Featured post

Best Walking Sprinkler

If your yard looks like the scorched earth terrain from a Mad Max movie then you need to investigate the National/Rittenhouse Walking Sprinkler.

This is the creme de la creme of yard sprinklers.


One word. It is solid. Okay that’s three words but you get my drift.

The Rittenhouse lawn sprinkler (National) is one solid beast that stalks irresolutely across your yard watering your lawn as it goes. This is the original walking sprinkler that every other one has been based on since it came out in the 1930s.

The problem with the other designs is they try to cut the cost by using cheap plastic parts. Result – stripped gears and runaway sprinklers. Yard sprinklers are a dime a dozen but you get what you pay for.

Runaway sprinklers?

Yes, really! When I was asking friends and neighbors trying to decide what sprinkler to buy for our yard, I heard horror stories of sprinklers that jumped off their hose (because they’re too light) and headed off down the road sprinkling as they went!

Rest assured, you will never have those sort of problems with this one.

It weighs around 30lbs and this means that it stays on the hose track. No more racing outside to put it back on track – or worse chasing it down the road!

It has both adjustable speed and width of spray so can be used in variety of situations. Width of spray can be set to between 4 to 50 feet which gives you enormous adjustability. I have heard of someone watering their roof two stories up so keep those windows closed until you’ve got your settings right!

It can even manage a slight incline which none of the others can. Note that I said “slight incline” not Everest so keep your expectations realistic here, folks! My yard is completely flat so I can’t test this aspect but I’m sure some of you will!

You can see on the image above that the wheels are cast iron – steer clear of cheap plastic wheels.


High speed is 40 feet an hour and will it put down about half an inch of water.

Low speed is 20 feet an hour and will put down about 7/8 of an inch of water.

This means you can adjust it so that it is putting down the right amount of water for your situation. This model can pull up to 300 feet of hose so by varying your hose length and speed you can adapt it for your yard.

Also, by flipping the drive pawls out of engagement you can use it as a stationary sprinkler.

Sprinkler arms are adjustable and cover from 4 to 50 feet. Make sure when you assemble it that the word “top” is facing upward on both arms

Setting up the hose track

To set up the traveling water sprinkler you simply lay the hose in the middle of the area that you want to water. Make sure all your turns are gradual and the tractor unit can negotiate the bends with ease.

laying sprinkler hose

To get the best results you need to use a 5/8 inch garden hose. The half inch size can be used but might be too small to guide the sprinkler round corners with the result that the front wheel of the unit will jump off the hose. Now the whole point of buying this heavier model is to avoid that happening – the lightweight traveling lawn sprinklers are forever coming off the hose-track.

This is one of those things that you want to set up right and then you don’t have to worry about it again so do make sure you use 5/8” hose.

The National Walking Sprinkler has been made in the good ol’ USA since 1938. Plenty of imitators but nothing matches the original traveling lawn sprinkler.

What other folk are saying about this model

These reviews of the National B3 model are taken from happy buyers from Amazon and other online sites.

“performance has been great, even going up and down modest grades”

“Manufactured from meticulously machined components of stainless steel, brass, and aluminium, sturdily fastened to a rugged, cast iron chassis, drivetrain, and wheels, this is a solid, durable, bombproof sprinkler. It’s built like a steam locomotive. Moreover, in the unlikely event that it does need to be repaired, it comes apart (yes, I could not resist taking mine apart) with basic hand tools, and goes back together quickly and easily. ”

“has proven itself capable of pushing small tree branches out of it’s way”

“You don’t want this Gilmour one or the Nelson Rain Train. They are both plagued with the same problems: stripped gears, inability to go up even the slightest hill, an “off” valve that sticks”

“Not a bit of plastic on this thing, no cheap gears to strip when dragging a lot of hose behind it.”

“Very impressed with how strong this sprinkler is, very heavy duty. Should last forever if proper care is taken to lube the moving parts as directed by owners manual.”

“I got tired of buying a new sprinkler every spring, so I decided to invest in a top of the line sprinkler made in the USA, and boy, am I glad I did! This thing is a monster! Seriously, the Nelson traveling sprinkler (which i bought and immediately returned) was a dainty little thing (full of plastic gears, no doubt), but this beast is SOLID METAL! It’ll probably outlive me!”

That last comment is one that resonates with me. This is quality merchandise. You do get the feeling that it will probably outlast you. Maybe I can leave my walking sprinkler to one of the kids in my will!

And for those who, like me, found it all a bit difficult to picture this above ground sprinkler system in action, this video will give you an idea of what it all looks like..

How To Plant A Lawn

When you get ready to plant a lawn, you need to prepare the ground first. Good soil preparation is the foundation of a quality lawn. It’s part of what determines if your lawn will succeed at all, and how quickly it becomes established.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re planting a new lawn or just replanting an old one; good site preparation is the key to success either way. You also should do a good job of site preparation whether you’re going to seed or sod. Both need that solid foundation.

First, Clean

The first step is to remove all construction trash, rocks, weeds, large roots, old tree stumps, and everything else that doesn’t belong in or under your lawn. If you need to grade the area, take off several inches of topsoil and pile it away from your work area; you’ll need it later.

Then Grade

Now slope the ground away from the foundation of the house. Don’t make a steep grade; the ground should drop about 6 inches for every 50 feet in distance from the house.

Try to avoid creating a steep slope or a hill if you can. However, if you do have a steep hill, a swale, or another area where soil erosion may occur, plan to plant sod, not seeds, in this area.

Once you have the site graded, return the topsoil to the area and rake it smooth. If there are any weeds growing in it, now is the time to apply herbicide to kill them.

If you’re planting seeds, the level of the soil should be even with or slightly below any hard surfaces such as sidewalks, driveways, etc. If you’re going to lay sod, the soil level should be 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches below those surfaces.

Soil Samples

You should always take a soil sample before you to go the trouble of planting a lawn. Use a garden trowel to get 10 to 15 samples of the top six inches of soil. Use locations scattered evenly about the lawn area.

Mix the samples and let them air dry. When they’re dry, submit about 1 cup of the mixture to the state Extension Service soil testing program in your area. The results will tell you whether you need to add fertilizer, and how much. Follow the recommendations of the Extension Service, based on the results of your soil sample and the species and variety of grass you plan to plant.

If you want to save money and do this yourself, try something like a Digital 4 Way Soil and Light Tester for Plants and Lawn which tests for pH, moisture, temperature and light level.

Install Sprinklers

If you’re going to put in an irrigation or sprinkler system, now’s the time. This is not entirely a do-it-yourself project; although you may be able to handle the installation, you need to get an expert to help you design it. A badly designed system won’t ever do what you want it to do, which is deliver the amount of water your grass needs, uniformly spread over your lawn, while conserving water at the same time.

Soil Amendments

This also is the time to apply any pre-plant soil amendments. You want your soil to be in the best shape possible in terms of organic matter, fertility, water-holding ability and drainage. All of these are affected by the amendments you add to the soil.

You may use organic or inorganic soil amendments. Organic soil amendments include compost, manure, and peat. Inorganic or mineral amendments include fertilizer, lime, sulfur and other chemicals that affect the fertility or pH of the soil.

Rely on the results of your soil sample tests to know exactly what to add in your situation. Every site and every lawn is different, and you need to know your own site conditions to add the correct amendments.

Till the Soil

Once you’ve added your soil amendments, run a tiller over the site. This loosens the soil and encourages grass to root quickly.

Grade Once Again

Just before you plant, grade the site one last time. You can hand rake, or use a drag such as a metal doormat. Follow that up with irrigation to “settle” the soil before you spread seed or lay sod.

How To Lay Sod

When you get ready to plant a new lawn, you have three choices: seeds, plugs, or sod. Which one you choose depends on several factors, including the species of grass you’re going to plant, the price, and whether or not seed is available of the species you’ve chosen.

For some species, such as St. Augustine grass, sod is the only really practical alternative. For other species such as Bermudagrass and Bahiagrass, it’s one of several options.

One thing is clear, however: using sod is the fastest and easiest way to establish a lush, green carpet of grass in your yard. Even those species for which seed is readily available will take most of a growing season to become established and spread, but sod—when put down correctly—will give you a beautiful lawn in just a few weeks. Best of all, you can lay sod any time during the growing season if you’re prepared to water it enough to help it get well established.

Begin With the Soil

If you want your lawn to be successful, you need to do some preparation before you actually start laying the sod. This means preparing the soil so that you have a good foundation for your lawn.

Start by removing any existing grass and weeds, and then spade the soil to loosen and aerate it. You also need to take the thickness of the sod into consideration, so when you rake the soil, its surface needs to be approximately an inch and a half below any sidewalks, driveways, or other hard surfaces.
Then apply a “starter” fertilizer that’s high in phosphorus, and rake the soil again to distribute it well. Now you’re ready to start laying the sod.

Laying Sod

Once the sod is harvested, you need to lay it as quickly as possible so it doesn’t dry out and die. If it’s a big job that’s going to take several days, store the sod in the shade so it stays cool and moist.

Choose the straight edge of a hard surface as the guide for your first row. Place each piece tightly against the last piece so there aren’t any gaps between the pieces of sod, and put the rows tightly together as well.

When you start the second row, cut a piece of sod in half crossways for the first piece in the row. The point here is to stagger the seams like a bricklayer lays bricks. If you’re laying sod on a hill or slope, turn the pieces of sod so they’re perpendicular to the direction of the slope.

As you work, if you need to stand on the sod you’ve already put down, lay a board on top of the sod so your feet don’t dig into the sod you’re already laid. Trim or cut pieces as necessary to go around odd-shaped flower beds, sidewalks, or other obstacles; not everything in your yard will have straight lines, and you want the sod to fit tightly everywhere it can.

When you have all the sod laid down, use the back of a rake to tamp down all the edges so the roots are in firm contact with the soil underneath. The object of this is to get rid of any air pockets that will cause the sod to dry out.

The last task in this process is to water the sod. Plan to water long enough to get the top 6 to 8 inches of moist; this encourages the grass to put down deep roots. Do the same thing each time you water, but space out your watering days so the soil doesn’t get soggy.

Watch it Grow

Try not to walk on the lawn until the sod has rooted well and it starting to grow. The way to tell if it’s getting established is to lift up on the grass. If it “sticks” down, it’s rooting into the soil.

At the end of a month, the sod should be starting to grow well. Apply lawn fertilizer according to the needs of whatever grass species you have chosen, and start a regular schedule of watering and mowing. Enjoy your new lawn!

Buffalo Grass

For extreme environmental conditions, nothing beats Buffalo Grass. Native to the Great Plains, this is a very tough grass that the buffalo thrived on as their huge herds moved from place to place; hence the name.

The western settlers used it also, cutting squares of it to build sod houses against the bitter Plains winters. Although it’s a warm season grass it survives deep cold and high heat, as well as drought conditions. With irrigation it even will grow in desert areas. It’s this country’s only truly native turf grass. Buffalo Grass and curly mesquite look a lot alike and often are found together in the wild, so sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two.

If you live in a wet environment, this probably is not a grass for you, as it doesn’t handle lots of rainfall very well. It does best when it receives between 15 inches and 30 inches of water a year.


You can start a lawn of Buffalo Grass either by seed or by sod. It spreads from seeds and stolons or surface runners, so once you get it started, it spreads on its own. However, it makes on a shallow root system so it’s not aggressive in flower beds or other places you don’t want it, and it’s easy to pull up or kill by cultivation.

If you’re going to start from seed, get treated seed; its germination rate is about 90%. Plant in the spring—usually in April and May—when you have good soil moisture and mild temperatures.

Sod also works well for establishing Buffalo Grass, as do sod plugs. Prepare the soil well so plugs survive, and plant them in 18-inch rows from 6 inches to 2 feet apart. Each plug should be at least 2 inches by 2 inches.

Be sure to keep plugs damp while you’re planting them, because they’ll die if they dry out. After you’ve planted them, water them well for several weeks until they get established.

When you plant from seed you will get patches of male and female plants; the male plants produce seed stalks that some people don’t like. When you get sod plugs, you almost always get female plants, since they don’t produce tall seed stalks.

Care & Maintenance

buffalo plush toy
One of the biggest advantages of planting Buffalo Grass is that it takes very little maintenance. However, it doesn’t do well in high traffic areas or whether other turf grasses are planted. It also doesn’t like shade or very wet environments.

Because Buffalo Grass doesn’t get very tall—8 to 10 inches—it doesn’t need a lot of mowing. And because it produces only a thin turf, it’s ideal if you want a “native” landscape; you can mix other native plants with it and create a wildflower landscape with an under planting of buffalo grass.

In a lawn situation, mow Buffalo Grass to a height of 2 to 3 inches. You may need to mow once a week to keep it at that height.

Buffalo Grass doesn’t need to be fertilized, but you can put a light application of nitrogen on it. Don’t over fertilize or overwater it, as both will encourage Bermudagrass to crowd it out.

Varieties Of Lawn Grass

There are many different varieties of lawn grass available but knowing the right one to choose for your area is vital.
varieties of lawn grass for a manicured lawn
Lawns are grown in every U.S. state, but the grasses in the lawns aren’t the same all over the country. Like most plants, grasses grow in some climates and conditions but not in others. It’s very important to choose the right grass for your location if you want an attractive and healthy lawn.

You can plant a new lawn from seed, sod, plugs, or sprigs. If you are planting a large area, seeding is the least expensive choice. The downside of seeding is that it takes a longer time for the grass to become established.

St. Augustine grass, hybrid bermudagrass, and some varieties of zoysiagrass are only available as sod, plugs, or sprigs. Plugs are small squares of sod, while sprigs are pieces of mature lawn grass. They are all more expensive than seeding, but take much less time to establish.

Following are brief descriptions of the major turf grasses, including where they grow in the U.S. Keep in mind that mixes of various kinds of grass seed increase your lawn options.

Types of Lawn Grasses

Bahiagrass is a low maintenance, drought- and shade-tolerant, low quality turf grass grown widely in the southeast.

Bermudagrass is the most popular lawn grass in the warm southern states.

Blue gamma grass is a native grass well suited for growing in the northern plains where summers are very hot and winters are very cold.

Buffalo grass is a native grass that grows well in high drought areas of the west.

Centipedegrass is a warm season grass that thrives in poor, acidic soils.

Creeping bent grass is a soft, tightly knit turf grass well suited to golf greens in northern states.

Fescue, fine – or needle-leaved. Mixed with perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass this turf grass increases shade and drought tolerance.

Fescue, tall – or broad-leaved. Traditionally coarse-bladed pasture grasses, tall fescue has new varieties that look and feel like Kentucky bluegrass but are more tolerant of low soil fertility and compacted soil.

Kentucky bluegrass is the most important turf grass in the northern half of the United States. It is also grown in southern coastal areas of California.

Ryegrass, annual, is a low-cost choice for overseeding warm season lawns.

Ryegrass, perennial, is often combined with Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescues. Like annual ryegrass, it can also be used for overseeding warm season lawns.

St. Augustine grass is one of the most important lawn grasses of the south and west. It grows fast and has a coarse texture.

Zoysiagrass makes a high quality lawn in subtropical areas of the country.

Choosing the Right Grass

Cooperative Extension agents can tell you which grasses or mixtures of grasses are best for your situation. Every state has a Cooperative Extension service, usually within the state university. You can find the office closest to you from the USDA website. Extension agents can also give you information on how to grow a lawn and help you with insect and disease problems.

Understanding Soil pH

soil ph
Understanding soil pH is essential in growing a good lawn or garden.

You’ll often see a reference to “acid” or “alkaline” soil in plant descriptions, planting directions, or plant care tips. What this refers to is pH, or a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. To put it in kitchen terms, vinegar is a weak acid and chlorine bleach is a weak alkaline, or base.

Some plants grow better in an acid soil, and some grow better in an alkaline one. A few plants, such as Hydrangea, will tolerate either; however, their flowers change color depending on whether they’re in acid or alkaline soil.

On the pH scale, a value of 7 is neutral, a pH of less than 7 is acidic, and a pH of more than 7 is alkaline. The soil pH affects how many plants grow because it can change the chemical form of soil minerals and the number and kind of soil microorganisms.

Determining Soil pH

The best way to determine soil pH is through soil samples. Your local Cooperative Extension Service can tell you where to submit soil samples for testing in your area. Or text your own soil with a Soil PH Meter.

Once you get the results of your soil test, you can decide which plants and grasses are best for the soil you have. Most landscape plants and some trees do well on a variety of soils; many lawn grasses do as well. Vegetables gardens are best planted where the pH is 5.8 to 6.3, especially on sandy soils.

If your soil is between 5.5 and 7.0, you probably can grow most common plants without much trouble. If you want to grow acid loving plants such as blueberries, gardenias or azaleas, though, you may need to adjust the pH to make your soil more acid.

Changing Soil pH

Although it’s possible to change soil pH a certain amount, you’re frankly better off to grow plants that do well on the soil you have. That said, if you really want to grow something in particular that needs a soil pH that’s different from what you have, there are some things you can do to adjust soil pH. Keep in mind, though, that this is a temporary remedy, and you’ll have to do it over and over again to keep the soil pH at the level you want.

Raising pH

To raise the pH of an acid soil, you need to add lime in the form of dolomite or calcium carbonate. Be sure to test for lime requirements before you add any lime; this test will tell you how much your soil will resist changes in pH, and give you an idea of the application rate to use and how often to apply lime.

If you’re just establishing a garden or lawn area, mix the lime thoroughly into the top six or eight inches of the soil. If you’re applying lime to an existing garden or landscape, apply it to the surface and water it in, but don’t water so much that you make the soil soggy and waterlogged.

If you need to apply a lot of lime to an already established garden or landscape, you may be better off to divide the amount you need to add into two or three applications. Apply them a week to ten days apart.

Lowering pH

Although it’s relatively easy to raise pH by adding lime to the soil, lowering the pH of very alkaline soils can be very difficult or even impossible. If you’re on a soil formed from limestone or another material with a lot of calcium in it, you will not be able to permanently lower the soil’s pH. You really are better off growing plants that are suited to a high pH soil.

By adding elemental sulfur, you can temporarily lower a soil’s pH. Soil microorganisms convert the sulfur into sulfuric acid, which temporary reduces the alkalinity of the soil. This is a temporary change, and is limited to the area where you’ve put the sulfur. If you want to keep the soil pH down, you will need to re-apply sulfur frequently. This can damage your plants, so watch for indications that your plants aren’t happy.

Never apply more than 7 pounds of elemental sulfur to 1000 square feet of lawn or garden at any one time. This will help prevent damaging or burning plants.