Here are the steps necessary to maintain an organic lawn:
- 1. Get a soil test so you know what your soil contains and what it is missing. You can buy one at Eldridge’s or other hardware stores. Apply compost to provide plant nutrients.
2. Water deeply about once a week. Dr. Rebecca Nelson Brown, Associate Professor of Plant Sciences, University of Rhode Island, says that grass only needs one inch of water per week in the Northeast. She cautions that sprinkler systems set to water daily wash nutrients from the soil and make the grass weak with shallow roots and that established New England lawns do not need irrigation at all.
3. Add clover to your lawn to trap nitrogen in the soil that feeds the grass. There is a new micro-clover that flowers below the grass level and spreads throughout the lawn. According to Dr. Brown, it can be slit-seeded at a rate of 2 lbs/1000 square feet into the lawn in August or September. The micro-clover is marketed by DLF and available from Hancock Seeds. Use 15% clover with 85% perennial ryegrass or 10% clover, 70% perennial ryegrass, and 20% Kentucky Blue Grass.
4. Mow high (at least 3 inches) and leave the grass clippings on the lawn. They act as a natural fertilizer. Paul Tukey from Safelawns.org, says that lawns mowed at 4 inches are the most weed free.
5. Timing is extremely important for successful organic weed and pest control according to Paul Tukey. Corn gluten to suppress broadleaf weeds in the lawn must be applied just as the forsythia is beginning to bloom, no later, or the weeds will be too big to be suppressed. Beneficial nematodes (microscopic organisms that can be applied to the lawn with a hose-end sprayer) to control grubs must be applied when the soil is 60 to 70 degrees F. and before the grubs have emerged from the soil, usually early to mid-June in New England.
6. Be patient. It takes a couple of years for a lawn to make the transition from being a chemical and pesticide dependent lawn to a healthy and vibrant organic lawn.