You can grow a lush green lawn organically!
Dreaming of a lush lawn? You don’t need chemicals to grow a beautiful lawn. Even though grass isn’t native to, or inherently suited to growing in our area, barefoot quality grass can be a part of your local ecosystem without the use of harsh chemicals. In fact, easy organic lawn care benefits not only the environment, but also the health of your local community.
Expand your perception, not your lawn
A gorgeous lawn isn’t always just grass. In our area, growing an all-grass lawn isn’t only difficult, it’s unrealistic. Grasses are typically a prairie plant. Rocky soil, like that found in Northern New Jersey, can make it difficult for grass to grow. A lawn in a partially shaded, rocky yard will actually look greener and more lush (with less work) when the lawn is biodiverse. That means including more species of plants than just grass.
Lawn purists should be aware that even lawns at the most opulent mansions often include broad leaf plantain (plantago major) and moss. Some people choose to grow spring flowers like crocus in their lawns. Once the lawn is mowed, these plants look just like grass. Clover is another popular add-in for organic lawn care, and it incorporates nitrogen into the soil to help grow thicker and greener grass safely and inexpensively without chemical fertilizers.
Soil: The heart of easy organic lawn care
Soil is the heart of a great lawn. Supplementing your soil will ensure your lawn looks its best, and minimize the amount of fertilizer used. Investing in your soil is as easy as adding a layer of compost once or twice a year. Jonathan Green’s “Love your Soil” is a compost that is fine enough to be applied in a lawn spreader, and gentle enough to be applied twice a year. In addition to adding nutrients, this rich compost loosens hard, compacted soil, increases root mass and drought tolerance, while supporting beneficial organisms that help release nutrients trapped in the soil.
Because grass ideally needs 8 inches of soil in order to grow, shallow lawns should include either a bi-yearly application of “Love Your Soil” or the addition of compost to help build soil depth for a healthy and robust root system.
Soil in Northern New Jersey also tends to be highly acidic. Because grass craves sweeter soil, a lime-based additive such as Jonathan Green’s “Mag-I-Cal” can bring balance. If you are unsure of your soil’s pH, kits can be purchased to determine if an application of lime makes sense. Or bring a quart size or larger sample of your garden soil to Glenwild for free pH testing to get started with your easy organic lawn care routine.
For added fertilization, try a granular nitrogen-based option in the spring or early fall like Jonathan Green’s organic lawn food.
Finally, choosing the right seed for our area and the amount of sun in your yard is imperative. We offer seed options for full sun, full shade, or a blend of both.
Effectively avoiding herbicides and pesticides
Organic lawns do require patience. Weeds can and should be pulled by hand. Corn gluten, a corn-based germinating preventative, can eliminate new weeds popping up throughout the season. Insects, on the other hand, often don’t need to be addressed unless there is a very large infestation. Your local garden center can help you determine if you have an infestation, or a normal and natural population of insects in your yard. Insecticides should never be used as a repellent, since they will also kill the beneficial organisms required for a healthy lawn. Beneficial organisms like nematodes, are natural options can help manage infestations like grubs without chemicals as well.
Watch your watering
Changing the way you water your lawn may make a huge difference in the thickness and quality of grass. Water must reach the bottom of the root system, or grass will not thrive. To be sure you are watering deeply enough, use a garden trowel to dig into the soil after watering. Find the bottom of the root system, and make sure that it is damp. If it is dry, you are not watering deeply enough. Instead of running a sprinkler for 15 minutes a few times a week, try running it once a week for a half hour to an hour. Chances are this will water the grass more deeply, and also ensure that your lawn is drought resistant (at least for a couple weeks!)
Keep learning about great lawns
Easy organic lawn care lawn takes time and a little bit of patience. Utilizing organic lawn care practices can result in lawns as beautiful as traditional methods, while creating a safe and healthy haven for your family and your local environment. Learn more about organic lawn care practices and products at Glenwild’s free talk on Saturday, April 1 at Glenwild Garden Center from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. To learn more or sign up contact Glenwild at 973-838-0174.
By Glenwild Gardens