Organic Lawn Care: Seeding, Growing And Maintaining Your Grass

Organic lawn care can help homeowners achieve a healthy lawn without harsh chemical pesticides or fertilizers.

The typical American homeowner takes great pride in having a lush green lawn that is kept perfectly trimmed throughout the season. In the pursuit of the perfect yard, people saturate their grass with heavy doses of fertilizer at the first sign of spring. Every stray dandelion or clover doused with weed killer; the first sign of disease is treated with fungicides like an epidemic. We baby our yards with daily watering, weekly crew-cut style mowing, and monthly fertilizing. The resulting lawn, stunningly green from spring to fall, seems to verify that all our efforts are worth it. However, these high-maintenance lawns succumb easily to outside forces like cold or disease and need to be reseeded annually. The reason for this is that people tend to force their grass to give results instead of letting it grow as it would naturally. If you are interested in growing a vibrant lawn that thrives year after year, organic lawn care may be the method for you.

Seeding

Choosing a variety of grass that is suited to your property is the first step to having a healthy lawn. Numerous species of grass are popular because of their resistance to pests and disease, but only certain grasses will be at home in your yard. Grasses that naturally kill or repel insects should save you the hassle of having to use chemical pesticides. Consider the amount of sun or shade your property receives, as well as how extreme your summers and winters are. Grass in shady areas especially needs to be resistant to fungus, as it stays wet most of the day. Depending on the seed you choose, you may have to wait only a few weeks or a full year for complete coverage. You may also wish to have your soil tested for its pH level. Some grasses can thrive in poor soil conditions, while others demand rich nutrient content. Consult a lawn specialist to find a grass seed that is best suited to your area.

Before spreading seed on the lawn, clear the property of any leaves or other debris. Most experts recommend that you remove all old turf and seed the entire lawn if it is more than half-bare. If you find that your soil is nutrient deficient, consider adding organic matter (compost) to the ground. This will provide a long-term food supply for the growing grass because it will break down slowly. It is also advisable to test your soil type to ensure proper drainage. Clay soil will retain too much water, while sandy dirt will dry out quickly. You can determine your soil type by rolling a small amount of it between your fingers. If it forms a sticky string, you have clay dirt, but if it crumbles and feels grainy, it is a sandy soil. You can even out your soil by adding clay or sand as necessary. Sow grass seed in the spring, making sure press it into the ground by walking over it. This will give the grass contact with the soil, which is necessary for proper growth. If the seed sits on top of the dirt, it may blow away or be eaten by birds, which will leave bare patches in the lawn. Keep the soil slightly moist until the grass has grown to a height of two inches. Grass should not be mowed or fertilized until it is well established, preferably after it has reached two to three inches.



Fertilizing

Chemical fertilizers contain high amounts of nitrogen, the nutrient responsible for rapid grass growth. Although they have initially positive results, they do little to promote grass that is healthy long-term. Grass is adept at finding food sources to sustain it through hard times because it grows deep roots. When it receives regular applications of fertilizer on the surface, it does not develop a healthy root system. Instead, the roots are shallow and become compacted. Without constant fertilization, these plants will die rapidly. The benefit of organic fertilizer is that it breaks down slowly, both enriching the soil and providing a sustained food source for grass. It contains a healthy balance of nutrients that encourage the presence of earthworms, bacteria, and various microorganisms that contribute to healthy soil. You can purchase these fertilizers at any garden center to apply in the spring and the fall. You will need about twenty pounds of fertilizer for every one thousand square feet of lawn for proper fertilization.

Maintenance

Watering and mowing are all that an organic lawn needs to be beautiful and healthy. It is only necessary to supply water to the grass when rainwater does not supply it. Keep a close eye on the moisture content of the ground to determine when it needs your help. The basic rule of watering is to be generous but infrequent. This will encourage the grass to grow deeper roots in search of moisture, which in turn strengthens it in case of drought or a bitter winter. As for mowing, it should not be done on a set schedule. The growth rate of grass varies throughout the season and so should mowing. Rather than trimming the lawn down to an inch every weekend, keep it at a greater height and increase the frequency with which you trim it. Place the mower blade at its highest setting, making sure to sharpen it monthly so that it cuts the grass rather than shredding it.

Proper mowing will encourage grass to reproduce asexually since it has no opportunity to produce seeds. In turn, this will create a thicker lawn where there are fewer opportunities for weeds to sprout. Like herbicides, chemical insecticides need not be used on an organically maintained lawn. To avoid insect problems, create a yard that welcomes their natural predators: birds. Include birdbaths, feeders, and trees in the landscape. Beneficial bugs will also make meals of pests if you invite them with plants like black-eyed Susan, Queen Anne's Lace, sunflower, and yarrow. Disease will also rarely be of concern if you use organic lawn care methods in combination with fungus-resistant grasses. Soil full of the proper insects and organisms will not provide the food that diseases need to thrive. If you are interested in an organic way to fight disease, you can spray liquid seaweed on the lawn. It contains a hormone that fertilizes the soil and prevents fungus.

Organic lawn care is an environmentally sound method that will give you the best results over time. By promoting a healthy lawn from the soil up, people can help their grass reach its potential instead of forcing it to behave unnaturally. Instead of pouring chemical fertilizers into the ground, many of which contain dangerous carcinogens, we can nourish it with organic materials. Organically grown lawns will rarely suffer from pests, weeds, or disease. Thus, their owners can spend less time treating them and more time enjoying them.

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