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Grooming Your Grounds

Natural lawn care

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Grooming Your Grounds

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.

Five Fertilizing Favourites

  1. Good old garden compost: loaded with countless micronutrients; adds bulk to the soil
  2. Grass clippings: retain moisture, restore nitrogen, return organic material to soil
  3. Kelp meal: can use over the summer to feed roots without forcing growth
  4. Mineral mixes: black rock, marl, greensand, and carbonitite slowly release potassium, phosphorus, and micronutrients throughout the season
  5. Blood and bone meal: concentrated sources of nitrogen and phosphorus blended with compost and used sparingly

Low-Maintenance Lawn Alternatives

  • Dutch white clover: This organic champion draws nitrogen deep into the soil. Ideal for filling in bare, compacted patches in your lawn.
  • Thyme species: This aromatic alternative tolerates light foot traffic. Combine with paving stones on well-used paths.
  • Yarrow: Tolerates heavy foot traffic with minimal maintenance. Plant in full sun to partial shade.
  • Wild geranium: Its chocolate foliage and pink flowers provide an interesting contrast to grass. Grows 12 to 15 in (31 to 38 cm) tall; suitable for dry soil in sun or shade.
  • Lily of the valley: Prefers shady, damp corners of the garden, where other plants won’t grow. Delicate, fragrant flowers in spring. Grows 8 in (20 cm) tall.
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