The drawback with the ideal of a perfect lawn is that it can wreak havoc on both your wallet and the environment. The annual cost to care for the combined 40 million acres of land that make up our lawns is about $40 billion. Much of that money goes to products that help grass in superficial ways and can eventually degrade the soil, pollute the water they reach, and can lead to health risks for humans, their pets, and wildlife in the area, including birds.
So, what are some alternate options to having a beautiful lawn? Go organic! This isn’t as extreme as you might think. It doesn’t mean you have to give up a beautiful lawn, and it doesn’t mean that you will be spending the rest of your life tending for your lawn. It means planting what will do well in your climate, watering deeply but infrequently, and avoiding the use of dangerous and expensive chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Not sure where to start? Below are some guidelines:
Available at most garden centers, they contain natural ingredients such as seaweed for potassium, bone meal for phosphorous, and feather meal for nitrogen. Unlike conventional fertilizers, which deliver a heavy, instant dose of synthetic nitrogen (as well as phosphorous and potassium) for your lawn to binge on, organics provide an easier-to-handle diet of nutrients that are released more slowly.
Weeds and Pests
One thing you can do to prevent weeds is spread corn gluten meal-an organic weed preventative-on your lawn in the spring. The thicker your grass, the more easily it can crowd out weeds. So once your soil's been treated, overseed the lawn using an appropriate turf grass (ask your garden center for recommendations). Choose a seed mix that suits your climate, sun/shade conditions, and moisture needs, and make sure it blends well with your existing lawn. Water daily until new growth is established.
If a few isolated weeds show up, pull them by hand or try an organic weed killer, such as Nature's Avenger, a spray containing citrus oil, which dehydrates weeds down to the roots. Some gardeners swear by vinegar to do the same.
With a little patience and a slight change in thinking, you'll be rewarded with a handsome lawn that's easier on the earth-and on your conscience.