Organic lawn care is becoming more and more popular. Some people are concerned about the effects of pesticides and herbicides on their children and pets. Others are worried about what happens to those chemicals when they seep into the soil and water supply.
Growing a lawn organically leads to healthier soil. Below the grass, you’ll have soil that holds water longer, produces robust roots, and is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The soil will be less compacted, leaving room for roots and helpful earthworms.
Fortunately, growing a healthy, organic lawn can be easy. And you’ll end up with a healthier lawn and a healthier life.
Choose the Right Grass
The first step in growing an organic lawn is choosing the right grass seed. Whether you are overseeding the grass you already have, or putting in a brand new lawn, look for USDA-certified organic lawn seed, grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers.
Another option is choosing native turf-grass. This local grass will be adapted to the soil and climate conditions in your area.
Be sure to pick a species right for your particular conditions –sunny, shady, partly sunny.
Choose the Right Lawn Mower and Grasscycle
If you really want to go green, both in a lawn sense and an environmental sense, choose a lawn mower that is light on the planet. Electric lawn mowers are emission-free and quiet.
Look for a mower with a mulching feature and it will chop up the grass it cuts and return it to your lawn as compost. This “grasscycling” will add nutrients to your yard every time you mow.
For an even more eco-conscious mower, choose a reel mower. The only energy these mowers use is human-energy. You’ll get a little workout while getting your lawn in ship shape.
Water the Right Way
The best way to water your lawn is infrequently and deeply. Deep watering encourages roots to grow deep and produces a healthy, more robust, lawn.
Check your soil moisture by driving a screwdriver into the lawn. If it goes through easily, the soil is probably moist enough. Alternately, you can purchase a soil test meter which will not only indicate how much water is in the soil, but may also have a pH gauge meter and a light sensor.
Keep your lawn on the long side to conserve water. Every time you cut it, it stresses the plant. This is good for creating a thick lawn, but allows more evaporation.
Choose a time of day to water when evaporation is low. In arid climates, water in the evening so it can soak in throughout the night. In humid climates, water in the morning so as not to encourage mildew.
Thatch and Aerate
What is thatch? It is a layer of dead grass, roots, and debris that accumulates between the soil surface and the grass blades above. Thatch can prevent water from soaking through to the soil and grass roots, and provide a home for insects and diseases that harm your lawn.
Plan to dethatch your lawn once a year—early spring for warm season grasses and fall for cool-season types. With a small lawn, use a dethatching rake and rake it out manually. A large lawn may require a dethatching machine or a lot of effort.
Aerating can take place about the same time as dethatching. You basically punch holes in the soil to allow water, nutrients, and air to reach the roots. Like dethatching, this can be done with a hand tool or a gas powered machine.
Manage Pests Organically
By following the tips above, you should have a healthy lawn that fights pests and weeds itself. However, no lawn is without interlopers. Instead of spraying harsh chemicals on your lawn, use bio-pesticides to get rid of bugs and weeds without contaminating everything else.
Acelepryn is a low toxicity pesticide that works on grubs and other insects. Corn gluten can rid your lawn of crabgrass. Lime applications will balance the pH of your lawn so it gets the most out of applied nutrients. Take a soil test before applying lime to see how much you need.