Now is the time!
Organic lawn doesn’t have to be a mystery! Here’s a breakdown of what exactly goes into nurturing a thick, green lawn– the organi way.
Growing a healthy, strong, beautiful organic lawn requires not just a change in fertilizers but also a change in mindset. “With an organic lawn, you’re not simply putting down fertilizers four times a year; you’re initiating cultural practices to nurture life in the soil, and in turn, the soil sustains the grass,” explains Paul Tukey, author of The Organic Lawn Care Manual and spokesperson for SafeLawns.org.
Here at EcoLogical Lawn Care, we have a system that works to repair and sustain your lawn so that you have season after season of a lush green lawn that is free from the dependence of chemicals. This step-by-step plan shows you what guides our service to give you the best-looking, healthiest lawn you’ve ever had.
1. Thicken Your Lawn
Spreading grass seed over an existing lawn is the best way to get a lush green swath that’s free of weeds, Tukey says. Where grass is thick and healthy, weed seeds have no place to germinate, and the grass can put down a wider and deeper root system, which can pull nutrients and water from the soil more efficiently. Look for a seed mix specifically labeled for your conditions: sun or partial shade. (Grass doesn’t grow well in full shade, so plant other groundcovers in those areas.) And be sure to get a type of grass suited to your climate.
Fall is the best time to overseed, but if your lawn is thin, don’t be afraid to do it in spring. Before you start, cut your grass to about 2 inches high to allow sunlight to germinate the new seed, recommends Chip Osborne, creator of the Living Lawn, an organic lawn demonstration site in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Spread about 3 to 4 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet.
2. Feed with Compost
Add compost to increase the soil’s organic matter content to as much as 7 percent and greatly improve water retention at the same time, Osborne says. To apply compost as a topdressing for areas smaller than 2,000 square feet, use a wheelbarrow and drop small piles intermittently around your lawn; then rake the compost out to about a quarter to three-eighths of an inch, recommends Osborne. For larger areas, use a spreader.
3. Water Wisely
In summer, lawns account for 40 to 60 percent of residential water usage, but using organic practices—selecting an appropriate grass species for your area, and applying compost—can mean using a lot less water. Water early in the morning to prevent fungal disease and reduce evaporation loss, Osborne advises. Deep, infrequent irrigation forces grass to send roots down into the soil to find moisture and makes it more drought-tolerant. The amount of water to use varies for each grass variety and soil type, but about an inch every week—from rainfall or your hose—is enough to keep an established lawn green.
4. Cut High
Mowing cool-season grass 3 inches high is just as effective as using herbicides to suppress crabgrass, if not more so, according to research from the University of Maryland. Set your mower blade to its highest level. Just be sure to keep it sharp—dull blades leave ragged edges on the grass blades, which allows rapid evaporation of water and makes the grass more susceptible to infection. Mow often, because you never want to cut off more than one-third of the grass blades at a time.
5. Leave the Clippings
Instead of bagging up grass clippings and sending them to the landfill, invest in a mulching blade for your mower and leave the clippings on your lawn. As they decompose, they add valuable organic matter to the soil and about 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet each season, which means you have to spend less time and money on fertilizing. Contrary to popular belief, letting the clippings decompose on your lawn does not cause a buildup of thatch (a layer on top of the soil that blocks water and nutrients from reaching the grass’s roots). Rather, thatch is caused by overfertilizing. See also: How to Mow.
6. Feed Responsibly
Organic fertilizers come from natural plant, animal, and mineral sources. Once these products are applied to the lawn, soil microorganisms break down the nutrients into a form that plants can take up. Organic fertilizers release nutrients slowly as plants need them, but you still need to follow the directions on the label to avoid overfeeding (yes, you can overdo organic fertilizers, too). In general, apply a low dose in early fall and in midspring.
These steps are simple, and they demand (over time) less work than conventional lawn care. But isn’t any effort worth the peace of mind you get from safeguarding your family and the environment?
Sprinkler won’t turn on – If you’ve check you sprinkler heads and no water is trickling out yet you’re sure that the system is on it can only mean one thing, your solenoid is bad. The solenoid is the part of your system that turns the water valve on and off. Two wires stretch from the control panel to the valve and if these wires are pulled free or if the solenoid is bent or bowed, it will not function properly.
Water Everywhere – Your sprinkler is suddenly spraying a chaotic mess of water all over the yard, driveway and sidewalk… why? This problem is usually caused by cracked sprinkler heads or seal failure. When a cracked sprinkler head causes water to be tossed into the road and onto the sidewalk, it is not only annoying for motorists and pedestrians but also costly on your end. Stop wasting water and replace your sprinkler head as soon as possible.
We’ve been working very hard on the first ever organic lawn care infographic to help educate people about this important cause!
Click to enlarge and let the learning begin!
Fall is actually the best time to impact your lawn for next season. You can do more in the Fall to make your lawn look better in the Spring than any other time of year. Just because the weather is changing, doesn’t mean your lawn is doomed. Your lawn stays alive all winter long, storing nutrients and growing stronger for a lush, green Spring!
Here are the services that when preformed in the fall, will make all the difference for your lawn next season:
Aerating creates space in the soil for air, water, and nutrients to reach the plant roots where they are most needed. Soil can become compacted from heavy rain, foot traffic or snow cover. Aerating soil in fall will help prepare the lawn for winter and allow the grass plants to absorb as many nutrients as possible.
Your grass is still growing and possibly recovering from drought or other summer stresses. Fertilizing is important because now your turf is storing vital nutrients for winter, so making sure it has enough nitrogen and potassium will help keep it healthy through the colder months and ready to thrive in the spring.
We perform a system blow-out for your sprinkler to prevent frozen or burst pipes over the winter. This is a must -do!
Over time thatch, or dead vegetation, becomes interwoven and forms a mat, or thatch layer. This layer prevents air, nutrients and water from reaching your turf’s roots. Dethatching will break-up this layer so that it doesn’t suffocate your lawn.
Compost Tea replenishes the soil with living microbes to increase nutrient levels. This will ensure that your soil remains healthy during the winter so that when spring arrives, your turf and gardens will flourish!
Whether it’s your vegetable or flower beds, it is necessary prepare them for the winter freeze so that next year’s gardens will flourish. This may include removing spent annual and vegetable plants so that pests don’t invade, amending the soil with nutrients, and adding mulch to provide a protective layer during the cold months.
A complete clean-up and preparation for the dormant winter season. Raking leaves, trimming and pruning the dead growth from shrubs and trees are a couple of examples of how we tidy up the yard for a safe winter.
If you’re still not sold on natural lawn care, read on to learn more about why the chemical stuff is so not worth it.
- What is Chemical Lawn Care? You know the companies – they’re big and powerful and promise perfect green lawns. And they can often deliver, but only temporarily. These lawns are treated with fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides that are made from synthetic chemicals. I’m not anti-chemical (I’m a chemist, after all), but there is no justifiable reason to be putting this stuff in our outdoor living spaces.
- Why is Chemical Lawn Care Bad for People and Pets? The biggest culprit is chemical pesticide – this is the really scary stuff. All chemical lawn pesticides have to be registered with the EPA, not because this qualifies them as safe, but because they are technically poisons. Many of them contain carcinogens, have been linked to birth defects, reproductive effects, neurotoxicity, liver or kidney damage, and have been shown to be sensitizers and/or irritants. Yeah, I want to keep off that grass.
- Why is Chemical Lawn Care Bad for the Planet? We sometimes forget that whatever we apply to the lawn is not all soaked up by the grass. In fact, when fertilizers are over-applied (as often encouraged by the big chemical lawn care companies) most of it runs off anyway (along with the money you invested). By the way, this is true of all fertilizers, including natural and organic ones – over-application is unnecessary and not good for the watershed. Lawn pesticides and herbicides add to the chemical burden of the environment – they can be a quick fix, but the long-term effects are worth considering.
- Why is Chemical Lawn Care Bad for Your Lawn? While it is true that these products can have very quick, seemingly positive effects on your lawn, these results are short-term. When a chemical pesticide is applied, it kills off some of the good bugs too, including some of the key bacteria and microorganisms in the soil. If your soil is unhealthy, it won’t be able to sustain the health of the grass plants, so you’ll have to apply more fertilizer to provide nutrients to the lawn. It’s a vicious cycle – Just Say No to Lawn Chemicals!
- What Are the Alternatives to Chemical Lawn Care? Instead of chemical pesticides, there are a lot of DIY options like garlic spray, neem, chili peppers, chrysanthemum tea, castor bean, and mineral oil. The best way to avoid chemical herbicides is to make your lawn healthy. Weeds grow because they are stronger than the grass plant; the logical solution is to make your grass stronger. This starts with healthy soil and the right combination of added nutrients. Natural lawn fertilizers can be as simple as manure or compost, and you know we love the liquid products because they are more readily absorbed into the grass roots.
Fix the underlying problem before you resort to unhealthy chemicals.
However, like many problems for which chemicals seem like a quick, easy fix, lawn problems can usually be corrected without nerve-damaging and ecohazardous chemicals like glyphosate (used in Roundup) and 2,4-D (used in products made by Scotts and Weed B Gone).
Here are some of the most common lawn and yard problems you’ll encounter, what they signify, and how to fix them:
Some weeds you can eat, some weeds are pretty, and other weeds are signs of a problem. If you want your lawn to be healthy, clover is a good weed to have in the landscape. It usually appears when your soil is low in nitrogen levels, but it helps fix the problem by bringing nitrogen to the soil. Solution: Leave it alone! When you mow, the clover clippings will add nitrogen to your lawn, helping to fix the problem without fertilizer.
Dandelions indicate that your grass isn’t developing healthy roots, or that there are nutrient problems in your soil. The turf may be either low in calcium, too high in potassium, or too acidic. Get a soil test to find out what’s out of whack, and use the results to strategize ways to balance out the nutrients. You can use a spray of undiluted white vinegar to kill the existing weeds (aim carefully so you don’t zap too much nearby grass), or dig out their deep root systems with a dandelion weeder.
It only takes a little bit of sunlight breaking through your grass to allow crabgrass to grow, and usually it appears when you’ve mowed the lawn too short. Dig out the crabgrass, roots and all, and then set your mower’s blade higher. Corn gluten will help prevent crabgrass, too. But, again, it has to be applied in early spring, before the crabgrass has taken root.
4. Bare or ragged patches
Bare spots in your lawn may be a sign of nothing more than heavy traffic or too much dog stuff. If heavy traffic is the culprit, consider replacing grass with a gravel walkway, and make dog-poop cleanup part of your weekly lawn maintenance. However, bare spots may also be caused by armyworms, which you’ll probably be able to see crawling around in the soil. Rather than resort to fertilizers or additional grass seed, kill the armyworms off with beneficial nematodes, which you can buy from online retailers.
5. Brown grass
This is usually a sign of overmowing, which prevents the grass from getting enough water. Set your mower a little higher and mow less frequently. The higher you allow your grass to grow, the better it retains moisture, especially during hot, dry spells. Sometimes brown grass is a sign of nutrient depletion, in which case you may want to plant some clover to help affix nitrogen in the soil. A soil test will tell you if your soil needs added nutrients. Brown grass may also be caused by white grubs, a pest that can be eliminated with the same beneficial nematodes used to fix bare patches.