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Make Your Yard Exceptional with Organic Lawn Care
The perfect, green lawn is a quest for the ages. In fact, U.S. households will spend nearly $6.6 billion on lawn and garden supplies this year alone to beautify their lawns and battle weeds. But growing concerns over chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides have prompted many consumers to begin looking for safer, healthier alternatives.
The answer is organic lawn care. Let’s explore how you can grow an exceptional lawn without synthetic fertilizers, dangerous chemicals, pesticides, or herbicides.
What is organic lawn care?
Organic lawn care is the practice of caring for your lawn and garden without using chemicals. This includes chemical insecticides and herbicides that kill bugs and weeds, but leave toxic chemicals behind that contaminate ground water and can affect your health and the health of your children and pets.
Why is organic lawn care important?
Practicing organic lawn care creates a healthier lawn
Most lawns are accustomed to a yearly cycle of chemical weed and feed products and frequent watering that results in shallow roots and makes grass vulnerable to pests and drought conditions.
By contrast, a well-planned organic lawn has healthy soil that promotes deeper root growth. That means stronger, thicker grass that won’t need as much water. Strong grass also means fewer pests, and far fewer weeds.
A Healthier Outdoor Environment
Many insecticides, herbicides, and weed and feed products contain dangerous chemicals that have been linked to everything from skin and eye irritation to permanent eye damage, birth defects, reproductive harm, and even cancer. Many of these products are toxic to beneficial ingredients in healthy soil such as earthworms and soil microbes, creating additional barriers to a healthy lawn. By eliminating these chemicals from your lawn care routine, you and your family will avoid exposure to dangerous chemicals in your own backyard.
Save Time and Money
Using organic lawn care methods means you’ll have more natural allies in your fight against pests and weeds. For example, ladybugs and lacewings are known to eat many troublesome insect varieties. But these beneficial bugs are often killed or simply stay away when toxic chemicals are used.
Grass grown without chemicals and herbicides grows thicker, crowding out many weed varieties. With a little help from Mother Nature you won’t need to spend as much time on your lawn to keep it looking great. Plus, eliminating chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides means more money in your pocket.
Start with a Soil Test
A great way to get started with organic lawn care is to test your lawn’s soil. A soil test will help you identify which nutrients your lawn may lack and which organic amendments you should begin to add to promote healthier soil.
Local nurseries and university extension offices often perform soil tests and should be able to provide a soil sample box to collect your soil. You’ll need to dig several samples from your lawn for a total of two cups of soil to get the most accurate results.
Adding compost (decomposed plant material) to your lawn provides organic matter that improves soil structure. This is especially helpful in clay or sandy soils. Compost also contains many beneficial organisms including algae, fungi, bacteria, and nematodes that keep your soil healthy. You can buy compost at your local nursery or simply collect your yard waste in your own composting container.
Use Organic Fertilizers
Organic fertilizers can provide a needed boost to your lawn throughout the growing season. Unlike commercial fertilizers that release a heavy dose of synthetic nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium all at once, organic fertilizers release nutrients slowly, providing a stable food source for your lawn from natural sources such as seaweed, bone meal, or feather meal. You can find organic fertilizers at many nurseries and local garden centers.
Use Native Grass
The type of grass you grow determines how much water it needs, how drought-resistant it is, how often you’ll need to mow it, and much more. Growing grass that is native to your region means your grass will easily adapt to the soil conditions and average rainfall in your area.
Plus, native grasses are less susceptible to diseases than non-native grasses like Kentucky bluegrass (that comes from Europe) or St. Augustine grass (that comes from Africa). This Old House suggests, “The best known [native grass] is buffalograss, a native prairie grass that is extremely drought-resistant and, since it’s low-growing, only needs to be mowed about once a month.”
Dealing with Weeds
A healthy, lush, and thick lawn will crowd out most weeds, so getting your grass in great shape is the first step to keeping your lawn as weed-free as possible.
Of course, controlling young weeds is much easier than dealing with larger ones once they are established. You can get a head start against most weeds by applying corn gluten meal to your lawn in early spring. All natural, corn gluten meal prevents seeds from germinating and adds beneficial nitrogen to your lawn’s soil.
Tip: Don’t apply corn gluten meal in areas where you’ve added new grass seed. The grass seed will not germinate.
Pesky dandelions can be eliminated by digging them out, making sure to get as much of the main tap root as possible. This video provides some additional tips to keep dandelions at bay without dangerous herbicides or other chemicals.
You can also find a variety of organic weed killers on the market that use a combination of vinegar and citric acid to control dandelions and other weeds naturally.
Organic Lawn Care Schedule
If you haven’t begun organic gardening yet, March is a great time to get your soil tested. Just be sure to wait until the ground thaws enough for you to dig 4-6 inches deep.
March is also the perfect time to rake away dead leaves and gather fallen branches. The right chainsaw or leaf blower can make quick work of most lawn debris. Be sure to add the debris to your compost pile.
Other items for your yearly March lawn care to-do list include:
- Get a head start on weeds by applying corn gluten meal to your lawn to prevent seed germination.
- Perform your yearly lawn mower maintenance, if you didn’t take care of it last fall.
- Aerate your lawn to ensure water, nutrients, and air make it to the grass roots. Snow and cold compact your lawn, so aeration will give your lawn the best start.
Apply fresh compost to give your lawn the nutrients it needs. If you have thin or brown patches in your lawn, compost will add beneficial bacteria to the soil that will result in thicker, greener grass.
April, July, October
Apply organic fertilizer to provide your lawn with a steady source of nutrients throughout the growing season.
Re-thatch your lawn to remove dead grass and over-seed any bare patches to ensure better grass next spring.
Weekly throughout Spring through Fall
During the growing season you’ll want to maintain your grass at a height of 3 to 4 inches to crowd out as many weeds as possible. Don’t bag the grass clippings. Leave them on your lawn to provide extra nitrogen for your lawn.
Only water your lawn if it begins showing signs of drought damage. In most cases normal rainfall should be enough to keep your lawn looking good. If you do need to water, be sure to do it in the morning so that the lawn has time to absorb the moisture before the heat of the day begins. Avoid watering in the evening when the sun won’t have a chance to dry excess moisture. This can leave your grass vulnerable to mold or other diseases.
While it may require some changes to your normal routines, organic lawn care is one of the best and most environmentally-friendly ways to grow the thick, green lawn you’ve always wanted, without dangerous chemicals. By using nature’s gifts to your advantage you’ll save time and money while keeping your family and the environment much healthier.
At PowerPro Equipment, we’ve got the tools you need to keep your yard in tip-top shape throughout the growing season. Stop by our showroom in New Holland—or any of our many Central PA locations—to see our full line of lawn care equipment and much more from the best names in the business including Spartan, Hustler, and Mahindra.