Most homeowners overapply pesticides and fertilizer to their lawns and tend to look for a chemical solution to lawn problems when they should be thinking about healthy grass instead. When a lawn is healthy, it resists disease. If it isn’t sick, it doesn’t need ‘drugs’ and extra care. Here are 5 tips to help you keep your lawn healthy. Whether you want to reduce chemical use or eliminate it altogether, following these tips will help your grass, your wallet, and the environment.
1. Adjust Your Expectations
Lawn chemicals do work, and it’s difficult to get that flawless ‘golf course look’ without them. So if you plan to eliminate or drastically reduce chemical use, you may have to accept imperfections. Expect a dandelion or two and areas that will be a little less green at some times of the year. That said, you could still expect your lawn to look good? probably as good or better than most of your neighbors’ lawns.
2. Mow Regularly
Mowing is a chore that’s easy to put off? the grass will still be there in a couple of days. But the delay is bad for your grass. The taller it gets, the more you’ll cut off when you finally mow. And the more you cut off, the more you’ll ‘shock’ the grass. That weakens each individual plant and leads to other problems later on. It also opens up the turf canopy and allows weeds to bully their way in.
Rule of thumb: Never remove more than one-third of the leaf blade each time you mow. And keep your lawn mower blade sharp. A clean-cut reduces the chance of common lawn diseases making their way into the leaf tissue. Your lawn will look much better too.
3. Remove Thatch
Thatch is a layer of slowly decomposing grass stems, roots, clippings, and debris that accumulate at the soil surface over time. It can build up in your lawn and virtually choke it to death. Excessive thatch buildup is commonly found in lawns that have been overfertilized or overwatered and have never been aerated. Thatch buildup of 3/4 in. or more will restrict water and nutrient penetration into the soil (think thatched roof) and can harbor disease organisms that can increase the need for pesticides. Slice open a section of turf. If the thatch is more than 3/4 in. thick, take action.Regular core aeration will slow thatch development. However, it won’t do much to remove existing thatch. This can be done by renting a power rake, which will ‘lift’ the thatch from the soil surface. This thatch residue can then be raked by hand and removed. Dethatching is hard work, so it’s smart to prevent buildup in the first place. The best way to do that is to avoid overwatering and overfertilizing.
4. Add Compost
Top-dress your lawn with high-quality compost. Compost can bring depleted or damaged soil back to life, resulting in stronger root systems and happier plants. One teaspoon of compost contains a billion beneficial microorganisms that help create better soil structure and texture, which improves nutrient, water, and air retention.To apply compost, spread it over your lawn with a shovel, aiming for a layer 1/4 to 1/2 in. thick. Then work it into the turf with a rake. It’s best to do this after aerating. Most garden centers sell bagged compost. But to cover an entire yard, you’re better off buying in bulk from a garden center. Don’t worry about buying too much? any leftovers will benefit your garden and shrub beds.
5. Reseed to Prevent Weeds
Instead of applying costly pesticides, sow quality grass seed. Reseeding your lawn every year will help maintain good turf density and make it very difficult for weeds to take hold and grow. In fact, some grasses actually release a beneficial toxin into the soil that acts like a natural pre-emergent herbicide, preventing weeds from germinating.Reseeding with genetically improved varieties will also boost your lawn’s performance. Many newer kinds of grass require less fertilizer, watering, and mowing compared with the older grasses that are most likely in your lawn. If you haven’t reseeded in the past 10 years, you’re long overdue. Simply use your fertilizer spreader to broadcast seed immediately after core aerating. Those soil plugs lying on your lawn’s surface will dry out while you do this. After you’ve spread the seed, break up these cores with a rake. The combination of seed and pulverized soil will backfill your aerator holes, creating perfect seed-to-soil contact.