Or­ganic lawn care

“Or­ganic turf care is not a great mys­tery. It is a dif­fer­ent sys­tem that re­quires ob­ser­va­tion and com­mon sense. In an or­ganic pro­gram, the soil life ends up do­ing most of the work.”

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - Contents - By Paul Sachs

You may have heard that or­ganic lawn care doesn’t work well, that you end up with a yard full of weeds. If you fol­low a few sim­ple steps, you can have a healthy green beau­ti­ful land­scape for your yard and do it all or­gan­i­cally.

The most im­por­tant fac­tor in or­ganic lawn care is the con­di­tion of the soil. If the soil is healthy, the lawn is healthy. In fact, it doesn’t mat­ter whether you are grow­ing trees, shrubs, veg­eta­bles or turf, healthy soils will feed your plants 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Our soils con­tain bil­lions of micro­organ­isms in a sin­gle tea­spoon of soil. These or­gan­isms work with the plant to en­sure it gets the nour­ish­ment it re­quires to flour­ish with­out the need for syn­thetic fer­til­iz­ers or harsh chem­i­cals.

Healthy lawns are a medium green in colour, not the deep green many be­lieve they must strive for. Deep green lawns are over fer­til­ized with syn­thetic fer­til­iz­ers and are sub­ject to dis­ease, thatch buildup and drought dam­age.

When you do use or­ganic fer­til­iz­ers and soil amend­ments one of the keys is to not use too much. DO NOT over fer­til­ize. You want to en­cour­age the roots of the plants to grow deeper in search of food and wa­ter. By forc­ing the roots to grow deeper, the plants will re­quire less fer­til­izer and less wa­ter be­cause they are tap­ping into nu­tri­ents and wa­ter lo­cated deep within the soil.

There are sev­eral good or­ganic fer­til­iz­ers on the mar­ket to­day. Make sure you read the la­bel and en­sure that you are pur­chas­ing a prod­uct that will en­cour­age the micro­organ­isms we al­ready talked about to be­come es­tab­lished and thrive. Re­mem­ber, the goal is not to have an in­stant green lawn that you have to cut twice a week, but to have a steady growth on top while en­cour­ag­ing the roots to grow deeper into your soil.

Top dress­ing your lawn is a great way to build up or­ganic mat­ter and nat­u­ral nu­tri­ents in your soil. Choose a good, weed-free top­soil or four­way mix, well-rot­ted ma­nure or a finely sifted, green, or­ganic com­post mix­ture. Top dress your lawn once or twice a year at no more than 1/16 to 1/8-inch cov­er­age depth. You do not want to smother your ex­ist­ing lawn with the top dress­ing, nor do you want to have patches of your top­dress­ing show­ing. If you do, then weeds have a place to es­tab­lish and grow.

De-thatch­ing your lawn an­nu­ally is not re­quired when you have healthy soil. The mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy within the

soil will use the thatch layer as part of their food source to feed the lawn, thereby not al­low­ing the thatch to be­come harm­ful to your lawn.

When you do de-thatch, do it lightly. Do not be so ag­gres­sive that you cre­ate bare patch­ing where weeds can es­tab­lish them­selves.

Over-seed­ing your lawn on an an­nual ba­sis in spring or fall will help en­sure a thicker lawn to choke and shade out un­wanted weeds. If you over-seed in early to mid-septem­ber, you will ben­e­fit from the fall rains and not have to wa­ter as much to get your seed started.

An­other fac­tor in achiev­ing a healthy lawn is aer­a­tion; how­ever, with an or­ganic lawn care pro­gram once the soil is healthy the lawn does not re­quire an­nual aer­a­tion. We aer­ate our lawns to re­lieve com­paction from ma­chin­ery or foot traf­fic to get wa­ter and fer­til­iz­ers down deeper into the soil, so to do that we want to aer­ate to a depth of two to four inches. With healthy soils the micro­organ­isms do the aer­a­tion for you. They dig and bur­row deep into the soil, cre­at­ing pock­ets for stor­ing oxy­gen and stor­ing wa­ter for plants to use.

Weed con­trol is the most fre­quent sub­ject that arises. “How does or­ganic lawn care pre­vent weeds?” Have you ever looked at a prairie meadow or field? There are not many weeds. The or­gan­isms within the soil are feed­ing the plants and there­fore weeds that tend to like un­healthy com­pacted soils don’t grow in large num­bers.

The best way we can con­trol weeds in our lawn is to en­cour­age and cre­ate healthy soils. Make sure you in­tro­duce the micro­organ­isms that will feed your plants. Mow your lawn no shorter than three to 3.5 inches to shade out un­wanted weeds. When the weeds are in flower, mow with a bag­ger pick­ing up as many weed flower heads and seeds as pos­si­ble. Mulch your lawn clip­pings when weeds are not flow­er­ing or in seed. Mulching your lawn clip­pings puts ni­tro­gen back into the soil as it de­com­poses, again feed­ing your lawn. By keep­ing your lawn higher in dry con­di­tions it will re­main greener longer. Also in dry con­di­tions, mow­ing less fre­quently lets your lawn go dor­mant. It needs to rest.

When wa­ter­ing an or­ganic lawn, wa­ter only when needed and do it deeply and in­fre­quently. This will en­cour­age roots to grow deeper as the soil near the top dries out. Wa­ter early in the morn­ing and avoid wa­ter­ing dur­ing windy pe­ri­ods, and when pos­si­ble use al­ter­nate sources of wa­ter, such as from rain bar­rels or other catch­ment meth­ods.

The rea­sons for nat­u­ral or­ganic lawn care are many. Or­gan­i­cally grown lawns are safer for our pets, fam­ily and the en­vi­ron­ment. Over time they re­quire less work and are less ex­pen­sive to main­tain. Or­ganic lawn care can and does work ex­tremely well.

For more in­for­ma­tion on Soil Care Pro­grams con­tact Sus­tain­able Or­ganic So­lu­tions at info@sus­tain­able­or­gan­ic­so­lu­tions.ca.

The key to a healthy lawn is healthy soil.

Leave the lawn clip­pings be­hind – they will help fer­til­ize your lawn.

Or­ganic lawn care is health­ier for pets.

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