Organic Lawn Care
Your neighbors will "go green" with envy!
Think about your ideal lawn. Is it lush and green? Does it feel soft on your bare feet? If you think you can only have a thick, beautiful lawn with the application of pesticides and synthetic (conventional) fertilizers, youíre in for a surprise.
You can have a beautiful healthy low-maintenance lawn without conventional fertilizers and pesticides. Organic lawn care uses a whole systems approach to maintaining your lawn without toxic chemicals. Your lawn may look so good that your neighbors will want to "go green", too. Please share your organic lawn care experiences with us. Encourage your town officials to implement organic land care on playing fields, too.
1. Why is organic lawn care better?
Conventional lawn chemicals can pollute our water, harm wildlife and have adverse health effects on people and pets. Using pesticides to tackle weeds and pests can actually damage your lawn, too. They kill good organisms that help produce the nutrients plants need to grow, weakening the grass, fostering thatch, and encouraging diseases.
2. Should I have my soil tested?
Yes. Testing the soil is the important first step in lawn care. The UCONN Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory and the CT Agricultural Station both have soil testing programs. When sending in the samples, note that you want recommendations for amounts of organic (natural) fertilizers and soil amendments.
Healthy soil contains high organic content and is teeming with biological life. It supports the development of healthy grass that is naturally resistant to weeds and pests. In a healthy, fertile and well-maintained lawn, diseases and pest problems are rare.
4. What is the best time to start planning my organic lawn?
A healthy lawn has healthy soil and is mowed, watered, and fertilized properly and at the right time. The Town of Mansfield has adapted a calendar and guide originally developed by the Connecticut Chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association that details practices and timelines.
Tolerating a few weeds in your lawn is part of organic land care. Some plants that are considered "weeds" such as clover are actually beneficial. They add valuable nutrients to help sustain a healthy lawn. As a general rule, if you have less than 10% weeds in your lawn, you don't have a weed problem!
6. What types of products are used?
Corn gluten can be used as a weed suppressant and applied in early spring. Grubs can be controlled with beneficial nematodes (micro-organisms in the soil). These products and other organic fertilizers can be found online, in stores, or from landscapers practicing organic land care. Compost and compost tea can be used as soil amendments.
7. Is organic lawn care expensive?
If your lawn is currently chemically dependent, initially it may be more expensive to restore it. But in the long term, an organic lawn will actually cost you less money. Once established, an organic lawn uses less water and fertilizers, and requires less labor for mowing and maintenance.
8. How long will it take before I see a difference in my lawn?
In the first year without chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the grass may not look healthy. Thatís because the transition is being made from soil lacking a balance of nutrients and microbes to one that is balanced and nutritious. Know that within a few years, the grass will be healthy without the expense, pollution, and work of chemicals.
9. Where can I find an accredited land care professional?
The CT Northeast Organic Farming Association maintains a list. Grassroots maintains a lists of landscapers in New York. Make sure the company holds a valid state license to apply commercial pesticides (even if they are applying organic pesticides) and that the staff is trained and certified. The company should fully explain their strategy and which materials they plan to use on your lawn. If you have questions on licensing pesticide applicators, call the DEEP Pesticides Division at (860) 424-3369.
Municipalities are banned from applying lawn care pesticides on the grounds of public schools grade eight or lower. Many towns are also transitioning to organic land care on their playing fields. Talk to your town officials about getting the DEEP video about organic land care for municipalities. The Town of Middletown has Project Green Lawn to encourage residents to eliminate lawn chemicals. Ask your town officials to start something similar in your town.
Content last updated March 2012