Glance at most pesticides and herbicides labels and you’ll might find yourself worrying about harmful chemicals you’re applying to your lawn.
What can you do? Grow organic so you can enjoy a lush, green and healthier lawn. Here’s how you can break your lawn’s addiction to synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.
How do I take care of my lawn organically?
Healthy soil is the perfect foundation to a healthy lawn. And one of the best ways to improve soil health is by adding compost. So yes! You can feed your lawn naturally by topdressing it with compost.
Topdressing a lawn with compost is super-beneficial. First, the addition of that organic matter improves drainage and tilth, or texture. Organic matter hosts beneficial microbes that turn organic fertilizer and minerals present in the soil into easy-available nutrients that can be taken up by plant roots.
That's just the tip of the compost "iceberg." There are many other benefits to taking care of your lawn organically. Here are 12 reasons to love your lawn with organic-ness:
- Organic lawns use less water
- No leaching of chemicals into valuable drinking resources.
- Organic lawns are more stress tolerant
- Lawn care is simpler and easier
- It protects your lawn from drought
- Organic materials act like long-term natural fertilizers
- It promotes healthy, new lawn growth
- Organics such as compost nourish your lawn year-round
- It breaks up heavy soil
- It helps sandy soil retain water
- Organic lawns can help offset climate change by sequestering carbon dioxide
AND BEST OF ALL
12. Treating your lawn organically, especially with compost, gives you a chemical-free lawn that is safe for people and pets. What could be better?
How do I add organic matter to my lawn?
You can purchase commercially made compost and blended lawn fertilizers and individual ingredients such as soybean meal and feather meal, but topdressing the lawn is my favorite way to make your lawn green-up naturally.
I'll cover this more thoroughly below but you want to start by distributing sifted compost with a wheelbarrow or a garden cart. Make little piles of compost on the grass. Then rake it into the lawn using a leaf rake or the backside of a metal rake.
Then water it in with sprinkler or do a rain dance!
Is there a natural fertilizer for grass?
Yes, there is! And it's actually the grass itself. Re-purposing grass clippings can provide a healthy percentage of your lawn’s nutrient needs over the course of a year. Think about it: Grass clippings contain the exact ratio of nutrients that grass requires.
WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
Fresh, green clippings help the lawn retain valuable moisture while shading out weed seeds. This helps to prevent those seeds from germinating!
How can I make my grass green without fertilizer?
If you're talking without CHEMICAL fertilizers yes! Besides, the healthier and thicker your grass, the more easily it can crowd out weeds. So it develops a healthy shade of green AND butts out weeds at the same time. Along the same lines, you might be wondering...
How can I fix my lawn full of weeds without chemicals?
To put it another way, applying organic fertilizers (see how the word "chemical" applies to organics as well?) to your lawn helps grass grow and will give your lawn that deep, rich, emerald green color. The lawn will be denser, which protects it from foot traffic and prevents weeds from taking hold.
As for organic fertilizers, compost is the best! But not just any compost. You want to use compost that was created through a hot composting process, in which the heat (given off by the microbial activity) reached temperatures above 140 degrees F (60 degrees C).The high temps neutralize (kill) weed seeds and pathogens that were in the compost materials. As you make compost, test it with a compost thermometer
Does walking on grass damage it?
Because with enough force or too many footsteps (think family dog running around the house creating a path), the soil becomes compacted.
And that can be a problem because air pockets in the soil flatten like a tire. This in turn reduces the amount of air and water available to plants. (Air and water are the main highways by which plant roots receive nutrients). Plus, when it rains on compacted soil, the water runs off instead of being absorbed. Even worse, water can sometimes puddle and drown the plant.
QUICK TIP: HOW TO PREVENT LAWN COMPACTION
You can protect your soil regularly by amending it with compost. Also, add a garden path in the areas of your lawn where you walk most often so that you can direct traffic to this specific area.
Can you have a nice lawn without chemicals?
Yes, with compost and other organics which improves the health of the soil. Then, you need to select a grass seed mix that is suitable for your climate.
If you need help, ask your garden center for recommendations. Choose a seed mix that suits your climate, sun/shade conditions, and moisture needs. And if you have an existing lawn, do your best to make sure it blends well. Water daily until new growth is established.
WHEN DID LAWNS BECOME A THING?
Lawns similar to those of today first appeared in France and England in THE 1700s when André Le Nôtre designed the gardens of the Palace of Versailles. He included a small area of grass called the tapis vert, or "green carpet".
In addition to compost, how do I keep my grass green naturally?
In general, organic lawn fertilizers are one of the most effective ways to give your lawn a boost during the growing season. And keep it healthy during the "off" season.
Available at most garden centers, the best organic lawn fertilizers contain natural ingredients such as:
- Seaweed (kelp) for potassium and many other minerals
- Bone meal for phosphorous
- Feather meal for nitrogen (soybean meal is another source of slow-release nitrogen).
- Earthworm castings
- Cottonseed meal
When should I apply organic fertilizer to my lawn?
You can apply organic fertilizers most any time, starting in late winter/early spring when your lawn begins to show signs of greening up. And then, apply a light, final dusting of compost in the fall.
Organic fall fertilizer differs, in that besides ingredients such as feather meal and pasteurized poultry manure, it often include extra potash to bolster the grass' root system. The idea is to protect your lawn from wilt and disease during the cold winter months.
HELP FROM KELP -- DID YOU KNOW?
Greens keepers at golf courses in Scotland farmed seaweed from the local beaches. They covered their greens with it during harsh winters. This protected the grass from the cold winds and leaked out a variety of trace nutrients into the soil as it broke down. When the weather improved it was removed and composted and mixed with sand. This produced an ideal material for topdressing the greens. A process which still goes on at golf courses to this day.
Is organic lawn care better?
Not only is organic lawn care more environmentally friendly, and safer—your lawn will also look better than ever.
Here's the lowdown: Every year millions of pounds of harmful, toxic pesticides are used across on home lawns around the world.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US, traditional lawn chemicals can put children and pets at risk.
Unlike conventional fertilizers, which deliver a heavy, instant dose of synthetic nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K) for your lawn to binge on, organics provide an easier-to-handle smorgasbord of nutrients that are released more slowly.
Some sources will tell you to apply compost at any time so long as the ground is not frozen. But I prefer to avoid mid-winter applications because walking on the turf can compress soil and root zones, as I discussed above.
There are two excellent times to top-dress with compost:
- After you aerate your lawn.
- When you're over-seeding a lawn.
Over-seeding is when you scatter grass seed directly into or onto existing grass.
The theory is that by applying compost and seeds at the same time improves germination and keeps the soil evenly moist.
- In northern regions, where cool-season grasses dominate, top-dress with compost one to three times between spring and late fall.
- In southern regions, where warm-season grasses thrive, apply in the spring when the grass breaks its winter dormancy and begins to green up. And again in mid-spring. In the fall, apply once or twice between early September and mid October.
Should you put compost on your lawn?
Absolutely! When we started a new lawn from scratch, we began with a base of half local topsoil and half compost. Then we seeded the lawn and scattered more compost along with soybean meal, shredded kelp, and dried molasses.
Since then, we top-dress our lawn with compost every year and we've never looked back.
QUICK TIP: WHICH COMPOST IS BEST?
I asked this very question of Jeff Lowenfels, a garden writer in Anchorage, Alaska. Jeff has the longest-running garden column in the United States. His reply, "Apply a balanced compost, bacteria and fungal-based."
How do I put compost on my lawn?
It's easy! Here 3 easy steps to top-dress your lawn with compost:
- Distribute sifted compost wheelbarrow
- Rake it into the lawn you can also spread compost by the shovelful
- Water it in
1. Distribute sifted compost wheelbarrow
Fill a wheelbarrow with loose or bagged compost. Dot the lawn with small piles of compost, evenly distributed. Keep the piles around three or four shovelfuls each. The goal is to space the piles so that once the compost is spread around, the lawn is covered with no gaps.
2. Rake it into the lawn (you can also spread compost by the shovelful)
Spread the compost with just about any rake, but the back side of a metal rake works best. At each pile, rake the compost out in all directions, until it is one 360°. Rake until the point that the grass blades are almost fully visible through the compost.
3. Water it in
Water in the compost with a sprinkler. Rain is ideal, however, since a gentle shower helps the compost settle nicely into the soil and not smother the grass. Avoid a forceful sprinkler because you don't want to cause the compost to run off.
YOUR BEAUTIFUL, ORGANIC LAWN
With a little patience and perhaps a slight change in thinking, you'll be rewarded with a beautiful lawn that's easier on the earth and on your conscience.
You'll have total peace of mind about your yard, and garden. You'll be amazed, and so will your neighbors, at how nice an organic lawn can be.