Lawnmower Clinic - Hints and Tricks
Shade-Over® is a MayFord proprietary mixture developed specifically for the Southern African region. Many years of trials conducted at our local research station, as well as decades of field experience have contributed to the success of this mix. Shade-Over® is designed to cope with low light intensities under trees and on the south side of walls, areas that are often bare when the rest of the lawn is Kikuyu. This grass mix will stay green throughout the year, no matter how cold it gets! Even frost or snow won’t force the grass to turn brown (go dormant). It is also important to know this type of mixture can cope with the hot times of the year. This is why long term local experimental trials are so important. We need to be sure that the grass looks good all year round.
Shade-Over® has all the advantages associated with a well formulated mixture such as: the ability to thrive in a wide variety of growing conditions, and reduced susceptibility to disease without compromising on the overall uniformity of the lawn’s appearance.
The trend towards having smaller gardens surrounded by high walls means that lawns often have to grow in shadier conditions than they are adapted to. Commonly used grasses such as Kikuyu cannot tolerate low light intensities.
Shade-Over® is quick to establish from seed. Germination can be expected 7 to 10 days after sowing and reasonable coverage in 6 to 8 weeks. This lawn takes a few months to reach full maturity.
Alternatively, you could choose to use instant lawn.
Shade Over® is a “bunch-type” grass that thickens out by means of tillering and does not have any runners. The advantage of this growth habit is a non-invasive grass, requiring much less edge trimming. This also means adhering to the recommended sowing rate is essential for a dense lawn area.
Shade-Over® is designed to grow in full shade and semi-shade conditions. It is compatible with another MayFord grass formulated for full shade and semi-shade known as All Seasons Evergreen®. The combination of All Seasons Evergreen® and Shade Over® covers the complete spectrum from shade to full sun while maintaining a uniform appearance.
It is not necessary to install an irrigation system when you establish a Shade Over® lawn. It can simply be watered with an ordinary garden hose and sprinkler. However, it cannot survive long periods of drought. This is seldom a problem because transpiration rates are lower and the soil tends to dry out more slowly in the shade.
Shade-Over® is a permanent lawn that will usually only need interseeding if the grass is damaged by something like a dog digging a hole. It may thin out as a result of mowing too low a cutting height or if the light intensity is exceptionally low. Interseeding the lawn once a year or thinning out the tree canopy would be required.
Although Shade-Over® was developed to deal with shade problems it will happily grow in full sunlight during the winter months when deciduous trees loose their leaves. In fact, Shade-Over® will grow under any type of tree including Pine trees, where many people assume that the pH will be too low (too acidic).
Remember that shade is not only created by trees, but walls create a lot of shade too.
There is however a limit to the amount of traffic any lawn can tolerate. Pathways always develop where traffic is “funneled” through a confined space and the shortest route will carry the most traffic!
In certain circumstances, dog urine can cause patches in the grass, but these are easily dealt with.
Almost all year round, although best times are spring and autumn. Avoid very hot or very cold times of the year.
Remove existing grass
This is not an issue since most sun-loving grasses, like kikuyu, can’t survive in the shade anyway.
If the soil is dry water the area thoroughly a day or two before you begin soil preparation.
Spread Super Phosphate at a rate of 50 g* per m² the entire area. (50 g is approximately one medium sized handful) *This is a general recommendation, made in the absence of a soil test.
Dig the area over incorporating the Super Phosphate to a depth of approx. 15 cm. At this point you could dig in some compost. This is not generally necessary and can cause problems if the compost contains weed seeds and is not well rotted. Never leave compost as a layer on top of the soil as it dries out far more easily than soil and will not allow the seed to stay moist enough during the critical germination period.
Break down clods to create a fine seedbed.
Spread a balanced fertiliser such as 5:1:5 or 3:1:5 at 30 g per m² and rake into the surface of the soil.
Check levels by rolling the area lightly and then filling in any hollows. NB. It is very difficult to correct levels after the grass is established. Bunch grasses do not have runners but tillers, which cannot be covered by a layer of soil. Coverage would cause the plants to die.
Sowing the seed
Ensure that you have the right amount of seed, i.e. 1 kg per 25 m².
Broadcast the seed over the area as evenly as possible by either using the 500 g or 1kg seed box as a spreader (see instructions on box), or if the seed has been purchased in bulk bags, by spreading by hand or using a drop seeder (a fertiliser spreader will do as long as you have checked that it does not crush the seed).
To achieve an even spread, split the amount of seed into two, moving up and down with one half and across and back with the other. NB You don’t need to mix the seed with anything as it is bulky enough and pale in colour so it shows up easily against the dark soil.
Covering the seed
Rake the area lightly (using a steel rake) so that most of the seed is covered by no more than 1 cm of soil. Some seed will still be visible on the surface which doesn’t matter. Seeds need light to germinate so don’t bury it too deeply. Also, don’t cover with a layer of compost as it dries out too easily and may influence the success of germination!
It is essential to compact the area lightly. If you don’t have a roller, then use something like a drum on its side or simply trample lightly under foot. This step is very important as it brings the seed into direct contact with the moist soil, reduces wash-aways, and initiates capillary action (the movement of water upwards through the soil profile).
Keep the area moist at all times for the first two weeks. By then the seed will have germinated and watering frequency should be reduced. You may need to water more than once a day. Avoid puddles.
When grass is 9 cm long. Set the mower at its highest setting (no less than 6 cm)
Semi-shade: 5 to 6 cm
Shade: 6 to 7 cm (the shadier the site, the longer the grass has to be)
1/3 rd RULE - Never remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade at a time
Generally once a week (about once in three weeks in winter)
Type of mower
Rotary mowers are best for this type of grass (Reel type mowers can’t be set high enough)
It is not necessary to install an irrigation system, an ordinary sprinkler is adequate. The soil dries out more slowly in the shade so avoid over-watering.
Puddles should be avoided as they indicate that the soil is saturated. The amount of water require depends on a number of factors such as the soil type and season.
The grass will indicate that it needs water when it takes on a “blue-ish” tinge and the grass blades curl in on themselves and appear narrower.
50 g (approx. one handful) per m² of 5:1:5 or 3:1:5 four times a year (e.g. Jan, Apr, Jul, Oct). Don’t forget the April application to avoid brown tips in winter.
Slow release formulations are recommended as lawns do best when fertilised little and often.
Pests and Diseases
Take careful note of the symptoms, i.e. spots on leaves, size and location of patches etc. and phone the Mayford Helpline or speak to a specialist in this field. Remember that insects and fungal diseases know nothing about straight lines, so if you see straight lines look for a man-made problem!
Healthy, actively growing lawn is less susceptible to everything so don’t skimp on fertilising (do not avoid regular mowing!).
Good air flow reduces humidity and helps to avoid disease (watch out for this in shady areas). Don’t over water or underwater – both cause stress to all grasses.
Dog urine can sometimes cause scorching. This is more common with spayed bitches and in very hot weather. If a brown patch develops, pull the dead grass out, loosen the soil a bit, sprinkle some seed (available in small Top Up packs at most nurseries), cover with a thin layer of soil (just scratch it in) and trample lightly.
This grass tolerates traffic very well. It is even used on rugby fields! However, where traffic is excessive the pressure can be reduced by setting paving stones or sleepers into the grass and just mowing over it.
Aeration and Top Dressing
Spiking or hollow tining: Use a garden fork or tining fork on highly compacted areas. Push the whole length of the tine into the soil and lift slightly to get good water and air penetration.
Top dressing: Never cover this grass with a layer of soil or compost, the grass will die.