Before you think about how to care for your yard, think about how you can decrease the size of your yard. Large expanses of short grass can increase runoff, cause all sort of problems with fertilizers, take lots of your time in mowing and caring, uses water, and are rarely the most attractive use of space. Look and think carefully about your yard space and decide if each grassy area is:
- Easy to Maintain
With that said, many of us are left with the question of how to grow a healthy, green yard without dumping tons of fertilizers, herbicides, and water onto them every year. Here are some ways to grow a healthy green, AND organic yard this year:
Start With Great Soil
Many yards are grown right on top of the fill used when a house was built, which is why so many of them are weak and need lots of tending. Just like a garden, grass will grow better when the soil is rich in nutrients (and you will also need less fertilizer). The deeper your layer of good soil and compost the better.
Consider Mixing Clover with your Grass Seed
Although not as popular recently, clover is drought tolerant and will actually fix nitrogen in the soil (which is something grass likes). Also choose grass that is appropriate for your area and the amount of sun your yard receives.
Keep Your Mower Blade Sharp and High
By keeping your blade sharp you cause less damage to the grass (and thus decrease grass death by disease). The lower you mow your grass, the faster it actually grows in an attempt to 'win' over the other plants in the yard. That means that the shorter your grass, the more fertilizers and water you need. Longer grass can also shade out the weeds and means you actually will have a nicer looking yard.
Don't Mow When it's Wet
In fact, try to avoid walking on the yard when it is wet since this compacts the soil and kills the grass
Leave the Grass Clippings as Mulch
Grass clippings get worked back into the soil and help feed the grass
Water Only When Needed
If you water only when necessary, the grass will naturally grow deeper roots and will be able to withstand dry spell better. When you water often, your yard develops shallow, crazy roots known as thatch. Water when needed and water deeply.
Weed By Hand or Use Herbicide Alternatives
With just a few weeds, you can pull these by hand, or consider putting down corn gluten meal in the early part of the year to control broad leaf plants.
Fertilizers are one way to add nutrients to the soil, but these products often over-fertilize your yard and much of these nutrients simply run off into nearby bodies of water causing all kinds of problems. Instead of fertilizers applied in bulk, you can test your soil and apply only what's needed, or better yet, top dress your yard with compost or compost tea to add nutrients to your grass each year.
Your yard does not have to be a time, money, water, and fertilizer black hole. With a little preparation and know-how you can decrease your reliance on these methods and still maintain a soft, full healthy yard.
How do you care for your yard?
For a great resource - check out the Cornell Cooperative Lawn Care Almanac