Natural Lawn Care by Francine Stephens, Healthy Child Healthy World. Children love to roll around on grass. But most lawns are maintained with toxic chemicals. And they don't disappear from the lawn when we can't see them. Use of chemicals to maintain lawns actually may do a bit of harm to the lawn itself. That's because chemical fertilizers don't build soil and may acidify it.
It's easy to keep a lawn green and lush without chemicals though. In fact, healthy lawns naturally resist most weeds, insects and disease. Ultimately, lawn pests should not be regarded as enemies, but rather as indicators of grass stress. Lawn invaders let you know that something is not right and that your grass needs help to survive.
Here are some starting tips on natural lawn care:
All lawns contain a certain amount of pest species and weeds. Establishing a "tolerance level" - the point where no significant damage to your lawn is done - is an important first step to a healthy lawn and deciding how much effort you'll put in for maintenance.
Choose a grass variety that is suited to your climate and soil. Such a variety is more likely to thrive without a lot of attention. Check with your nursery or agricultural cooperative extension agent for suggestions. Consider other types of ground cover, too, to reduce the amount of lawn that you must actively manage.
A healthy lawn needs healthy soil. Your lawn needs the proper balance of nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Adding organic compost naturally builds these nutrients in soil. A local nursery will be able to suggest alternatives.
Aerate soil. Grass roots need air to circulate around them and water to penetrate the turf. Earthworms thrive in healthy pesticide free soil and provide the best soil aeration.
Rake your lawn to reduce thatch build up. Thatch is the layer of decomposing plant material that naturally develops between the grass blades and soil. Thatch prevents water and nutrients from penetrating the soil. Earthworms help keep the thatch layer in balance.
Mow high, not low. Longer grass can take in more sunlight and moisture, making the grass stronger and less likely to have pest problems. Make sure the blade is sharp to prevent tearing the grass. If you leave your clippings on the lawn, they can recycle nitrogen back into the soil.
Weed manually. Pour boiling water on troublesome weeds and use good tools, like a dandelion digger to get at all the roots.
Water your lawn deeply. Allow the water to soak in and dry out before you water again. Deep, infrequent watering is the healthiest for the soil. Watering in the early morning is best to reduce evaporation.
Your local agricultural extension agent can help give you further advice on all of the tips listed above. The Extension program in Tarrant County is part of the statewide Texas AgriLife Extension Service and can be reached at 817-884-1945. To find your local extension agent if you live in another county simply look in your telephone book under county government or look on U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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