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Creating a Safe Lawn

Create a lawn you can let your children and pets play on without concern using the simplicity of ecological turf management.

Improving Soil

Aerate to improve drainage and let oxygen, water and nutrients move through the soil. You could do this by simply walking around your lawn with a pitchfork and stabbing it every few inches or walking around your yard with those strap-on spikes on your shoes (always aerate when the soil is moist but not soggy). This opens up drainage channels, but it also compacts the sides of the holes and takes some time and effort.

How to Control Out-of-Control Weeds in Your Garden

Have your weeds gotten out of control? Take charge of out-of-control weeds.

Mow the weeds down with a lawn mower or a string trimmer.

Turn them under with a shovel (the hard way) or with a roto-tiller (the easy way). Weeds will quickly decompose, adding nutrients and improving the texture of your existing soil.

Plant your garden and then lay down a layer of mulch to prevent weeds from returning. Lay down a thick layer of mulch once the garden plants have started to grow.

Pull new weeds by hand as they appear.

A better choice is to rent an aerating machine. There are basically two types - spikers and corers. A spiker works like the pitchfork, except it is faster and easier. A corer actually removes cores of compacted soil, which are then raked up and composted. Of the two, corers are more effective at aerating a lawn, while also providing openings for topdressed fertilizer.

If you cannot push a screwdriver into your turf soil easily, it is too compacted and you may need to to aerate it more than once during the year. You may consider overseeding such a hard-packed sod in the fall with additional fescue grasses, which tolerate compacted soil.

Top-dressing is one of the two best ways to add organic material to a lawn (leaving grass clippings on the lawn is the other). Spread fine compost, composted manure or composted sewage sludge over the site with a rotary or manure spreader.

Get the sod pH to an acceptable level of 6.5 to 7.0. You can test pH with an inexpensive kit available at garden supply centers. If the lawn is quite acid, boost it by applying agricultural limestone. Reapply periodically as needed. Gypsum (sometimes called land plaster or calcium sulfate) can be used where pH levels are too high.

Fertilizing

Slow release organic fertilizers are well suited for maintaining a nice healthy lawn. There are lots of sources for organic fertilizers. Nitrogen, the most crucial lawn nutrient, is prominent in cottonseed meal, soybean meal, blood meal, sewage sludge, and good compost. Phosphate and potash, essential for good root growth, can come from wood ashes, bone meal, compost and rock minerals such as green sand and rock phosphate. A rule of thumb is to apply approximately one pound of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (the "N-P-K" on fertilizer bags) to each 1,000 square feet of lawn for a long-lasting feed.

If analyzing and mixing organic products yourself doesn't appeal to you, try one of the ready-mixed natural fertilizers, such as Fertrell or Erthrite (from Zook and Ranck).

The great thing about organic green lawn care is the long-lasting nature of natural fertilizers, which reduces the number of applications needed. Apply one application of such fertilizers in the late summer or early fall, when grass root development is at its peak. To maintain a high-quality turf or to crowd out weeds, make a second application of fertilizer in the early spring. Then leave the grass clippings on the lawn when you mow. The grass clippings can supply as much as half of a lawn's nitrogen needs.

Liquified seaweed products are also an excellent lawn fertilizer. Though not essential, seaweed applications can help your lawn achieve that ideal classic green look that chemical lawn care companies claim only they are able to provide. Dilute about seven ounces of liquid seaweed with two gallons of water, and apply it once in the early spring, midsummer, and in late summer.

Mowing

Lawnmower

Proper mowing is critical for lawn care. Keep the mower blade sharp. You can tell when the blade is dull if the lawn seems to brown up right after cutting. That happens when torn grass ends die and turn brown on the plants.

Don't let the grass grow too tall between cuttings and no more than than one-third of the total grass blade should be cut at any time. For example, if you mow your lawn to three inches, cut the grass every time it grows to four and one-half inches.

An important mowing factor is height. Increasing the height of your cuts results in deeper, more drought tolerant roots; less-rapid regrowth; hardier turf, a cooler, moister soil; greater resistance to weeds, insects and disease and less costly, time consuming lawn maintenance.

Pests

There are a number of weeds, insects and diseases that can seriously affect your lawn's health. Pests move in whenever the lawn is less than healthy. In an organic lawn care program, the groundwork for effective pest control has already been laid down. A rich, biologically active soil growing thick, healthy, well-cared-for grasses will essentially eliminate the need for chemical toxins.

An organic lawn-care program does not eliminate pests; rather, it encourages Mother Nature and the grass plants themselves to keep them in check. If you keep your grass dense and mow at a three-inch height, you will essentially have built in natural weed control and eliminate many common lawn weeds.

 

 

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