With a little bit of sweat and informed planning, lawns can be kept disease, weed and pest free without the use of inorganic fertilizers and toxic herbicides and pesticides. Here are a few simple tips to reach that goal.
Time Required: Variable depending upon Season, Climate and Type of Lawn
- Build a healthy soil as a base for your lawn by adding organic fertilizers and compost. Earthworms and microbes will break down the plant matter so that nutrients are slowly released to the grass roots which means that runoff of fertilizers is minimized, groundwater is not polluted and overgrowth of algae and bacteria in standing water is not promoted. Local organic garden centers or the county extension office can help with what additives to apply and when.
- Aeration of the soil is important to maximize healthy root growth and can be accomplished simply by wearing golf shoes when mowing, using a manual fork or renting a power aerifier to boost root aeration to about 4" deep.
- Dethatching, done once or twice a year, usually in the spring or fall, will remove any layers of roots, stems and leaves more than 1/2" thick so that roots will extend deeper into the soil and enhance the lawn's drought resistance. Like aeration, manual forks can be used or powered dethatchers rented to accomplish the task. Regardless of the method, remember to rake up the debris and add it to your compost pile.
- During mowing season, mow often but leave the grass tall as very short grass is much more suceptible to pests, disease and drought. The optimum height will depend on the variety of grass, climate and any irrigation supplied. Consider trading a gasoline powered mower for an electric, corded or cordless as small gas engines are notoriously non-fuel efficient and their exhaust is highly polluting.
If your lawn size, grass variety and motivation allow, switch to a manual reel type mower and skip the gym, daily jog or yoga class once a week.
- Water the lawn deeply and infrequently to quench roots buried deeply in the soil, preferably in the early morning to minimize evaporation and to discourage fungal growth. Monitor the lawn closely for runoff in driveways, streets and sidewalks or from pooling due to lack of soil absorptivity.
- If certain areas of the lawn are too shady, too wet or too dry to grow with the rest of the lawn, fill these spaces with a rock garden of succulents, a watering hole for birds and beneficial insects or xeriscaping with low maintenance native plants.
- Decide whether you want a manicured lawn or are okay with a native landscape that requires little tending as everything is dependent on this first decision.
- Decide whether you or a family member are going to be responsible for the weekly lawn maintenance before and during the growing season or if the work will be done by a professional contractor at your direction.
What You Need
- Long jeans, long sleeved shirt, a hat and a glass or glass-lined water bottle
- Garden Gloves, Safety glasses and Ear Protection, plus nose mask possibly.
- Mower - electric, manual, gas powered
- Yard Rake
- Tote or Wheel Barrow for carrying debris, compost and fertilizer
- Golf Shoes if you are a Golfer
- Lawn Hose and Sprinkler(s)
- Heavy Gauge Electrical Extension Cord