More people today than ever care about having organic lawn and gardens. Chemicals have earned a bad reputation and families with children and animals who love to play outside value having a beautiful, chemical-free lawn. Chemical products tout that they are the only solution to a weed free lawn, but there are many natural and organic ways to improve your lawn without harsh toxins.
Improving the Soil Organically
To improve your lawn without chemicals you must start with improving the soil quality. Lawns are typically nourished from the ground down with rain and hose water, and fertilizer. The root systems of grasses aren’t very long due to this and the shortened and frail roots make the lawn grasses easily affected by drought or flooding.
Starting to improve your lawn from the bottom up will help make your lawn resistant to extreme weather. Your lawn needs a healthy foundation to grow from and improving your soil quality means you will spend less time watering and pulling weeds.
The first step to improving soil quality is to get a soil test. These are usually free or inexpensive and available at your county extension office or parks and recreation departments. If you cannot test your soil you can observe a 6-inch-deep sample of soil. If the soil is dark, soft, and crumbles easily, the quality is probably pretty good. If the soil ribbons, you have soil with a lot of clay. Thatch under the grass is a sign of poor soil quality as well.
If you are starting your project in the spring, you should aerate your lawn next. This step improves soil texture. For a truly organic lawn, you also need to fertilize your yard annually using compost to topdress the lawn. Spread the compost one inch thick over the lawn and use a rake to work the fertilizer down into the top soil layer.
PH adjusters can be used last to balance the pH in the soil. You can tell if your soil needs a pH balance through a soil test.
Growing Grass without Chemicals
After you have worked, fertilized, and adjusted your soil’s pH levels, you can begin the process of growing grass without chemicals. As your local environmental services agencies what kind of grasses are native to your region. A lawn care expert should also be able to answer these questions for you. Also keep in mind the amount of water that the different grass options need and be sure to choose a species that is hardy. Most grasses will also have specifications on sun and shade requirements.
Nitrogen helps grass to grow and when we have a lawn that is uniformly one type of grass or plant, the nitrogen in the soil can suffer. Allowing clover or dandelions to grow in the grass will improve the lawn quality and decrease the chance of a plant disease.
You will also want to overseed in the fall. Before laying the seed, cut the grass to around 2 inches high. Next, spread about 4 pounds of seed per 1000 square feet of lawn. Rake the seed down into the lawn.
Natural fertilizers work just as well as chemical fertilizers and are less expensive and better for your land. Chemical fertilizers work by nourishing what is on top of the soil. They feed only the top of the plant and do nothing for the root system. When you use natural fertilizers such as compost, you are feeding your roots, soil, and grass. This method creates a lawn that is stronger and more resilient.
Natural fertilizers or compost should be raked into the soil after aerating and before watering. Fertilizing only needs to be completed once or twice a year during the spring and fall.
Stopping Lawn Weeds without Chemicals
If you cannot allow weeds to grow in your lawn due to neighborhood association rules or personal preference it is possible to stop them from growing without using chemicals. There is no quick fix for stopping weeds organically because weeds are usually a sign of poor lawn health.
One way to stop weeds from growing is to let your grass grow a little bit longer. When grass is longer is has more surface space to photosynthesize and spread over the lawn. You can also use the tried and true method of a vinegar/detergent/vegetable oil mixture to spray on weeds when they are just beginning to grow. Gardening shops will sell stronger solutions that can be sprayed onto established weeds or injected into the root to kill the weed below the soil and stop it from growing back.
Once your lawn is free of weeds, a corn meal layer can be spread across the dirt. This layer will help stop new weeds from growing. You can purchase organize herbicides from any lawn and garden store but make sure to read labels and understand what weeds you have growing so that you buy the right product for your lawn.