If your pasture (or lawn) is looking shabby you may need to learn to fertilize well…or you may need to start from scratch. Having just successfully seeded two new pastures, I’ve got grass on my mind. The parable of the sower (though teaching a spiritual message) assumes some basics about sowing and growing. We can say that our gardening advice came from the Son of God himself if we listen to the literal part of his teaching:
“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
1. Establish Clean Soil
You can’t sow seed in the midst of weeds. However, if your grass is over 50% grass, then you don’t need to re-seed. You need to fix the area with a little care. You need to fertilize, water and mow. Fertilizer and water will increase growth and mowing will decrease weeds. They will also help to break down grass clippings that fall back upon the ground. Grass likes to be short, but weeds that shoot up and flower don’t. As you keep grass cut, it will thicken while the weeds among the grass will decrease. If you let the weeds grow and go to seed…you are growing weeds.
If you’ve got a bed of weeds, you need to reseed.
Before you can grow anything, you have to establish good, clean soil. If you’re going to till the area, spray it with Round-Up to kill everything that’s there before tilling it under. This way, you can make sure the weeds are dead before you till them under. If you till under weed seeds guess what? They’re going to grow back unless you till them 6+” deep…which you probably won’t do. Yes, in the old days, when farmers used turn plows and turned 8″ of soil over, they didn’t need weed killers. If you don’t till like they did…you will need weed killer.
Spray the area and wait until all the of weeds are dead. Then, till the soil so that all the old stuff is buried. Let the area sit for a week or two to see if any weeds grow back. If so, you might as well spray again and kill anything left in the soil.
Note: In parenting, we must establish clean soil, that is, we must raise children with pure hearts. We cannot allow our children’s hearts to be filled with weeds and imagine that our superficial sowing–no matter how good the seed is!!–will produce any great results. We must clear our children’s hearts and minds of the cares of the world and lusts of the flesh BEFORE we go about sowing good seed. This starts, of course, with baptism where original sin is washed away and continues in the pure teaching of the Catholic faith in the home.
2. Sow Your Seed…and Don’t Be Cheap!
When the area is finally clean, till and rake out the soil until it is fine and level. You should have at least 1/2 inch of loose soil before seeding. If you seed onto untilled soil, the rain will wash the seed away, or the seed may dry out and die in the sun. It has to be buried, but only 1/4″ or so deep.
Sow your seed following the instructions that come with the seed. Don’t try to be cheap…OVERSEED. For example, the seed I use suggests that 50lbs be spread over 18,000 sq. ft., but I will spread that 50lbs over only 15,000 sq. ft. so that I know there is plenty of seed on the ground. If you under-seed, you may have to seed again, and you will leave room for weeds to grow as weed seeds blow into your grass over time. Fill the soil will grass seed and you will grow GRASS.
Note: In education, we cannot be cheap on spiritual things to spend more on material things. A man reaps only what he sows and we cannot expect to reap anything great unless we spend generously at the time of sowing. Note that Scripture describes the sowers as “weeping” who at the harvest time come back “rejoicing..and carrying their sheaves with them”. If we try to take it easy at sowing time then we will be weeping at harvest time–as many parents are today.
3. Bury the Seed
The seed that lay on rocky soil was eaten by birds in Our Lord’s parable. To bury the seed in a small area, simply rake it in by hand. If the area is large, “harrow” it with a drag harrow or a piece of chain-link fence. Don’t worry about whether or not every last seed is buried. So long as the soil is loose and the seed is plenty, the next rain or watering will sink the rest and pack the loose soil down.
Note: Likewise in education, tossing knowledge around is not going to get you anywhere. Good knowledge needs to be worked “into the soil” of the child’s heart and mind so that the “birds of the air” can’t pluck it away. Don’t be duped by flashy educational programs that are filled with “seed” but never bury that seed in good soil. We must establish a rich and deep Catholic culture in our homes so that the word may be deeply buried in good soil.
4. Establish the Roots
Some of the seed in the parable of the sower sprouted well (as your grass will) but it soon dried out under the sun. Why? Because it had no roots when the sun warmed up. Watering will allow the seed to sprout and begin to grow, but eventually the grass will have to get its own water from beneath the soil surface. Thus, if you raise grass that relies on your watering, it will die unless you keep watering it–which you cannot afford to do. After seeding, keep the seed/soil moist. If it is a large pasture, you have to wait for rain, so try to plant before a coming shower…not before a dry spell. Water the soil if you can until the grass is up and keep watering until you have 1″ or more of grass. When the grass is up and looks strong, apply a non-burning pasture fertilizer and keep watering, but allow the water to soak the area and drain deeply into the soil. Leave the ground unwatered for several days so that the roots have to follow the water downward. As the roots move downward and the fertilizer is activated in the soil, the grass will really grow and you will not need to water much longer.
Note: This is a good lesson for parents. In educating your children, this is the goal to establish their roots. Babying them and protecting them from harm is not going to help them in the long term. You have to raise them in such a way that they send down their own roots…or they will dry up. What dries them up? The pressure of temptation and distractions of the world. If a child makes great early progress, but sets no deep roots, his early successes will soon dry up. This is the error of many parents: mistaking early sprouting for lasting growth. Many see the seed germinate and consider their work to be finished. Then, when the heat of puberty and adulthood close in, the grass quickly withers, unable to stand the heat. On the other hand, those who do establish deep, strong roots THRIVE the hotter the sun gets. “They are like a tree planted by rivers of water, bearing fruit in due season…all that they do shall prosper.” (Psalm 1)
5. Do Something With the Grass
Once up, you have to decide what to do with your grass. After all, it is animal food, not outdoor carpeting. You can (A) let it grow out for hay, (B) put animals on it to graze or (C) mow it. You cannot let it do whatever it wants–a lawn or pasture is a garden that must be tended to like any other garden. Cutting for hay is good because you keep the grass cut each year and at mowing time all the seed is knocked loose and back upon the soil. A percentage of it will settle down and germinate, re-seeding your pasture automatically. Grazing animals keep the grass short and fertilize it with their manure as the eat it, while also pressing seeds down into the soil as they move about. Mowing it is good because it keeps weeds cut before they can seed and allows the grass to grow thick. However, mowing grass is like burning food to keep the refrigerator clean. It would be better if someone could EAT it.
Note: Many children are raised like grass: capable of filling houses with food but left to merely exist for themselves. Good Christians should be set out not to have the appearance of good Christians, but to feed the world and glorify the Gardener. Let these children grow strong in faith and let them exhaust themselves for the good of those for whom they were given graces.
“When Jesus was going back to the city in the morning, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went over to it, but found nothing on it except leaves. And he said to it, ‘May no fruit ever come from you again.’ And immediately the fig tree withered.”