Tuesday, March 5, 2013

10 Steps - Greener, Healthier Lawns

Thanks to Philip Brown for guest posting today. - Claudia, Gardening Naturally

About the Author: Philip Brown considers himself a lawn care enthusiast. A loyal employee of Trugreen for close to 12 years, Philip now spends his time sharing what he knows with others. When he’s not blogging about lawn management and lawn care, you can find him tending to his own front yard down in Loganville, Georgia . Contact Philip at  http://thelawnenthusiast.blogspot.com/
For many homeowners, including myself, there is a real sense of pride and satisfaction that comes with maintaining a thick and beautiful green lawn. But managing a lawn can sometimes place a significant burden on our environment, especially when we overuse different chemicals and don’t stop to think about what the grass on our particular lawn really needs. So how can we go about “greening” our lawn care? Here are 10 steps to get you started.

1. Pick the Right Grass
Make sure you’re planting the right seed for your environment. While the region where you live will determine the type of grass that you need, there are a number of other things to consider in deciding on what variety of seed you want to use. Think about the amount of sunlight versus shade your lawn gets. Also think about foot traffic. Different varieties of grass are better suited to different levels of each. Choosing the right grass for your particular lawn will enable it to more effectively and naturally fight off diseases and pests without the need for chemicals.
2. Test Your Soil
Perhaps the most important step to take in using fertilizer is to test your soil first. Soil testing kits can be bought very cheaply and will tell you exactly what your specific soil needs. Once you know which nutrients are lacking and which nutrients are not, you can make a more informed decision about what variety of fertilizer you actually need for your lawn and you won’t be pumping excess nutrients into the environment.
3. Fertilize Organically
Organic fertilizers lead to healthier soil. They provide a variety of other beneficial nutrients that you simply won’t get with synthetic fertilizers. They also administer nutrients to your grass in a slower, more natural fashion, delivering only what your grass needs when it needs it. And with organic, you’re also avoiding all those unlisted and potentially harmful ingredients (like heavy metals) that are sometimes found in the synthetic alternatives.
4. Don’t Over-Fertilize
Many homeowners are conditioned to think they need to fertilize their lawns 3 to 4 times a year. They also have a tendency to apply excess amounts of fertilizer each time, leading to increased runoff and nutrient pollution in our watersheds. But do our lawns really need all these nutrients? The truth is that they don’t. Especially when you’re using organic fertilizers, a couple applications per year should be just the right amount.
5. Use Compost
Regular composting is one of the best natural ways for adding essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and many others to your soil. It is also good from a biological standpoint, adding organic matter to your soil that facilitates the growth of green, healthy grass.
6. Conserve Water
Your lawn doesn’t need as much water as you think. In fact, watering less often is actually good for your lawn, encouraging your grass to grow deeper roots and become stronger and more drought-resistant. A good rule of thumb is ensuring your lawn gets about 1 inch a week. When you water your lawn, do it early in the morning when the air is cooler so that you don’t lose water to evaporation. You’ll also find that applying compost will help the soil to retain water, meaning better absorption by your grass and less runoff.
7. Get Rid of the Gas Mower
Few people realize the extent of gas mower pollution. Emissions are worst during the summertime, when lawn mowers contribute a whopping 10% of all air pollution in the US. But don’t fret! There are some great alternatives – take reel lawn mowers for instance, which are powered by your own two feet. Other alternatives include solar-powered mowers (if you’re willing to shell out quite a bit of money) and plug-in electric mowers. But the reel mower is the all-around winner: carbon neutral, economical, and it even helps you stay in shape.
8. Leave the Clippings Behind
Use a mulching mower to add valuable nutrients from grass clippings right back into your soil. With all this organic matter and nitrogen that you’re reinvesting in your lawn, you won’t need to worry as much about fertilizing.
9. Find an Alternative to Pesticide
It is well-documented that pesticide-use can be a serious hazard to the environment. Many pesticides already exist at levels high enough to kill or cause defects among birds, fish, and other aquatic organisms. Finding alternatives to pesticides is therefore a wonderful way to go green with your lawn. One of the best natural ways for fighting pests is to introduce other insects that will feed on them: beneficial nematodes and ladybugs are great examples of good insects that will help you control pests on your lawn.
10. Ditch the Weedkiller - Grow a Thicker Lawn Instead
The best approach for fighting weeds is very simple: grow a thicker lawn. This will effectively crowd out the weeds so they have no room to grow. You can achieve a thicker lawn by overseeding, that is, by spreading seeds over the grass you already have. So try it out. A great time to do it is in the fall, or even now in the spring if your lawn is particularly thin.
You’ll find that with the right mindset and with a little bit of commitment, taking a green approach to lawn care can be a very rewarding experience. Give some of these steps a try and I’m sure you’ll soon agree. I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts with everyone and best of luck!

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