Organic Lawn Care - Knowledgebase Question

Ipswich, MA
Question by cturben
September 12, 2000
I do not want to apply chemicals to my lawn at all. I have been sprinkling compost, leaving grass clippings on the lawn after mowing, and pulling weeds by hand. Do you have any kind of specific advice on maintaining an organic lawn? I don't expect it to be perfect.


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Answer from NGA
September 12, 2000

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spread compost or peat moss, sprinkle grass seeds of a hardy species, press in, and water.

10. Fertilize in fall. This is an essential step. We must feed the soil. If you only fertilize once, fall is best. Use one of the organic fertilizers previously mentioned. Liquid dish soap and water sprayed in warm weather is effective against most insect pests.

Seasonal Care

5. Rake. If your lawn is healthy, it shouldn't develop thatch. But in case it does, use a rake to gently remove thatch (compacted layer of dead grass which prevents water from percolating to the roots). Do this in late spring or early summer. If your lawn is large, rent a dethatching machine. Don't act too soon after the thaw when the grass still feels spongy, or else the roots will be damaged, but don't wait so late that heavy seeder weeds have germinated.

6. Fertilize in spring. Many people will find this step unnecessary, and some experts recommend fall fertilization only. But if you want a really strong and pest-resistant lawn, apply (in mid-May) slow-release, granular, organic fertilizer. Highly-soluble chemical ones leach natural soil nutrients, stress the soil and grass, and may induce disease outbreaks. Organic fertilizers include compost, manure, processed sewage, top dressing, rock mineral fertilizer, bone meal, blood meal, and kelp. Some companies sell organic blends specifically for lawns.

7. Aerate. Aeration is the process of removing small plugs of earth to decrease soil compaction, increase water retention capacities, and increase air circulation to roots. It is best done in June (or the fall) to avoid times when heavy seeder weeds germinate and may grow in the plug holes. You can rent an aerator from a nursery or tool rental store.

8. Top-dress with compost. This is best done with aeration, but it can be done any time between mid-June and the end of August. If you don't have your own compost heap, buy composted cow or sheep manure. Broadcast it at 100 pounds per 1000 square feet.

9. Overseed. This gives excellent results when combined with aeration and top-dressing. Stressed areas and bare patches invite weed invasion. Loosen soil, spread compost or peat moss, sprinkle grass seeds of a hardy species, press in, and water.

10. Fertilize in fall. This is an essential step. We must feed the soil. If you only fertilize once, fall is best. Use one of the organic fertilizers previously mentioned.

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