Natural lawn care
Gillian Flower, ND
Natural and organic lawn care is not a simply about gardening products. It is a philosophical shift to a new relationship with the ecosystem of your garden.
Natural lawn care is not simply a choice between good and bad gardening products. It is a philosophical shift to a new relationship with your lawn, working with, rather than against, the ecosystem of your garden.
Hidden beneath a thick carpet of green, the most important factor in a lawn’s success is the soil that faithfully nourishes the roots of each plant. Healthy soil is your lawn’s greatest ally in surviving drought, disease, and infestation. Keep it happy by mechanically aerating your lawn every year and removing excess thatch buildup, allowing water, nutrients, and oxygen to penetrate the soil.
Spoil Your Soil
Over time, your lawn’s hard-working support system may become nutritionally deficient. Simply leaving grass clippings on the lawn after mowing will fulfill up to 30 percent of your lawn’s annual nitrogen requirements, while retaining valuable moisture and diverting green matter from the landfill. Topping it off with a healthy dose of compost every spring and fall will satisfy most of your soil’s nutritional needs.
If additional fertilizers are required, look for animal-, plant-, and mineral-based ingredients, rather than synthetic formulations. Organic fertilizers contain both macro- and micronutrients, easily eclipsing the simple nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) content of conventional fertilizers. Nutrients from these natural sources are slowly released with the assistance of micro-organisms in the soil, ensuring that you will never risk overfertilizing your lawn.
Your Lawn, the Ecosystem
Taking a natural approach will help you to appreciate your lawn as an ecosystem–an intricate web of diverse plant and insect species–rather than a monoculture of one type of grass plant. Healthy lawns will include some non-grass plants, along with beneficial residents such as ladybugs, earthworms, and ground beetles that control more destructive species.
Plan to mow the grass only when needed, rather than making it a weekend routine. Raising the height of mower blades to 3 in (7.5 cm) and waiting until the grass is over 4 in (10 cm) long before cutting it will strengthen your lawn while saving hours of mowing time. Long, luscious lawns have stronger root systems than your neighbour’s buzzed golf-green and will easily shade out sun-loving invaders such as dandelions and crabgrass. Annual overseeding with hardy varieties such as fescues and perennial ryegrass will help to crowd out uninvited species.
Strengthen the roots of your grass by watering according to its needs. Shallow, daily watering leads to lazy root systems that hang out near the surface of the soil, while turning on the hose just one morning a week encourages deeper roots that help your lawn survive the heat of summer. Attaching a soaker hose to your rain barrel will allow you to bathe the soil in chlorine-free water without violating summer watering restrictions.
Natural lawn care is ultimately an exercise in retraining gardeners to let their lawns take care of themselves. By tending to the soil, working with natural cycles of rain and growth,and only intervening when you really need to, you’ll create a healthy lawn–and more time in your lawn chair to enjoy it.
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