Daily News Archive
Lawn Care 101 - Take Simple Steps This Fall to Convert Your Lawn to
Getting Started- Late September- Early October
1. Mow High Until the Season Ends – Bad mowing practices cause more problems than any other cultural practice. Mowing with a dull blade makes the turf susceptible to disease and mowing too close invites sunlight in for weeds to take hold.
Keep your blades
sharp, or ask your service provider to sharpen their blades frequently.
For the last and first mowing, mow down to 2 inches to prevent fungal
problems.For the rest of the year keep it at 3-3.5 to shade out weeds
and foster deep, drought-resistant roots.
3. Fertilize, but go easy! – Fertilizing in early fall ensures good growth and root development for your grass. Nitrogen, the most abundant nutrient in lawn fertilizers promotes color and growth. Adding too much nitrogen, or quick release synthetic fertilizers, will result in quicker growth and the need for more mowing. Too much nitrogen can also weaken the grass, alter the pH, and promote disease, insect, and thatch build-up. If applied too late, nutrients can leach directly into nearby surface waters. Be aware of local phosphorus or nitrogen loading concerns. Your soil test results will ensure that you apply only what you need.
Your grass clippings contain 58% of the nitrogen added from fertilizers, improve soil conditions, suppress disease, and reduce thatch and crabgrass. So, leave the clippings on your lawn. You can also use a mulching mower and leave the leaves on the lawn too.
Compost is an ideal soil amendment, adding the much-needed organic content to your soil and suppressing many turf pathogens. In the fall and spring, preferably after aerating, spread ¼ inch layer of organic or naturally-based compost over your lawn. Compost tea and worm castings are also great additions.
Look for compost or organic slow release fertilizers at your local nursery or order online. A few fertilizers, such as Ringer® Lawn Restore®, are certified by the Organic Materials Review Institute, www.saferbrand.com. North Country Organics has a number of natural fertilizers, including phosphorus-free fertilizers for lawns close to fresh water bodies, www.norganics.com. Others choices include Peaceful Valley Farm Supply www.groworganic.com, Down To Earth’s Bio-Turf, www.downtoearthdistributors.com; and Harmony Farm, www.harmonyfarm.com.
4. Overseed With the Right Grass Seed – Once again, Fall is the best time to seed your lawn. Grass varieties differ enormously in their resistance to certain pests, tolerance to climatic conditions, growth habit and appearance. Endophytic grass seed provides natural protection against some insects and fungal diseases - major benefits for managing a lawn organically. Talk to your local nursery about the best seed for your area. Check to see the weed content of the grass seed and that there are no pesticide coatings.
Lastly, develop your tolerance- many plants that are considered weeds in a lawn, have beneficial qualities. Learn to read your “weeds” for what they indicate about your soil conditions. Monocrops do not grow in nature and diversity is a good thing.
For instance, clover- considered a typical weed, is found in soil with low nitrogen levels, compaction issues, and drought stress - conditions that can be alleviated with the above recommendations. However, clover is a beneficial plant that takes free nitrogen from the atmosphere and distributes it to the grass, which helps it grow. Clover roots are extensive and extremely drought resistant, providing significant resources to soil organisms, and staying green long after turf goes naturally dormant.
It is highly recommended that you analyze your soil to determine specific soil needs. Contact your University extension service to find out how to take and send in a soil sample. In addition to nutrients and pH, ask for organic content analysis, and request organic care recommendations. Ideal pH should be between 6.5-7.0, and organic content should be 5% or higher.
For more information
on starting and maintaining your organic or natural lawn, and to find
local resources in your area see the National Coalition for Pesticide-Free
Lawns website at