I recently responded to a question concerning landscape installation after new

construction. Unfortunately, the majority of building contractors are not concerned with preserving the soil structure of the site; often the fragile and sometimes scarce topsoil is pushed away and mixed with subsoil, rock and whatever else is dug up. This mix is then regraded back around the site after the completion of building and makes a very poor medium for growing plants.

I have found chunks of concrete, asphalt, framing lumber, sheetrock, various chemical globs, paint cans, tools and other unwelcome objects in the course of installing a landscape around new construction. If you can be involved in the early planning of your new building, insist that your contractor scrape and stockpile the topsoil and replace it later; if you are working with an existing site that has not had this care, be aware that your “soil” may not be adequate for healthy plant growth. Extra work and soil amendments will be needed as the first step in new landscaping.

As usual in the spring, folks are concerned with improving their lawns. I will preface my remarks by saying that we should all reduce the size of our lawn area and quit trying to grow perfection; it just doesn’t exist in nature and is impossible to produce without massive inputs of water, fertilizer and pesticides. Now this is coming from a former golf course superintendant. We tried to grow a perfect monoculture turf and succeeded in many areas, but we were always fighting with nature.

One thing I have learned over time is that if my approach to gardening first asks… “what is the natural process here… what are the natural results?” …my techniques and methods become much simpler, easier and less expensive.

So what can we do to increase turf health naturally? Aerate with a hollow tine machine - leave the plugs lay… they will break down soon enough with rain or irrigation. These machines can be rented at most rental yards. The best brand I know of is Ryan. Be sure you use the hollow tine type. The increased water penetration, air and gas exchange and the increased rooting ability will improve the lawn greatly. This process should be accomplished during fairly cool weather, perhaps fall is ideal, but spring is OK too. Make at least two passes over the area.

If the lawn needs to be de-thatched, do this also during cool weather, well before very warm temperatures (upper 70’s) arrive. If your thatch layer is greater than 1″, plan to accomplish the de-thatching over two seasons; removing it all at once may cause too much stress and loss of turf. If you need to increase turf density, overseeding during these processes is beneficial. After aeration and/or de-thatching, spread a 3/4″ layer of fine compost or other organic matter, broadcast seed, and rake or drag the mix thoroughly.