The Road to a Chemical Free Lawn – Step One

snow kittyAs I sat inside last week with over a foot of snow outside my window, I could only think of one thing: spring.

(An upshot of the snow was making snow creatures in it.)

With spring comes my plan for a garden, cookouts, bonfires, and making s’mores.  This year I am also planning to take on my lawn.  2013 was the first year that I had to personally take care of a lawn.  Every year before that I either lived in an apartment or with my parents and the lawn just seemed to take care of itself.  Now that I am a homeowner I see that lawn maintenance is a lot of work, and I want to do it right with no pesticides or fertilizer that will kill bees and butterflies and pollute the Chesapeake Bay.

I have found that creating an organic lawn takes a lot of work!  To get started and I have enlisted the handy guides from Beyond Pesticides (a local DC non-profit).  Here are the few steps I am following to establish a new lawn:

1.  What kind of grass will be best for my soil?
My solutions: Fine fescue or turf-type seem to fit the bill because they do well in shade and the turf is pretty resilient all around.

2.  Seed or Sod?
My solution: sod is super expensive and usually full of chemicals so I am going with seed.

3.  Site Preparation – test soil, rough grade, add soil amendments and organic matter, final grading.
My Solution: This step is a little daunting.  I used the Beyond Pesticide guide for reading weeds earlier this fall to determine issues with my soil, i.e. very low nitrogen because I can see black medic and I have grubs.  This means I am going to grade my soil away from the house, add compost or compost tea, sow in some clover seeds with my grass (to trap nitrogen), and get some nematodes to eat the grub.

4. Maintenance
My solution: I will mow high on the mulch setting, aerate, water when needed just to establish the lawn, over-seed when needed, and apply more compost or compost tea in the spring and fall.

Hopefully these steps will help me establish a thriving organic lawn!

Not interested in planting grass?  Check out my next post on lawn alternatives.

Heather works in MOM’s Central Office.

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3 Responses to The Road to a Chemical Free Lawn – Step One

  1. alyssabdh says:

    Heather, this is awesome! I have found that one of my issues with my natural lawn is the dandelions. For some reason they just really bug me. I’ve been hand-weeding (with a shovel) my dandelions for several years and I get only about a dozen or two dozen each year now. Its so much work the first year or two, but I find it to be a satisfying habit, of sorts.

    Also, my husband made me crazy last year by sprinkling clover seeds across my newly-planted flower garden plot. Surprisingly, it was going really well, in that the clover does aid flowering plants, and it out-populated the crabgrass and weeds really well, at least at first. Unfortunately we hired a neighbor to mow our lawn when we were busy one week and he blasted right through the plot with the mower, which of course didn’t recover well over the summer. I might try it again this Spring, we’ll see.

    Good luck!

  2. Pingback: Changing Up The Lawn | MOM's Organic Market

  3. Caleb says:

    Don’t do more to your lawn than you need to. The right grass seed can help you grass grow full and beautiful if you lay it correctly and maintain it properly. Certain grass seeds can handle any type of weather and are low maintenance allowing the home owner to have beautiful grass with less work.

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