Thursday, January 26, 2012

Five Steps to a Healthy Lawn

Lush Lawns Don't Just Happen

Every year I get questions on how to get that deep green, thick lawn using organic methods.  Some folks think that 'organic' means letting nature do her thing, while not attending to any maintenance of the lawn. Others want instant results to the barest of essential grooming. Residential landscaping with turf is lovely when cared for appropriately.  Let me describe how to achieve a good looking, healthy lawn.

#1  Compaction of soil is the most detrimental condition in a lawn.  Areas that get a lot of foot traffic near walks and drives are most susceptible to compaction. If the children play on the grass, or the postal carrier walks across the lawn every day, compaction is bound to happen.  Walking on wet grass can add to the problem by pushing out air and water from soil.  Grass roots are dense, but no air, no water,.... the grass will not thrive.

Core aeration is an easy method to open up the root zone of the yard.  I prefer to have the core removed, as opposed to just pushing in pins into the soil.  By removing  the core, air and water can be placed right at the roots. I recommend raking in a 1/4" layer of compost as the second step to the aeration.  The compost has microorganisms that will draw nutrients right into the root zone.  The opening left by the plugs will allow water to seep into the root area as well. 

Compost allows the soil to drain while keeping moisture in the soil for a more drought tolerant lawn. If spreading compost is not available, an organic fertilizer of 8-3-3 or similar is also a good option. Either compost or organic fertilizer will add organic matter to the soil to feed the microorganisms for a healthy lawn. 

#2  Having a thick turf can be as easy as over-seeding.  The proper seed is important to this step.  I suggest a seed that is appropriate for your conditions.  Do you have a full sun area, a steep incline, or wish to reduce water needs?  The turf industry can offer you a custom seed for your area.

 This winter season is a good time to over seed fairly simply.  Dormant seeding, as this process is called, works well on frozen soil, or even a snow cover. Simply sow seed onto the yard with either a drop spreader or a broadcast applicator.  The freezing and thawing of the soil over the next few months will allow the seed to be worked into the soil.  Then, when temperatures are right, the seed will grow and thicken up your yard.  Thicker turf is going to look better and, depending on the conditions, more weed resistance and drought tolerant.

#3  Thatch is the mat of grass shafts, roots above the soil line, and dead organic matter.  This raking will open the soil up to allow rain to soak into the soil and nutrients to become available to the root system.  I believe that a good liquid organic solution will help degrade that thatch and keep a thick layer from building up.  A kelp or fish fertilizer can be used in a hose end sprayer even in the hot summer months.  The solution will not burn and, along with breaking down the thatch, your lawn will get a good drink of N for a nice green lawn. 

#4  Mow high - long blades of grass can a) shade weed seeds.  b) hold moisture, and c) optimize photosynthesis.  If more that one third of the blade is removed at once, the blade of grass is stressed and will wilt.  Taller grass will minimize weed seed germination as well. 

#5  Water Deeply.  Deep watering draws the roots down into the soil. More moisture is available deeper into the ground, and the grass will not wilt as easily in periods of little rain.  Water less often.  Short, frequent waterings (wettings) do not allow the root systems to grow deeply.  One inch of rain a week, for most turf allows the roots to remain moist without the contant watering.  Usually about 45 minutes is enough water to get soil moist about 4 inches deep.

Lawn care does not have to take hours every weekend.  Lawn care does not have to be expensive. A lawn you can be proud of is the ultimate reward.  Enjoy, and thanks for stopping by.



HolleyGarden said...

Thanks for this post. My dog and I have worn a path through the lawn and I wasn't sure what to do with it. Now I know how to deal with this compaction.

RobinL said...

My hubby just loves a green lawn, but I've tried to get him to go organic and he just won't! I garden organically, so we cancel each other out.

~Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

Hello! Found your site through Gaia Garden.
I'm not into the lawn thing but see other great info here. Looking forward to the new growing season. I'll be back.

Geraldine Stanley said...

Lush lawns really don't just happen. You have to exert an effort to make it beautiful and more to keep it in good condition. Remember, proper maintenance is the key. It may seem like a big challenge, but once you learn how to do it, you'll be able to take good care of your lawn easily.

SpringField Lawn Barber