low. Use PGR and sit back and enjoy the beauty.

Picture taken May 27, 2017

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,344 Posts
Terrific write-up and beautiful lawn. There are no wizards here to judge you. I'm sure your cool season brethren from the Northeast would like to have your sub 10% humidity, but only until they got the water bill.

My father in Amarillo, TX has done a portion of his yard with KBG/PR/TTTF mix where he's previously only had TTTF. He's not going to be cutting low, but they usually have about 20 days over 100 there per year. I've tried to talk him into a triplex mower for his 24000 sf, but he just isn't interested. He also has a well. After we get into Summer and can see how the KBG and PR react to the heat, I may push the triplex thought more.
 

·
Super Moderator
Bewitched KBG (38k sqft)
Joined
·
2,328 Posts
Awesome write-up Ward! :thumbsup: although we may disagree on our watering and fertilizing habits, like you said "There is not only 1 way to make your lawn look awesome." Excellent info on needing to get the thatch/crown layer thinned out when going lower. Especially if you were previously cutting at a higher HOC.
 

·
Super Moderator
Bewitched KBG (38k sqft)
Joined
·
2,328 Posts
It can be done right out of the gate at renovation time. I'm in the process of a renovation right now and plan on cutting it short from the start. As Ward mentioned about the "crown spongy layer", by cutting it short as soon as you can, it will eliminate the crowns and stemmy parts from growing higher in the canopy and train them to stay closer to the soil.
 

·
Super Moderator
Tifgrand—7,500 sq/ft—Baroness LM56
Joined
·
5,476 Posts
Awesome write up Conner!!!👍
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,720 Posts
Pete1313 said:
Awesome write-up Ward! :thumbsup: although we may disagree on our watering and fertilizing habits, like you said "There is not only 1 way to make your lawn look awesome." Excellent info on needing to get the thatch/crown layer thinned out when going lower. Especially if you were previously cutting at a higher HOC.
Pete

I welcome your comments because you are aware of what it takes to have a lower HOC. Thanks for your feedback. We can disagree just fine and dandy.

j4c11 said:
Would you recommend giving the grass a few years to mature before going to a sub 1" cut or can it be done first year?
Yeah just like Pete said... go for it right away. People that grow back yard greens that I followed before I found ATY TLF here start mowing crazy low right away.

Training the grass is the key. The sooner the better I would say.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,053 Posts
wardconnor said:
Yeah just like Pete said... go for it right away. People that grow back yard greens that I followed before I found ATY TLF here start mowing crazy low right away.

Training the grass is the key. The sooner the better I would say.
Thank you to both you and Pete for the info.

I'm at 3" right now so I'd have some work to do. Have you ever pulled a plug out of the lawn? I'm very curious as to how badly the low cut affects the roots. If you still have 3"-4" roots I think I could work with that, even through NC summers.
 
1 - 20 of 145 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top