How’s your lawn making out these days? Here in Colorado Springs we are under the water -wise rules that allow irrigating only three days a week. For most bluegrass or fescue lawns, that should be enough to get through the season, providing we make some commonsense adjustments to our lawn care regimen.
It’s important to deep water at least twice on your scheduled day. The first should be early in the morning before the sun rises, the second, logically, 12 hours after that. Since we can’t water between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., a good schedule — which I use at my house — would be a 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. soak, three times a week.
Fertilizing is vital to promote healthy and deep roots and therefore a more drought- resistant lawn with less weed intrusion. My preference is a good organic formation, like dried chicken waste. Also, choose a brand that contains 2% to 4% iron, since iron in our soils here is locked away by their alkaline chemistry. Fertilize just before the sprinklers activate on your day.
When to fertilize? My friend and gardening author, John Cretti, recommends using a holiday schedule as a convenient reminder to feed the lawn. Easter, Memorial Day, July Fourth, Labor Day and Halloween work out nicely to provide five spaced applications over a six-month season. I add extra one in between for six treatments; my lawn seems to really thrive on that regimen.
Make sure to raise your lawnmower one or two notches higher than it was last season. Longer grass blades shade the root system and keep the underlying soil cooler.
And remember to sharpen the blades on your rotary mower at least twice this summer. It results in a cleaner, less ragged cut, which makes the grass less susceptible to disease.
It’s a good idea to let the clippings remain on the lawn. They are about two-thirds water anyway and contain a store of yummy nitrogen, plus they also keep the soil cooler. A side benefit: no sour, rotting clippings stinking up the garage.
Since we are roughly halfway through the watering season, this is a good time to check the sprinkler system operation. On one of your watering days, run each zone for a few minutes to check which way the heads point, to see whether they are functioning properly in terms of distance and pattern, and to ensure that water doesn’t puddle around them. Also, all sprinkler heads should be at least 4 feet away from the foundation and pointing away from the house — because one head can release hundreds of gallons of water during a summer watering season, which can sneak under your house and cause all sorts of structural mischief (dribblers are OK in this area, providing they don’t puddle).
Finally, check inside the sprinkler zone valve box. A little moisture in there is OK, but there may be several inches of water if you have a naughty zone valve. After the repair, it’s a good idea to line the underside of the box with heavy duty plastic sheeting, so any water that does accumulate evaporates instead of soaking in to the underlying oil.
Water is pretty expensive here — especially if you get into these upper rate tiers. Still, I’m amazed at how many systems I see operating during rain showers! So let me recommend a neat gizmo you need at your house during this spate of wet weather we’ve been having: a rain sensor wired into your sprinkler system that disables it during rainy periods.
They are available online for less than $25 and will more than pay for themselves in a single watering season. And they are extremely easy to wire into your existing clock, regardless of the brand or type.
Dear Ken: I purchased a house built in 1978. We want to scrape the texture off the ceiling because it looks so dingy. Do we have to worry about asbestos? — Josh
Answer: You’re right on the cusp of asbestos-free drywall. It started to be eliminated in the mid ‘70s and was totally gone by the early ‘80s, so assume you have it. That means that you must keep it wet as you scrape it off. Protect yourself with goggles, mask and gloves — then seal the debris in plastic bags!
However, I would leave it alone. No matter how careful you are, dust and other detritus will end up in your carpets, drapes, heating system, and cabinets — not to mention your hair and eyes — during the removal operation. It’s better to spray on a new layer of paint. That will accomplish two things. It will lose that dingy appearance you complain of, and if there is asbestos present, it will be contained. Use a good satin or semi-gloss interior latex paint, cut about 25% with water.
There’s another reason that scraping off the popcorn ceiling is a lousy idea. Knowing that a thick layer of this texture was going to be applied anyway, the drywall finishers usually left out one layer of troweled coating on the seams and joints.
So when the acoustic ceiling is removed, you may be left with an unsightly, rough ceiling that you will have to retexture anyway. Bottom line: Avoid the hassle and mess — leave your ceilings as is.
Ken Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His radio show airs at 4 p.m. Saturdays on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240. Visit aroundthehouse.com.