How can I care for my lawn without using a lot of chemicals?
Real Mom Problem
“We have the most horrendous lawn on the block. We decided to have someone come and he really felt chemicals would be a huge help. Any other suggestions for our struggling lawn?”
- 1. Water often
- 2. Leave a thin layer of thatch after mowing to keep in moisture and add nutrients to the soil
- 3. Look into homemade pesticides that use natural ingredients
- 4. Find ways to invite birds into your yard to eat all the insects
- 5. Consider letting go of the idea of a perfect lawn, and allow for some dandelions and bare patches
Real Mom Solutions
While chemical fertilizers and pesticides can help your lawn thrive, they may not be the healthiest alternative. See how the moms of CafeMom maintain their lawns the natural way!
Our Expert Mom Says...
Caring for your lawn can sometimes be a lesson in frustration. If your lawn has become dependent on plenty of chemical application, it won't be able to withstand the uncontrollable variables in our weather. A healthy lawn starts with healthy soil, and requires very little additional chemical help. Here are some things that you can do to keep your lawn growing well:
Choose the correct grass seed -- Ask your local extension office what type of grass seed to plant. If you already have a lawn, keep it trimmed to 3-3.5 inches, and the grass will shade out most of the weeds.
Get a soil test -- While you are at the local extension office, ask for a free soil sample. They will provide you with a guide to any deficiencies (or over abundance of) that you may have in your current lawn. Ask them for organic alternatives if they recommend any amendments. They may not offer an organic choice as their first suggestion, since many homeowners do not realize that there are alternatives to chemical fertilizers.
Water properly -- On average, your lawn needs about one inch of water per week, during the growing season. A quick tip: Place a tuna can on the lawn, when it's full, the lawn has enough water.
Allow natural fertilizer to happen -- Your lawn will benefit from a little of the cut bits of grass creating a thin layer (less than half an inch) over the soil. Sometimes referred to as thatch, more than half an inch should be removed by raking. A little thatch layer helps retain water, and decomposes, to add nutrients to the soil -- no chemicals needed!
Amy Jeanroy is a Master Gardener and community herbalist living in Northern Maine. She grows her own food, flowers, and herbs as much as possible and loves to share her knowledge. Keep up with Amy and her garden adventures at thefarmingwife.com.
The Moms of CafeMom Say...
Will your children or other children be playing on the lawn? Pets? I tend to avoid the use of chemicals on our lawn for just those reasons. No, we don't have golf course lawn, but what we have is quite passable, all without chemicals.
I SO don't care for a lot of chemicals that I even use a solution of dish soap and water to spray my lawn for bugs...and yep, it works!
I am a little on the crunchy side so from an environmental and health perspective, chemicals are a no-no. There are some organic products out nowadays. A few of my neighbors go that route. Others just water like crazy. For us, we have some dandelions, and the lawn isn't fantastic, but I wonder who decided we all need to have those thick, green, perfect lawns anyway? As long as my kids can play on it, I'm cool with a not-so-perfect lawn.
I use a push mower on my lawn; I exert nothing but my own energy. I leave my grass clippings in the lawn. I pull out weeds by hand so as not to use chemicals, or waste money on products to keep them at bay.
I'm an organic gardener. No chemicals on my lawn or in my gardens. I hand pick slugs and snails after a rain, and put some wood ashes in the gardens to keep them out. Every morning while I have my cup of coffee, I wander around the gardens looking for anything that would eat and destroy the plants. I snip grasshoppers in half with scissors....yuk, but it works. The best organic solution I have found to keep my gardens, and lawn bug-free is inviting the birds into my garden. By feeding the birds all year round, they reward me by eating a lot of insects.
Interestingly enough, hubby and I have a bird feeder out in our yard. Our grass is rough and sharp, but the grass underneath the bird feeder is really soft and I LOVE IT. I told hubby we are buying some bird seed and putting it throughout the yard. It'll give the birdies a nice treat and we'll have the grass I've always wanted!
I don't treat my lawn at all. I just water and mow. I don't mind a dandelion here and there. I also mix my own natural pesticides from cayenne pepper and dish soap. Works like a charm.