Posts tagged ‘Garden’

When should you dethatch or aerate your lawn?


There is a debate going on among our employees about when to dethatch a lawn. Some the guys here say you should do it in the spring when the grass has established its root base. They base their opinion off of what golf courses do for their grass in the spring. Others, like myself, believe it should be done in the fall. If you dethatch your lawn late in the summer/early fall lawns are less succeptible to weeds and crabgrass establishing themselves. Whether you dethatch in spring or fall you need to make sure to give your lawn a healthy drink afterward. At least a 1/2 inch of watering should be done. If you dethacth in the spring you are going to want to make sure to use a fertilizer with a weed killer or crabgrass killer in it after you are done.  Here are a few articles I have found to support only my argument. If the other guys in the store want to defend themselves they’ll have to start their own blog:)

Late summer lawn care:

Lawn aerification: If your lawn has significant compaction problems, the period right around Labor Day and through the early fall is an excellent time to do some core aerification. Lawn aerification machines are usually available through most rental businesses.
Photo 2: Lawn aerifier. Note the hollow tines for removing soil cores. Bob Mugaas.

Be sure to rent a core aerifier, one that actually pulls cores out of the soil and redeposits them on the lawn or soil surface. The extra aeration in the soil will encourage more active root growth as well as benefit the soil microbial community. Healthy plant roots and a healthy soil microbial population make for a healthy, vigorous grass plant better able to withstand stress along with normal wear and tear of lawn activity. The cores can be left on the soil or lawn surface to naturally decompose. This will also help control the buildup of thatch in the lawn. It is best to make two or three passes over the lawn to increase the number of holes needed to maximize the benefit.

Thatch control: Occasionally, a thick layer of brown fibrous material will build-up between the soil surface and where the grass plant shoots begin to turn green. This brown fibrous mat is known as thatch. It is actually composed of both living and non-living material. Thatch develops from the regular sloughing off of plant roots and other dead and decaying parts of the grass plant. It is however, NOT composed of any grass clippings. While there may be some grass clippings left on the surface, they are not part of the true thatch layer. So, whether you pick up your clippings or not, it will make no difference on the build-up of thatch. The living component of thatch consists of some roots, rhizomes and, of course, the many microorganisms and other living creatures.
If thatch develops at a faster rate than can be broken down by microorganisms, it can accumulate to undesirable levels. Generally, thatch greater than half-inch is undesirable. Cultural practices that contribute to thatch buildup are excessive nitrogen fertilizer, overwatering, infrequent mowing, compacted soils and simply the genetics of the particular grasses. Some grasses are more prone to thatch build-up than others.

Photo 3: Vertical mower or dethatcher; sometimes referred to as a power rake. Bob Mugaas.

Late summer (i.e., early September) is a good time to work at removing excess thatch build-up. Machines known as vertical mowers or de-thatchers can be rented and used to mechanically remove some of the thatch build-up. Leaving the soil cores on the surface will also help begin to break down thatch. In fact, where very thick thatch layers exist, using both a vertical mower and core aerifier may be helpful. If this is the case, thoroughly aerify the lawn, than perform vertical mowing. This operation can be done back to back on the same day if desired. It’s a good idea to follow-up with a quarter to half-inch inch of water to reduce lawn stress incurred from the dethatching and aerification processes.

Taken from the University of Minnesota extension page—ea.html

Dethatching Drought Damaged Lawns

August 7, 2012

If your lawn has been damaged by the recent drought conditions, chances are that you will have to do some lawn repairs come fall.  Depending on the extent of the damage it might be beneficial to dethatch your lawn.  There are several ways to remove thatch from a lawn from manual removal to using power equipment.  Thatch rakes are found at most home improvement stores.  These rakes have sharp, claw like tines that grab thatch and remove it from the lawn.  This is the most labor intensive way to remove thatch.  If you are dethatching a small patch of lawn it might be easier to dethatch the lawn by using a thatch rake.  Anything over a couple of hundred square feet is best left to power equipment.  Most folks do not have hours to dedicate to the manual removal of thatch.

The most effective way to remove thatch in a lawn is through the use of a power rake.  Most home owners do not own a power rake, but they can rent one at most rental stores.  Power rakes are about the size of your average push mower and can be used by almost anyone.  Most power rakes on the market are constructed using metal blades that spin on a drum.  The blades are usually serrated, which allows them to grab the thatch in the lawn.  Power rake blades spin continuously while the machine is being propelled forward.  Most units come with a bagging system to catch the removed thatch.  There are adjustable settings on most machines which allow the user to choose the depth of the blades.  You only want to set the blades low enough to remove the thatch.  If your blades are removing chunks of dirt and living grass, then your machine is set too low.  Any rental store should provide instructions on how to properly use the machine prior to renting it out.

taken from clean-cut property services

Here’s a few more articles about lawn care, seeding, dethatching and aeration:



Adventures In Gardening Vol. #4: Our First Harvest

Josey was very excited about her first harvest

Up until this point the garden has fun but has been mostly work. There has been the excitement of seeing the plants sprout and then grow but my daughter likes to cut to the chase, she wants results. About 2 weeks ago we finally got those results from our peas and beans. Now, it wasn’t a “bumper crop” but it was something tangible that she could see, touch and eat. That’s right, my daughter the picky eater ate her vegetables without sitting at the table for an hour and actually LIKED them. She even asked for more! My son was also impressed. I would have had more pea pods but he kept picking and eating them right out of the garden.  Vegetables do taste better right out of the garden, but there is also something to be said for putting in the effort to get something that makes it taste that much better.

I was thinking…  she also doesn’t like to eat meat. Maybe next year we’ll get a cow in the spring. She could help feed it and take care of it. We’ll fatten it up all summer and then together we could slaughter it  in the fall. That’ll get her to eat hamburger.

Adventures in Gardening Volume #3: Rabbits, Fencing and 94 Degrees

Peas Behind Bars

For weeks I’ve been attempting to protect my garden from attack by spraying Liquid Fence and for weeks it’s been working;  until now. It says right on the directions that you need to occasionally re-apply the stuff to ensure that it remains effective, like after a heavy rainfall. What they don’t take into consideration is the general laziness and excuse making of the user. Unfortunately for my garden, I was the user.  In the beginning I was fairly diligent about spraying the garden. But that stuff smells and I kept telling myself “I’ll do it later tonight before I go to bed”. You know how it is, one thing leads to another (watching the Twins can make a guy kinda sleepy these days) and it never got taken care of. You get a little sloppy and a bit careless and that’s when they strike. The little furry devils took them right down to the stems. It was just a few plants but I was  nor going to let that happen again.

I sprayed the garden down with more Liquid fence and decided that I needed to get a bit more drastic with my defenses. The next day at work I picked up some chicken wire and stakes in order to build my fortress wall. I should have done this from the beginning but I hated the idea of how it was going to look. After all, I didn’t want to get too crazy with building a fence without knowing for sure if anything was going to grow. Things have changed since my plants sprung-up and I’ve grown attached to my pathetic little garden.

On my day off I recruited Josey, my 3-year-old slave laborer, and we set off to fortify our garden. The day we decided to build our fence it was 95 degrees out with 70% humidity. Not exactly optimum conditions for yard work but if my 3-year-old wasn’t complaining, either was I. Sometimes it feels good to be outside breaking a sweat doing some hard work. I had Josey help me as best as she could with the fencing but it became apparent that she was getting too hot and frustrated. We took a break and got out the “Crazy Daisy”. While Josey played in the Crazy Daisy sprinkler I continued to work on the fence.

Josey playing with the Crazy Daisy

After working at a hardware store for over 18 years I’ve learned some cardinal rules to follow if you want to purchase the right item at the store. One of those rules is measure so that you know how much to buy. I did not do this… I guesstimated… I was wrong…  By about eight feet. I told Josey that I was done and asked her what she thought about our fence. She looked at it and said, “Dad, won’t rabbits still get in?”  Three year olds think they’re so smart.

Rabbits couldn’t get through, right?

For more information contact us at 763-553-1222

Stop in and see us at 12700 Bass Lake Rd. Maple Grove, MN 55369

Visit us on the web at and like us on Facebook

Adventures In Gardening Volume 2: Seedlings, Potato Bugs and Liquid Fence

When Josey and I planted our garden my biggest fear was that nothing was going to grow in the acid rich very sandy soil. Apparently we must have done something right because we have seedlings shooting up everywhere.  After 2 weeks our beans and peas are looking spectacular and our row of carrots looks like a little green mohawk. Our pepper and jalapeno plants look healthy and the onions and chives are poking through. I was pleasantly surprised with our garden but a realization occurred after looking at those small helpless plants. Suddenly the rabbits and deer that we loved looking at in our yard became my newest worst enemy. How was I going to defend my little crop of veggies? I thought about getting a .22 caliber rifle and stationing myself on top of the roof of our house. However I remembered that prior to planting Josey almost cried when I told her that I would have to kill the ants in the spot where the garden was going to go.I think the exact quote was: “They don’t do anything to hurt people dad”.  A rifle was out of the question.

Our Gardens Carrot Mohawk

I knew that I should fence the garden in but time was of the essence so I opted for a spray bottle of Liquid Fence that I had in the garage.  I’ve used liquid fence in the past but it’s been awhile. Originally I had brought it home for the Hostas we have all over the yard but I switched to a product from Sweeny’s that is a once a season deer repellent stake ( they work remarkably well by the way). For those of you who haven’t used Liquid Fence it is a great product that does an amazing job of repelling but it is hideous smelling when it is first applied. I hate to be crass but you know how your garbage can smell when you first open the lid in the middle of summertime? Mix that with urine and that’s what Liquid Fence smells like when first sprayed. Without remembering this, I decided to spray the perimeter of the garden. So I walked and sprayed excessively around our garden (remember this was option # 2 after the .22 rifle and I was intent on defending these little plants). I also thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to hit some of the hostas. You can’t be too careful right? It was only after the breeze shifted that I got hit with what I had done. I immediately went inside and started shutting doors and windows but it was too late. When I looked out the front door and saw my wife, son and daughter all standing in the front yard with their shirts over their mouths I knew I was in trouble.

Beans and peas

Fortunately, the smelled died down and the plants remain untouched by the rabbits and deer. But something smaller has now become my new worst enemy; the evil and devastating Potato Beetle. Last week Josey and I went out to the garden to add poles for the beans and peas to climb and we found that these little spawns of Satan were all over making meals out of our crops. After I calmed down and thought about how they are Gods creatures too and that they are just doing what they were designed to do I asked Josey what we should do. She said “kill them Dada”. Remembering the story about the ants I asked her why should we kill them? She said flatly, “because they’re eating OUR vegetables dad”. Apparently her mercy only goes so far.

Josey decided that the potato beetles needed to go so she went and got her bug box and started collecting them. She was squeamish at first but got braver (and angrier) as she worked. If she had one that was particularly wiggly she would throw it in the box and then shake it. She told me she wasn’t trying to hurt them but in fact she was trying to scare them. I told her that the shaking wasn’t working so instead she started making scary faces and yelling at them.

I wasn’t totally convinced that Josey’s scare tactics were going to work so the next day at the store I picked up a shaker container of Dragoon Dust by Bonide. It’s a product that is safe for vegetables and is both an insecticide and fungicide (in other words a bug and disease killer). I sprinkled the dust on my plants that evening and I hope it will take care of my potato beetle invasion. The beetles better hope for death too or else I’m going to send Josey back out to try some more of her “scare tactics”.

All the products mentioned in this article can be found at LeVahn Bros. Hardware Hank

For more information contact us at 763-553-1222

Stop in and see us at 12700 Bass Lake Rd. Maple Grove, MN 55369

Visit us on the web at and like us on Facebook

Adventures in Gardening Volume 1: Planting

preparing the soil

Josey working the ground

Well I’ve finally done it. I’ve decided to try to plant a garden in my yard starting from scratch with seeds. I’ve always wanted to do it but it took my 3-year-old girl to motivate me to take action. It never ceases to amaze me what she can get me to do. Shes loves to be outside and she’s at that wonderful stage in life when she’s eager to help with everything. So, I decided to make the most of these years and get as much child labor out of her that I could muster.

Working at a hardware store for 18 years gives you a lot of knowledge in a whole bunch of different areas but the realty is that much of it is theoretical. I do my best to give people advice based on knowledge that I know as fact and until I can try something for myself I usually defer to people who know more. Fortunately, there is no shortage of opinions on how to do something here at our store. When it comes to a garden there was no better person with real life experience than John the former owner of our store who still works here in a semi-retired role. He is a farm boy from North Dakota who still dabbles in fruits and vegetables. Every fall we are the beneficiaries of his bountiful crop of squash, plums, apples, cucumbers, zucchini and more. I told him I was worried that nothing was going to grow and he told me this; “If the ground can grow grass it can grow vegetables. Just fertilize the hell out of it and you’ll grow something.”

With this profound advice in my back pocket I decide to give the garden a go. I chose carrots,  jalapenos, green peppers, green onion, chives, pole beans, peas, and sunflowers. I threw in the sunflowers because I knew that if everything else didn’t grow I could count on the sunflowers to do something. We rototilled up a corner of the yard that gets the most sunlight (I’d heard somewhere that plants like it). I knew the ground was sandy but I had no idea how sandy it really was until I started digging. It was if I was digging in fine sugar. I added some black dirt topsoil, a heavy dose of  organic garden fertilizer (which has copious amounts of turkey poop in it. Don’t believe me just smell my garden) and a few shovels full of fire pit ashes. I added the fire pit ash because I read that it could be beneficial to my specific garden. Since ash is so fine it actually slows down the drainage of water (which is good for really sandy soils but not good if you have clay). It also can raise the PH levels (acidity) of the soil. Sine we have a lot of pine trees in our yard and one that is seated directly next the garden our soil is highly acidic. You can also counter soil acidity with the use of hydrated lime (I’ve had to add lime to my lawn in areas just to get the grass to grow). I needed to dig out the fire pit anyhow so this was an easy way to re-use my ashes. Ashes also have small amounts of phosphorus and potassium in them as well both beneficial to plants. I’ve read both pros and cons of using ash in a garden but this whole process is really an experiment anyway so I gave it a try. If you are wondering what your soils acidity is you can purchase a soil testing kit for around $15-$20 from at the hardware store.

Josey planting the vegetable seeds

After throwing the black dirt, fertilizer, and ash on the garden bed I rototilled it again to mix it into the soil.  After my dirt cocktail was thoroughly mixed it was time to plant the seeds. I simply followed the directions on the backs of the packages and with the help of my very eager 3-year-old daughter we sowed the seeds to our very first vegetable garden. Josey went around with her little watering can and gave each seed a healthy drink. She could hardly wait for the seeds to start growing and I had to remind her a few times that the process is going to take some time. Hopefully SOMETHING grows and she can see the fruits (or vegetables) of our labor.

LeVahn Bros. Plumbing and Hardware  is located at 12700 Bass Lake Road in Maple Grove, MN 55369

You can contact us at 763-551-8990 or at

You can find us on the web at and on Facebook at

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