The Q&A Archives: lawn care

Question: What type of lawn grows in my region? We have grass that turns yellow or dies off no matter what we do fertilize,aerate,water,etc. We decided to dig it all out and start over. But, we are not sure what is the best grass to start off with sod, seeds etc? Also, our well water has a sulpher smell too much minerals possibly?

Answer: You're in gardening zone 9 and there are several grass types that will grow well for you. Fescue, ryegrass and Kentucky Blue are popular choices, as are Bermuda and Centipede. I expect the problems you have been having in the past have to do with grass types, not with the good care you've been giving it. You have distinctive warm and cool seasons in your neighborhood which means that cool season grass types will die out in the summer and warm season grass types will die out in the fall. To have a green lawn most of the year you'll want to start with a heat tolerant lawn (Bermuda, Centipede, etc.) and then overseed it with a cool season grass seed every fall (perennial ryegrass, for instance). The ryegrass will stay green most of the winter and begin to die out in April or May, at which time the warm season grass will begin to green up. Rather than digging out what you have now, why not rake out the dead grass and overseed with ryegrass. It should green up right away. Just do this every fall and you should have a healthy, happy lawn.

If you have a private well and the water smells musty or like "rotten eggs," you may have a bacteria problem. Bacteria that cause this smell live in the soil or aquifer. They are not a health risk. However, once introduced to a well, they may multiply rapidly and cause odor problems.

Sometimes odor-producing bacteria indicate that disease-causing bacteria are also present. This is especially true if there has been a sudden change in water quality. Have your well water tested through a certified lab to make sure there is not a health problem. Tests usually identify potential health problems but may not detect odor-causing bacteria. The lab lets you know if water is safe to drink. If it is safe but smells bad, you can reduce or eliminate the odor.

Odor-producing bacteria are often referred to as "iron" or "sulfur-reducing" bacteria. They use iron or sulfur in their life cycle and give off hydrogen sulfide gas. That's the rotten egg odor. The bacteria may form slimy colonies in pipes or toilet tanks and can stain laundry. However, the odor is usually the most objectionable problem.

Iron bacteria can get into wells when maintenance is done on piping, well casing, or pumps. Bacteria can get in when work is done on indoor plumbing, or when a hot water heater is installed. Finally, they may get into water supplies through a direct connection to surface water or shallow groundwater seepage.

Once established in your well or water supply, bacteria can be very hard to eliminate. After work is done on your well or plumbing, thoroughly disinfect the system. This kills bacteria that enter the water before they get a foothold. If there is a connection to surface water or bacteria are strongly established, repeated disinfection may be necessary. Disinfection eliminates or reduces bacteria to tolerable levels.

Sometimes rotten egg odor comes from rock the well is drilled into. In these cases, the smell is generally present when the well is first used. The smell may decrease over time. Odor that appears later is from bacterial growth and may appear suddenly. The odor may begin after the well has been unused for an extended period of time, following floods or drought, or after maintenance. Again, a sudden change in water quality may signal potential health risks. Test the water to make sure it's safe to drink. To get a water test kit, contact your county health department.

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