A garden filled with healthy, green grass is a labor of love. While harsh chemicals can eliminate unwanted pests, they can also damage the soil, nearby lakes, streams and waterways. These green lawn care tips will help you ensure safe lawn care.
When working indoors and outdoors, consider the environmental impact of the products you use.
Cities and towns across the United States have different rules regarding the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In all cases, organic products are an excellent solution.
In Florida, for example, municipalities – encouraged by the state – have adopted a set of rules to protect watersheds from ingesting pesticides and fertilizers that leach into the soil. Florida has rivers and streams that discharge fertilizers and weed killers directly into lakes, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
Another example is Ohio, where chemicals can flow into lakes, rivers, and canals such as the Olentangy, Scioto, and Ohio Rivers, as well as Lake Erie.
Many fertilizers claim to be organic, but knowing the difference can help you make a wise choice. An organic product is of animal or plant origin and is created by a natural process that includes compost, manure, leaves and grass clippings. Synthetic (chemical) fertilizers and weed killers are “inorganic.” Fertilizers provide nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) to the lawn. Organic lawn fertilizers are packaged and labeled with terms such as “naturally organic” or “slow release”. If the NPK ratio is higher than 15, don’t use it. Organic fertilizers vary by region and soil pH.
Determining the type and pH of your soil is the first step to a healthy lawn. Soil test kits are available, or you can contact your county extension office for advice. Aerating your lawn is also a good idea, whether you do it with a pitchfork or spiked shoes, rent a mechanical corer or hire a lawn service. Aerating allows the roots to breathe. Remember, your best defense against pests and disease is good lawn care. Weekly mowing with the mower set at the proper height for your grass species will ensure a good cut. Leave clippings on the lawn, which act as a natural fertilizer.
Warm, moist soil brings out the best in organic fertilizers as microbes break down mulch materials like grass and leaf litter. This slow-release method doesn’t work as quickly as chemicals, but you won’t burn the lawn either. They also don’t contribute to the chemicals that end up in nearby watersheds.
Yes, some natural fertilizers cost more than chemical varieties, but your soil will be cleaner. With natural fertilizers, grass blades can better absorb the nutrients they need. Composting grass, leaves and food scraps can save you the cost of fertilizer.
Grass Food for Thought
Corn gluten meal prevents many weed seeds from germinating. It adds nitrogen to the soil.
Chemical fertilizers kill soil-building microbes and earthworms. Organic products do not kill the worms that aerate the soil, nor do they harm the birds that nibble on the worms!
Organic weed killers are available and are effective for spot control of annual weeds. The use of mulch and landscape fabric also reduces the number of places where weeds can seed.
Homemade weed killers that are safe for children and pets include lemon juice and boiling water. Note that vinegar and other home remedies can kill the grass along with the weeds.
Weeds happen. Don’t go crazy if those darn things start sprouting after you’ve treated an area. Sometimes a simple garden spade and a bucket will do the trick. With a little sweat, you’ll be doing the environment a big favor.