When we moved into townhouse two years ago, we were excited because we would no longer need to care for a lawn. After hours at the farm all day, we didn’t have the time or the energy to care for another plot of grass. Heck, we care for hundreds of acres each day.
It wasn’t long before we realized how uneducated our lawn care company was. They would mow the grass within centimeters of its life, spray and fertilize constantly and of course water ALL the time. This drives Tim crazy. It drove us even more crazy when we learned how much of our association dues were being spent on lawn care. I remember at our first association meeting Tim saying “I care for hundreds of acres of grass and I NEVER water.” He got a lot of blank stares.
Our pastures look better than most lawns and we don’t do anything special. In fact they are certified organic. Here are some organic lawn care tips from a dairyman on how to care for your lawn.
Grasses need soil: This may seem obvious, but some don’t seem to understand this. Soil (in contrast to dirt) is a living organism. It is full of life and nutrients. Most grasses for lawns don’t even need “good” soil. An easy way to keep your soil healthy without fertilizing is leaving your grass clippings on the lawn. As they break down they create more bio-matter. How many people waste hours raking their lawns, bagging the clippings, then PAY someone to dispose of them? Madness in my book.
Worms equal good: Last week when Lisa was working her part-time job at the greenhouse, a lady asked her how to get rid of the earth worms in her yard. What? Worms are good. First off they mean you have bio-life in your soil, second they aerate the soil. The tiny little holes and mounds they leave after a rain are GOOD. In addition, slugs are also good although not for hostas.
The structure above ground equals the structure below the ground: To have healthy lush grasses you need to have a strong root system. The amount of grass above ground equates to the amount of roots below ground. If you mow your grass within centimeters of the ground, you will have short roots. The grasses will not produce deep strong roots unless there is taller grass above ground. The simplest way to keep grass green is to not mow too much height at once or mow too short.
Weeds, what weeds? I think people stress about weeds way too much. A healthy grass stand will not allow weeds to grow. If you are constantly violating the basic principles above you are going to get weeds. Also, many weeds love soils that are over-fertilized.
You don’t need to water! If you have a healthy grass stand, you shouldn’t need to water your lawn most of the time in Minnesota. I cannot imagine how much money people in our neighborhood spend on watering their lawns. Besides the fact that I see some many sprinklers watering driveways and sidewalks, watering every night (or even every other in the case of our city regulations) you just weaken the grasses root system. A little stress is good on grass. The stress forces the grass to develop deeper roots. But then again if you are mowing really short your roots are going to be short and will need water. So don’t over mow and you will not need to water. It is much better to have a good natural soaking rain once a week. Healthy grass can even go up to two weeks without water. Also, in Minnesota you can plant fescue type grasses that don’t go dormant in dry weather (like bluegrass) and will just grow more slowly.
This morning while I was opening our curtains, I spied our neighbor watering his lawn. Really? We have had nothing but rain the last three months. Our grounds are so saturated that we cannot get tractors in many of our fields. Our neighbor violates all the rules above. He mows too often and too short, rakes his grass clippings and the result is his grass is already turning brown in spots. Don’t be our neighbor! Save yourself some time and money and enjoy a healthy yard without chemicals and hours of unnecessary work.
If you have specific questions seek out your local Extension office. In Minnesota you can email the Extension Master Gardeners and they will help you with your individual needs.
So here is to a happy organic lawn this summer! And don’t be a slave to your lawn.
Zweber Farms is a 4th generation family operated organic dairy. We are proud Organic Valley farmer members and sell our milk under that label. We also specialize in sustainably raised beef, pork and chicken and sell it directly to customers in Minnesota.Visit our website to learn more, www.zweberfarms.com. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitterand YouTube.