Steps to Maintain an Organic Lawn
The Five Rivers MetroParks in the Dayton area offered a full day of talks at the Cox Arboretum Sunday on Gardening in Ohio. I was honored to present two programs on Organic Fertilizers and Organic Lawn Care. With the summer we have had here in SW Ohio, we had a lot to talk about. With the extreme heat of over 20 days over 90 degrees F, and no measurable rain for eight weeks or more, our lawns really need some tender loving care. So let me summarize the steps needed to help our lawns rebound from the summer. 1. If you cannot do anything else, apply compost to your lawn and rake it in to a depth of 1/2 “. The organic material will build your soil, and permit the roots of your turf to get nutrients, air and water.
2. Over seeding your lawn will help thicken it, and fill in bare spots. Rake loose the dead grass to allow the seed to make contact with the soil. Again, spread compost lightly over the seed and keep watered. Grass seed providers are marketing seed for any variety of conditions you may have in your yard. From drought tolerant, to insect and disease resistant, seed for sunny areas, seed for shady areas. Check local suppliers to get a seed that matches your needs
3. Apply an organic fertilizer. These come in granular and liquid form. The slow release nutrients will release food over a longer period of time compared to chemical applications. Chemical fertilizers can give a fast green up, but leave the root zone with no long term benefits. Chemicals can dangerously impact the microorganism colonies in the soil, repel earthworms and harm the soil structure.
4. Mow high. Most turf experts are recommending a 3 1/2” to 4” tall cutting. Taller grass blades have deeper root systems. Deeper roots can take up more moisture helping grass to resist drought. Taller grass will also shade the soil. This shading will protect the soil surface from drying out. Weed seeds will also be shaded, and reduce weed seed germination.
5. Water deeply. Reduce water usage by eliminating frequent sprinkling, and opt for longer sessions of watering. Check you soil moisture after watering by inserting a trowel into grass. Moisture should reach about 4” deep.
6. Mulch grass clippings and leaves. The is great organic matter and your lawn will only benefit from the added nutrition. Grass clipping do not create thatch. Clippings actually increase worm activity and worms help aerate the soil, opening up the root zone to nutrients, air, and water.
7. Stay on top of weeds. Do not let weeds to go to seed. The battle is half over by eliminating the source of future generations of weeds. Remove weeds from the lawn. If weeds are few, dig them out. I also recommend an organic herbicide such as 20% Horticultural Vinegar or a product like ‘BurnOut’. This clove based product will kill any vegetation it lands on, so take care to target only weeds.
By mowing high, watering deeply, and adding organic material to your lawn, you can have a great looking, healthy lawn.
How did your lawn hold up this summer? Let us know what worked for you and express any concerns you may have. Claudia