One of our local hometown heroes, Springfield firefighter Kenny Terrell, asked to participate in our Lawn Steward soil testing program last fall. When he returned our lawn care questionnaire it was obvious that he was familiar with many of the recommended practices and simply wanted to know more about soil health and get an outside recommendations for his lawn care routine. During my site visit, I was thoroughly impressed with Kenny’s lawn care practices and the steps that he’s taken to successfully develop a beautiful, healthy lawn.
When Kenny first moved into his Springfield home several years ago there wasn’t really much of a front “lawn” aside from a thin stand of grass, a large shady maple tree and exposed, compacted soil. Determined to boost his curb appeal and give his daughter a place to play, Kenny went to the store and bought a bag of grass seed and a cheap bottle of starter fertilizer to attach to his garden hose. Unfortunately, the results were less than impressive, but that didn’t stop him. Kenny began to do some research and consulted fellow firefighters, many of whom mow and maintain lawns on their days off. He began to think of his front yard as a system of living interconnected components, rather than just plants and dirt. He dug deeper, literally, and found that his soil didn’t contain earth worms or many signs of life. From there, he began to renovate his lawn from the ground up, starting with the soil itself. He started out by aerating his lawn to break up years of compaction and allow water, oxygen and organic matter to work their way into the soil. From there, he over seeded with a shade tolerant blend of cool season grasses and began watering several times a week until the plants became established. He trimmed up his sprawling maple tree to allow more sunlight to reach the ground and raised the height of his mower deck to avoid scalping his new lawn. It wasn’t long before Kenny had the beautiful lawn he had been looking for.
Since his initial success, Kenny has taken further steps to improve his soil health and lawn care practices. He invested in a mulching lawnmower to mulch up his grass clippings and leaves each fall, returning beneficial nutrients to the soil rather than bagging them up and sending them to a landfill or yard waste recycling center. He’s taken nutrient recycling even further by composting kitchen scraps and leftover yard waste that avoided his mulching mower. He then uses his homemade compost to add organic matter to areas where the grass seems to be thinning or to even out low or rough spots in his yard. On top of adjusting his mowing practices and adding beneficial organic matter to his lawn, Kenny continues to aerate and lightly overseed each year. Breaking up compaction and repairing thinning or damaged areas has become especially important as his front yard has now turned into a favorite hangout for his daughter and her friends from the neighborhood. Most impressively, aside from that initial application of starter fertilizer during his first attempt at lawn renovation and spot spraying a few persistent weeds, Kenny has largely avoided using chemicals on his lawn. By focusing on healthy soil, a thick stand of grass, and well-timed maintenance, Kenny has produced a beautiful lawn without the use of potentially harmful chemicals and fertilizers that can pollute our local waterways.
A couple of weeks after my visit, I received Kenny’s soil test results and was not shocked to discover that his lawn already contained adequate nutrient levels and the only recommendation was a light application of pelletized lime to help bump up his pH. Applications of chemical fertilizers were simply unnecessary for his lawn to thrive- a common trend among many of the lawns I’ve sampled through the Lawn Steward program thus far.
By looking at the system as a whole, Kenny has produced a virtually weed free lawn that has a greater ability to soak in and store rainwater while improving curb appeal and providing a safe place for his family and friends to enjoy. He’ll be the first to tell you that it isn’t perfect and it’s not without hard work, but it’s something that almost anyone can attain. Now that he seems to have perfected his lawn maintenance routine he’s begun to shift more of his focus to backyard edibles and the young apple trees in his backyard. Knowing Kenny, he’ll probably be producing outstanding trees and a bumper crop of fruit within the next few years.
Want to be more like Kenny? Sign up for our “Lawn Steward” soil testing program to receive a free soil test and 3-year nutrient management plan tailored to your lawns specific needs.
The Lawn Steward soil testing program is open to residents of the City of Springfield as well as portions of the Wilson’s Creek Watershed. Please visit www.jamesriverbasin.com/lawn-steward for more details.