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Six steps for Natural Lawn Care

Good planning, turf management and frequent monitoring to prevent organisms from becoming pests will help you establish a healthy green lawn without the use of pesticides. Part of good planning is selecting the appropriate turf species for the intended use. Choose seeds that have improved resistance to drought, insects and disease. Follow the six steps to natural lawn care and you are on your way to a healthy lawn to be proud of.

MOWING

Most lawns should be mowed at a height of 5 to 6 cm (2 to 2.5 in) this will encourage the development of deeper root systems and also crowd out weeds and prevent the germination of weed seeds (shading).

Remove only 1/3 of the length of grass at each mowing. Excessive mowing adds stress.

Leave the clippings to return vital nitrogen to the soil.

Maintain mower, sharpen blades and use hand mowers for grass cutting.

FERTILIZERS

Look for "natural organic" slow release fertilizers.

Follow recommended instructions to avoid runoff or leaching of excessive fertilizer.

Fertilize mid to late May and again in early September (fall is most important.

Consider testing your soil to check pH levels and fertilize according to the needs of your lawn.

Using grass clippings can eliminate approximately 1/4 the amount of fertilizer needed.

Spraying with composted tea acts as a slow release fertilizer that will not harm lawns.

IRRIGATION

Avoid frequent shallow watering that promotes shallow root growth and weak lawns.

Avoid over watering that promotes lawn diseases, and leaches nutrients from the soil.

Aerate lawn to correct soil compaction, and de-thatch to improve water penetration.

Water early in the morning when rainfall is absent, lawns require approximately 2.5 cm of water per week. Recording rainfall will aid this practice.

AERATION AND SEEDING

Aerate compacted soil in spring and fall to improve root development. Make 2 or 3 passes with a power aerator when soil is moist. Ideal time April/May or September

Top dress with organic matter in thin layers, add thin layers without lumps throughout the growing season. Organic matter improves soil structure.

Over-seed with a diversified seed mix; for example: blend of perennial rye, fescue, and Kentucky Blue. Purchase what is suitable to your site. Water until established.

Having healthy aerated soil improves the health of turf and prevents build up of thatch that can be detrimental to grass root systems.

PESTICIDES

A number of studies suggest that chemical pesticides may be harmful to our health and the environment.

Crowd out weeds by promoting healthy vigorous lawns and use proper organic fertilizer, proper irrigation methods, and mowing.

Hand pick problem weeds when small (less than 4") - frequent inspection helps.

Identify the weed and learn its life cycle - perennial, annual, biennial.

ALTERNATIVES TO LAWNS FOR SLOPES, SHADE, AND WATERWAYS

Leave a buffer or natural vegetation strip along streams and lakes to filter pollutants and protect aquatic life and wildlife.

Include shrubs, ground covers, and native plants or low maintenance grasses that do not require mowing.

Avoid use of pesticides or soluble fertilizers near waterways.

Grass grows best on well-drained soil in full or partial shade.

Add excessive grass clippings to your compost bins in thin layers.

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