Organic Lawn Maintenance

Organic Lawn Maintenance

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Organic Lawn MaintenanceSo why would you want to go organic? What are the advantages of organic lawn maintenance?

Well the reason is pretty simple: organically maintained lawns are healthier, stronger and better looking compared to synthetically maintained lawns. Organic fertilisers do not put any chemicals into your soil and grass and they last much longer. They are safe for pet and children, stimulate micro-organisms within the soil, contain micronutrients and other growth promoting ingredients that are needed for healthy grass growth.

With having strong and healthy grass you will be able to combat disease, weeds and drought naturally.

In fact, once the soil is healthy you might never again have to deal with pesticides or herbicides. As you establish a healthy foundation in the soil, your lawn will start to build up an immunity against outside pressures, so in most cases there will be no need to add these chemicals.

To get started down the road of healthier, stronger and better looking organic lawn, you’re going to need to make a few changes to your weekly lawn care routine. But not to worry, I’ll help you through every step and explain how to do everything correctly. You may not see immediate results as you would with synthetic fertilisers, but trust me, in the end, going organic is just so much better for your lawn.

Do a Lawn Soil Test

Now this is nothing different than a regular lawn care routine. You need to understand where your soil is at, which nutrients you need to add and which nutrients are most prominent within your soil. To do this accurately, it is important to carry out a lawn soil test. Just because you’re adding fertiliser doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing your lawn any good, if it’s not what it needs then you’ll be adding excess, which can often weaken and/or kill the grass.

So to avoid guessing you can purchase easy and inexpensive home testing kits or you can take a few samples from different areas in your garden and send them away to be analysed. The home testing kits measure the pH value of your soil, sunlight, moisture, temperature and provide instant results in a few minutes.

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Once you have the soil test results and know which amendments need to be made, prepare your grass by mowing to about 3-4cm, pulling up all the weeds, removing the thatch (dead grass and roots) and aerating the entire lawn. This helps it absorb all the amendments you make much more effectively. A pH of 6.5 is generally the best pH for the majority of gardens as it encourages growth.

Ideally you’ll want to carry this out at the beginning of the season, around spring to give the lawn time to absorb all the amendments.

Aerating

As I said above, you’ll want to aerate your lawn just before applying any fertiliser to help it absorb all of the nutrients. Although if you have a lot of clay in your soil or if the soil is showing signs of compaction then aerating can also be very helpful.

To do this more effectively you’ll want to use a powered lawn aerator instead of a fork or those spiked-shoes. Instead of just creating big holes, the powered machine extracts plugs of soil from the ground, which leaves much more room for oxygen exchange, root expansion, drainage and as you already know, absorption of nutrients.

However for us in the UK this could cause problems, if the weather gets too wet then it can be difficult to remove the plugs and the hollow tines could become completely filled with soil, rendering them pretty much useless.

Seeing as we will probably have to aerate much more often than our American counterparts, it’s best for us to use either a chisel or solid tine. They’ll still do the job without causing our lawn too much stress. I would only use a hollow tine if the problem was severe and in need for a invasive procedure.

If you would like to learn more about why, when and how we aerate, types of tines (spike/solid, chisel/slit or hollow) and when they should be used read my lawn aeration tips. 

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Organic Lawn Fertilisers

When it comes to lawn fertilisation, the greenest and best look grass comes from the healthiest soil and to get the healthiest soil, you’ll need to be using organic fertilisers. They release nutrients much slower than synthetic fertilisers, which make them much easier for the lawn to absorb. So even though you might not see a difference as quickly as you would with synthetics, over the long term your lawn will look much better and be much healthier too.

These fertilisers are made up with natural ingredients such as seaweed for potassium, bone meal for phosphorus and feather meal for nitrogen. Unlike synthetics, these feed not just the soil but also the living creatures and organisms within it. This addition of organic matter improves fertility, soil structure, drought tolerance and resistance against disease – synthetic fertilisers can do none of these things.

If you would like to learn move about when to fertilise, how to use fertilisers properly, what to do after you have fertilised your lawn and the best tools available read my lawn fertiliser schedule article.

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Composting

Organic Lawn MaintenanceJust as well as adding fertiliser, you’ll want to spread out compost across your lawn, which is especially important for those with clay or sand heavy soils, as it improves soil structure. They add essential organic matter to the soil and are packed full of beneficial organisms like bacteria, algae, fungi and nematodes – all of which improve the health of the soil.

Lawns which have been treated with compost are much more likely to look green in the middle of summer, whereas those which have not will begin to turn brown and might even stop growing because of a lack of water. Similar to fertilisers, compost can reduce compaction, provide the soil with nutrients and increase drought tolerance, all of which is why you’ll see these great results.

Look for compost that contains organic matter and spread it across the entirety of your lawn at about 1cm thick.

Grass Clippings & Thatch

Even though both of these are very similar, there is one you should keep and one you need to clean up. Grass clippings are about 90% water, so they will begin to slowly decompose – almost immediately after being cut. This as you would expect provides the lawn with nutrients and moisture, so you definitely want to keep them. This process is called mulching. If you would like to learn more about the benefits of mulching, best mulching mowers currently available on the market read my guide.

Thatch on the other hand is just dead grass and roots tissue found between the green vegetation and soil surface. With layers about 1cm thick the thatch blocks water, air and nutrients from reaching the roots, and can also house insects and disease.

Even though having some thatch is OK, it’s still important to carry out dethatching, especially if you have loads of it. You can either use a garden rake or a powered machine to remove all the thatch. It may take quite a bit of work, but it’ll be totally worth it, and you can add it to your compost.

Also remember that a naturally maintained lawn that is healthy will rarely have to deal with thatch, so after following your regular organic lawn maintenance and schedule, you may not have to concern yourself with dethatching.

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Mowing

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Now this is probably the most important part of an organic lawn care routine and will take a little bit of commitment. You need to mow consistently and you need to mow tall – even if you don’t think it needs to be cut, mow it anyway. You need to keep it growing and mowing promotes growth. The longer the grass blade surface the more it is exposed to the sunlight, so more photosynthesis will take place, and therefore more growth.

Just make sure you cut your grass according to the season and grass type. Make sure you mow it often enough (normally weekly during the summer) and do not cut more than 1/3 of the total length of the blade.

You don’t want to cut your grass too short, otherwise you’ll prevent it from growing strong and healthy. It will then not have the strength to supress weeds, disease and unwanted pests.

As mentioned above you can purchase a mulching mower, alternatively for best results, you can invest in a robotic lawn mower. They’ll work on the lawn as often and as consistently as you need, ensuring the grass height remains at the same level each day (unless you of course decide to change it). They also leave their tiny little clippings on the grass, which as we have already discussed are highly beneficial for the lawn. The main reason why buy a robotic mower apart from providing better results is of course, that they do all the work while you relax.

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Weeds

If you want to stop weeds popping up in your garden, you can do one of two things; remove them and their roots by hand / claw weed remover OR you can apply an organic weed killer. It is extremely easy, cheap and quick to make your own homemade organic weed killer, you will only need 3 ingredients. If you want to learn more read my homemade organic week killer article.

However both of these methods are just a quick fix and will not fix the root of the problem, weeds are actually indicators of something bigger. For example, crabgrass will indicate that your lawn is weakened or cut too short. So from this perspective weeds can actually be helpful, even though you might be required to do some extra work.

If you would like to learn more about keeping control of weeds, when and how you should remove them, the advantages and disadvantages of using chemical and non-chemical weed killers, read my keeping control of weeds in your lawn article.

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Bare Spots

When you notice that a bare patch has appeared on your lawn, you will need to spread some seed, cover it with a thin layer of compost and make sure you keep the soil moist – ideally water it lightly every day for a few weeks after it germinates and grass starts to grow.

Overseeding your lawn is a very simple process that has many benefits including reducing the amounts of weeds and moss in your lawn as well as increasing the density and quality of your grass.

Again ensuring your grass is happy and healthy will not only look great, but will reduce weeds, disease and pests, therefore following a regular seasonal lawn maintenance is important.

Organic Lawn MaintenanceWatering

Lawns require watering at least once per week during the growing season to remain green and vibrant, but the frequency depends on your soil type, weather conditions and the season. Watering will also encourage the grass to send down nutrients deep into the roots, making them less susceptible to drought and disease. For the best results follow these tips:

  • Water early in the morning, between 6am and 10am to give the soil time to absorb the water.
  • Water deeply and infrequently, once a week at about 1cm deep (clay soils) and about 2cm deep (sand soils). This promotes roots to grow deeper into the soil.
  • Use an automatic shutoff sprinkler to control watering when you’re out (waterlogged lawn is bad for your grass).
  • Use a rain gauge to measure how much water your lawn is getting (cheap to purchase).
  • Adjust your sprinkler so that it isn’t being wasted on driveways and other no-soil areas.

 


Thanks for reading my article. If you have any questions relating to organic lawn maintenance please use the comment’s box below, I will be happy to respond.

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4 thoughts on “Organic Lawn Maintenance

  1. I loved your post and was very timely, as we had our first gardening day of the season today! Because we have a small child, we are totally into organic lawn and garden and I’m glad to see that you’re recommending compost. I didn’t know that you can use vinegar to kill weeds. We’ll definitely give it a try!

    1. Aww great timing! Yeah I totally understand, you want to make your home as safe an environment as possible for your children, the ingredients in synthetics really could cause some serious harm so it’s much better going organic.

      And yeah I’ve heard vinegar works so give it a try!

      Thanks for the comment and best of luck with the season :-)

  2. Thank you so much for all of the organic lawn maintenance tips!

    I’ve always wondered if aerating was important. I own a tractor but never wanted to purchase the attachment. Furthermore, I was scared of damaging my lawn with the spikes.

    Now I know it’s beneficial and necessary! Thanks again!

    1. Yeah it’s totally worth it, you’ll improve drainage, reduce soil compaction and you’ll let air and fertiliser into the roots. Just remember you only need to use it once per year, maybe twice depending on your situation, so don’t feel the need to go and buy one. I would just rent one for the day as it’ll work out a lot cheaper.

      Thanks for the comment and I’m really happy you enjoyed the post :-)

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