Organic Gardening: Natural Lawn Care

Grow a Beautiful Lawn Without Using Toxic Herbicides

You can have a lush green lawn without toxic herbicides that endanger the environment, your family and pets. Chemicals on the lawn are picked up by feet and brought into the house. Children and pets playing on the lawn can absorb the chemicals through their skin or get in on their hands and paws which often go into their mouths. Organic lawn care methods can produce a safe, attractive, dense turf naturally.

The most important element in a healthy lawn is building a topsoil full of nutrients and organic matter that will support the growth of lawn turf. Dead plants, in various stages of decomposition, will help sandy soil hold onto water and nutrients and keep soil that is heavy with clay from compacting. Compacted soil keeps water from draining into it and oxygen won't be able to reach grass roots. Organic matter adds vital nutrients to the soil and feeds the earthworms and other beneficial microorganisms that help keep soil rich, uncompacted, pest-free and disease-resistant.

Mow grass high leaving it three to four inches tall. Tall grass has more surface area to expose to the sunlight which will maximize photosynthesis for greater root growth. Good root mass crowds out weeds and allows the grass to recover more quickly from a dormant state. Tall blades also shade the soil, conserve water, and keep sunlight from reaching low-growing weeds. Cutting grass high leaves smaller clippings which will decompose rapidly. Mow over leaves that fall in your lawn instead of raking them. Chopping the leaves into small pieces will add nutrients and they will decompose and disappear quickly into the lawn.

Contrary to common belief leaving grass clippings on the lawn does not produce thatch. Thatch is a mat of stems, roots, rhizomes, and other plant parts in various stages of decay between the green vegetation and the surface of the soil. Common causes of thatch are overfertilization with chemicals that encourage rapid root growth, or watering too shallow and often which causes turf root rhizomes to mat on the surface of the soil. Compost will add bacteria and mold to the soil which breaks down thatch. Clumping grass is only a concern when you don't mow often enough or when you mow too short.

Keep your mower blades sharpened. Dull blades will tear the grass blades instead of cutting them and leave jagged edges that are more susceptible to insects and disease.

Water your lawn deeply and infrequently. Frequent watering encourages the turf roots to remain near the surface where they are more quickly affected by dry conditions. Deep watering encourages grass roots to grow more deeply into the soil and your lawn will survive with less water. Wait until your lawn begins to show signs of drought stress (blades will start to curl before they turn brown) and then give it at least 1" of water. Put a cup on the lawn where you water so you can measure the amount.

Lower your standards a bit and allow some dandelions and white or pink clover to grow in your yard. Dandelions have deep roots which bring nutrients up to the surface. They attract birds which are natural grub control. Keeping your grass tall will discourage the dandelions from taking over. White or pink clover adds nitrogen to the soil and doesn't compete too strongly with healthy turf grass.

Organic lawn care is much safer and less expensive than resorting to chemical fertilizers. Grass is going to be mowed and leaves are going to fall anyway, so why not use Mother Nature's fertilizers to have the most beautiful lawn on the block!