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Grow Lawn Correctly

You may be looking out at what you hoped would be a sea of green grass--only to see a field of burnt brown, and are in need of lawn care help. Of course, the lawn-care industry is eager to help by showing us one of those pretty lawn photos in an advertisement to inspire us to buy hundreds of dollars worth of expensive products like seeds, fertilizer and pesticides to maintain our little patch for another season.

How to Have a Natural Healthy Lawn

Organic lawns can be greener, healthier and more resistant to drought, pests and disease than chemically treated lawns.
If your soil is compacted, aerate the lawn once or twice a year to enhance nutrient and moisture absorption.

The trick really is to grow your lawn correctly. You can grow an environmentally friendly lawn by planting the right type of grass for your yard, not over or under fertilizing, understand when and how to irrigate, mow correctly, and be judicious about pesticide use.

Choose grass seed based on your environment—shady, cold, sunny, hot, dry, wet. Other factors to consider are how much watering and fertilizer is needed and how quickly the grass grows (how often do you want to mow your lawn).

How do you fertilize? A general rule is use a low phosphorus product (the middle number of the three numbers on the fertilizer bag will be very low). Use nitrogen that is "water-insoluble" or "slow-release." Quick-release nitrogen is more likely to be lost through leaching. Nitrates and phosphates are the biggest worries for potential pollutants.

Mowing your lawn incorrectly will injure the grass and leave it weak and susceptible to pests and diseases. Keep your mower blades sharp so you don’t tear the grass and don’t remove more than 1/3 of the height of your lawn each time. Mow at the highest recommended height for your type of grass and don’t mow when it is wet.

To control existing weeds, treat only the problem area, not the entire lawn. An organic choice is corn gluten meal or neem oil.

How much to water depends on the type of grass you have, the time of year, the amount of sun or shade in the yard. A little bit of drought stress is good as it encourages deep rooting. When watering, don’t over saturate the soil. Excess water can encourage weed growth. Water only when grass shows signs of wilt stress, such as a bluish-gray color or leaf blades that are folded in half.

If you must water, do it deeply. Water in the morning and until the soil is moist six to eight inches deep. That may require up to two inches of water at one time. If you have to, water as often as once a week. Don't follow the common practice of sprinkling a little water over the lawn each day. This only encourages shallow rooting, drought intolerance and thatch buildup. If you are concerned about water waste, use more drought-tolerant fescues or Bermuda grass.

Use the "catch can" test to figure out how much water is being applied to your lawn. Place five or six clean, empty, cat food cans around your yard. Run the irrigation system for 15 minutes. Measure the water depth in the cans. One inch of water equals 12 inches of wetness in the soil. If the level is unequal among the cans, your system needs to be adjusted.

A heavy fall leaf cover can weaken an otherwise healthy lawn by blocking sunlight. Don't let leaves build up on the lawn for more than a week.

 

 

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