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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.