Tips for a Beautiful Green Lawn.

Personal Growth

We live in Oklahoma, a place where we have 4 distinct seasons. Sometimes it can feel like we experience them all in one month! That makes growing things a bit interesting around here. I have never been a massive lawn guy, meaning I have basically focused on the bare minimum. My strategy has been to keep whatever is growing out there mowed and edged. The reality is we have had a disappointing lawn with areas where no grass grows and bright red clay soil proudly indicates my lack of a green thumb.

But no more…

Today our lawn looks like this:

Here are some tips for a green lawn that I gratefully learned from others.

Tip #1 Ask for Help.

I have a great friend at church, Troy, and he is a landscaping professional. Unashamedly, I confessed our situation to him and he agreed to come take a look. When he came out he gladly and generously gave insights to all I am about to share with you. Thank you Troy!

Tip #2 Install a Sprinkler System.

It would be a bit pointless to do the following steps to have a green lawn and not have a way to keep it hydrated. So the very first step was to address the fact that we had no way to irrigate the lawn other than me dragging out the sprinkler whenever I remembered to do it! Troy had a great guy he recommended that installed a thorough system for the yard and beds. He explained all the differences in the type of sprinkler heads needed for each area and they work great. The master system, Hydrawise, is WiFi based and I can run it from my mobile devices – anywhere on the planet – and access its schedule and any issues. It is totally cool. I can’t help but make the “Tim the Toolman Taylor” grunt when I fire this up when friends are over to visit!

Tip #3 Get Rid of What You Don’t Want.

Even before we had the irrigation system installed, Troy shared about weed control and fertilizer. Here’s the deal, for the type of lawn we are going for, you cannot use weed control. It will kill the grass. So about June before we panted seed in September, I called and canceled our weed and feed company. And that’s a good thing, since my water bill $ went up!

While this may seem like a weird thing to do, stopping the weed kill makes sense as I have experienced it. One, my taller, healthy grass is winning the battle over pesky weeds. Two, my healthier lawn is green – if there are weeds, they are now concealed in an ocean of green grass, not dormant brown bermuda.

We had to scalp the bermuda grass. We don’t want bermuda, that is, we want the new grass to overtake it. So Troy coached me up on an important and key date – September 15. Whatever I was planning to do with the grass, it needed to happen on Sept. 15. This date is when the summer grass, like bermuda, begins to go dormant for the winter. By the 15th, I had scalped and bagged my lawn a couple of times. Great thing, the shady areas were already bare! I broke up the soil in some spots with a stiff garden rake. I had used an aerator a summer or so back and the soil surprisingly is still not too hard.

Tip #4 Plant What You Do Want.

The next tip Troy gave was to make a trip to our local feed and seed store. I think local is important. No offense to the big box stores, but local pros know Oklahoma’s extreme soil conditions and extreme weather conditions. Sure enough, the good people at Eckroat Seed Co. know what they are doing. Troy recommended two blends they have to be able to address the two areas of my lawn that are really distinct – sun and shade.

Before we seeded and after a lawn scalping, I made a quick trip in the F-150 to get a bed full of fresh topsoil from our friends at Murphy’s products. We have made many a trip to get their rich mix. We have also used their mulches in the past. A few wheelbarrow loads later and we were ready for seed.

For the sunny areas which is the majority of my lawn, I used a blend they call “Premium Tee.” When I mention “plant” what I mean is I have gone around the yard with a garden rake or leaf rake to sweep up any debris or old grass clippings, and to break up the soil a bit. Then I loaded up the seed in a common spinning spreader and covered the lawn. I would go back and hand sprinkle areas that I could see needed more attention or seed.

For the shady areas, I used a blend they call “Endo-Shade.” Wow, this stuff is amazing. Through the years I had attempted coverage in some tough shady spots with other grasses, but this stuff has outperformed anything like that.

Tip #5 Maintenance.

First thing to address here is watering. Especially when the seed went down, we aggressively and frequently watered it. After just a few days, those tiny bright green slivers of life began to pop up. Now we keep it good and moist on a regular, every other night, cycle.

Second, fertilizing. Since I stopped the weed control, that also meant we stopped the feeding. Now I do the fertilizing using a mix from Eckroat. I actually put this blend down liberally right after seeding, and have done it numerous times since.

Third, mowing. I have learned to raise the deck of my mower. What I want is a deep thick lawn. Taller grass reaches further down in the soil and taller grass chokes the weed growth. I actually had my mower set on its highest position, but I have dialed that back one level now.

Some Final Thoughts…

I am so thankful to have the lawn looking great, and it is fun to talk about it when we have guests. This journey has reminded me of some principles:

  • Ask for help in life, and then follow the direction.
  • In life, get rid of the stuff you don’t want, and work toward what you do want.
  • When healthy things are growing, bad things will diminish.
  • Pay attention to staying healthy physically, emotionally, mentally, in relationships and most importantly spiritually.

Remember that we will reap what we sow. Galatians 6:7-8 says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.Biblegateway

Hey Troy, thank you, and everyone remember September 15!

Trip to Paradise: Top Tips for a Vacation in Oahu.

Marriage and Family

2019 marks a significant year for my family. Jennifer and I celebrated 25 years of marriage, our daughter turned 16, and we recently moved our son to attend university. To add some icing to this cake of big events, we decided for the whole family to take a trip to Hawai’i. I am so glad we did. What an amazing time of making wonderful memories!

Why Oahu? I am familiar with this island. Many years ago, I was able to take a trip there to visit my sister who was living there at the time. Of all the places I have journeyed around the globe, my mind will often float back to one of the most beautiful places I have ever experienced, and I will share more about that spot here in just a moment. I also like that this island is easy to navigate, with a mix of downtown vibe, to a feeling of being on your very own beach or trail. Here is a quick list of the top tips for a vacation in Oahu.

I like the East Shore (Windward)

First tip, focus on the East Side of Oahu. No doubt the entire Island is beautiful, it’s Hawai’i for goodness sake, but this side is over the top. When you drive from Honolulu to the east side on the H3, you will drive through the Tetsuo Harano tunnel. When you pop out on that side of the island, I guarantee every time you will audibly say, “wow!”

Years ago, I experienced one of the most incredible places I had ever seen, the East Shore, near Bellows Field Beach – and it is still the same! You will find beaches like Lanikai, Kailua, Waimanalo, and Makapu’u, and they are absolutely stunning. There is a mix of crystal clear water, white powdery sand, black lava rock, and lush green mountains. One beach park is fondly named Sherwood forest and it truly has beautiful trees nestled near a white sandy paradise. This side of the island is home to the old 80’s Magnum P.I. series “Robbin’s Nest” and we drove past this spot many times while exploring. There are great hikes like the Makapu’u lighthouse trail, and other pillbox hikes. Talk about first gear recharge time!

Live like the locals

The second tip I would give is, stay and live with the local community. There are many ways to find places to rent – pick your favorite and go for it. We found a delightful upstairs apartment in the east side town of Kailua. The couple we rented from had an awesome upstairs studio apartment that would sleep us all comfortably and had a great kitchen. Our host was so kind and had ample gear for just about anything we wanted to do: snorkel gear, boogie and paddle boards, beach towels, umbrellas and more.

Kailua was quaint, with local flair, like a weekly food market with fresh food and hot food vendors, live bands and art. But the town also had tons of familiar spots: Starbucks, Target, Whole Foods and the like. This made it easy to pick up fresh milk, bread, eggs and fruit for the apartment. We enjoyed our pad’s kitchen for quick breakfasts as we began our daily tour, and then the grill for dinner and oven fresh cookies at night. Our host had a variety of Hawaiian treats like pineapple, macadamia nuts, and coconut cookies.

Our Kitchen Window

Another we way we worked to experience the community was to go to church on Sunday. We went to church at Kailua Baptist Church. It was such a good time! The fellowship was sweet and we made some quick friends for sure – and even experienced the Lord’s Supper together. In the town of Kailua, the “Aloha” lifestyle is real and I would definitely return to this spot to have as our home-base in Oahu for sure!

Pearl Harbor/Downtown/Aloha Bowl

Third tip, make a loop in the downtown area. Any trip to Oahu must include a visit to the historic location of Pearl Harbor. They do a masterful job of having static displays, murals and other guides to help you understand what you are looking at in the bay. There is also a very well done movie about the day of the attack, the bravery of the men and women of the armed forces, and the consequences for all from that day. During our visit, the actual USS Arizona Memorial was closed for repairs and it had been closed for some time. Regardless, we had a very meaningful ride in a navy vessel out and back along ship row.

Downtown Honolulu is like visiting any large metropolitan city, mass transit, high end shops and malls, restaurants and the like. The only difference is no other city also has its own beach like this, Waikiki. There was a very convenient mall, the International Market Place, where we were able to park our rental car. This mall is centrally located and convenient for seeing any of the sites of Honolulu. Quite frankly, Downtown/Waikiki isn’t really our favorite thing to do – but it is a site to not miss for sure, with incredible views of the Royal Hawaiian and Diamond Head. There is supposed to be a free fireworks display on Friday nights on Waikiki Beach, but on our night out it fizzled somehow – but hey, the views were still great and we found a great spot for dinner.

A bonus for my bargain shopping family is a quick trip to the Aloha Bowl Flea Market. Open a couple of days each week, vendors set up their goods around the perimeter of the bowl – everything from inexpensive t-shirts, souvenirs, and hats to more expensive items like jewelry and handcrafts. The kids enjoyed it, so much that we had to make a return visit later during our stay in Hawaii. There are snacks and treats as well to enjoy.

Diamond Head/Hanauma Bay

In the Shadow of Diamond Head.

Fourth travel tip to Oahu, check out more iconic spots to visit: Diamond Head State Park and Hanauma Bay. The hike up Diamond Head is not hard, but it is also a bit of a climb, especially the “stairway.” The payoff is the view. Not only is the crater itself beautiful, but the view from the top across the sprawling downtown area is incredible!

Diamond Head Tunnel

For the visit to Diamond Head and Hanauma Bay arriving early is the key. Parking is limited at both locations, and both will have big crowds. We decided early in our trip to not vary greatly from our home time, which meant getting up early and hitting the road for the day would not be too painful.

Hanauma Bay State Park is a beautiful location for snorkeling in a natural reef among brightly colored sea-life. As we were continuing our quest of getting up early and hitting the road, we arrived at Hanauma Bay early enough to be allowed in by the staff before being charged for our visit. There is a visitor center, restrooms and snack shacks. For us, this was a quick visit in the early morning with other things planned for that day.

North Shore/Dole Plantation

One final tip is to explore the entire Island. There is so much we were simply not able to do – waterfall hikes, museums, other beaches, boat or helicopter excursions. But, we did trek across and around the island. One way to tag the good stuff in the island is to experience the goodness of a “Dole-whip!” The historic Dole Pineapple Plantation is a neat spot, centered on the Island. It would be easy to tag this on the way to say North Shore or Turtle Bay.

Speaking of the North Shore, the town of Haleiwa is a cool surfboarding town with lots of hip stores, board shops, and great restaurants. We spent the greater part of a day strolling the streets, checking out the local beaches, and having some great food at Teddy’s Bigger Burgers and Matsumoto Shave Ice.

We also had an incredible sunset Luau on the West Shore at Paradise Cove. The food was very good (buffet) and the entertainment from the time the gates opened throughout was exceptional. The sunset views on this side were definitely worth the drive across the island!

And a final word about Paradise

Many of our friends and family commented as we prepared for our trip, “Have fun in paradise!” No doubt this place is incredible. But here is what we also experienced (reality check) – disappointment. We did not always get along, sometimes we were grumpy, the food or idea/location we selected was bad, there was traffic, and as always jet lag stinks. Even worse we saw the pain of this old world, from homelessness to the lack of care for God’s creation.

So in this paradise setting, I found my heart longing for the new life to come – a place not marked or marred by man’s choice to do their own thing apart from God. Jesus said to the dying but believing man beside Him on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Folks, this place is at the top of my list on the planet – and there are greater things in store for those in Christ Jesus. Confess Him as Lord of your life.