Again, I am still painting our house…which leaves me no time to blog. I am reposting this Organic Lawn Care Tips post from May 27, 2011. I spied our neighbors already mowing their lawns this weekend and breaking many of these rules. DON’T be our neighbors! Have healthy organic lawns all summer. PS if you live in Elko-New Market, it is extremely important to keep your lawn watering to a minimum. We are already getting notices that the water table is low. Make the choice, watered lawn or healthy drinking water?
Organic Lawn Care Tips
Repost from May, 27, 2011
When we moved into our 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 (i.e. no Scotts or Miracle Grow). 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.
Good tips! The great thing about grass is a healthy stand will do a good job taking care of itself. Our lawn is finally starting to get to a point where I’m happy with it after building this house 4 years ago. Of course the home builder seeded the lot on the driest and windiest of days. I couldn’t find much seed on the ground after their effort, so most of what we have know was put on by me I think. I don’t worry much about the clover or the occasional chickweed, but the wife has charged my with eliminating thistles since there’s a 3 year old running around. That’d be an easier task if my neighbor didn’t have thistle feeders in his yard!
I do have to agree on the thistles. They are soooo invasive (and hurt tiny feet). Clover and even dandelions (gasp) are really good for grass because they have deep roots that break up compaction. I believe you can buy thistle seed that is sterile. Maybe you should send your neighbor a bag 😉