A beautifully manicured lawn is something we Americans pride ourselves on. The bright and lush sea of green is indeed, a sight to behold, but what if your grass isn’t lush or even very green? Or worse yet, what if your lawn is so full of chemicals that your children and pets can’t even play on it?
If you’ve never had your soil tested, this is something you can have done at your nearest cooperative extension (usually located at or affiliated with a state university). Personally, we use International Ag Labs in Minnesota or Logan Labs in Ohio for all of our soil testing. Make sure to take core samples from many areas in your yard and then combine them all in one bucket. Be sure to mix it thoroughly, and then take a sample from the combined soil for the best representation. If you have problem areas in your lawn, sample those separately to find the underlying issue of that area.
Testing your soil is important because it enables you to add the proper soil amendments by knowing exactly what is happening underground. While you can test your soil any time, it is recommended to test it in the springtime, before anything is applied to your lawn.
Depending on the results from your soil test, you can start applying prebiotics. We suggest our Perfect Blend Organic Fertilizer 4-4-4 which feeds the probiotics (microorganisms and soil life). We do this instead of spreading compost over our lawn at the beginning of spring.
Aerating your lawn is not harmful but we suggest only aerating if your soil is not allowing water to penetrate, causing puddles in your yard. Quantum Growth Light, Quantum Growth Organic VSC, and Quantum Growth Total are all great liquid aerators that we sell. Light and VSC should be used in combination with one other whereas Total is a stand-alone product. Once your soil is operating properly with good water infiltration and proper use of biotic fertilizers and microbiology, there is really no need to aerate any more.
Some people might suggest a healthy dose of nitrogen but did you know that nitrogen can naturally be sequestered from the atmosphere? We suggest keeping nitrogen application to a minimum and to allow nitrogen-fixing soil microbes to do their work and fix atmospheric nitrogen for your lawn (or turf).
If you are switching from a synthetically fertilized lawn to a natural and organic lawn you may have to slowly wean your lawn away from nitrogen or the lawn may look yellowed or pale green. Another great alternative to synthetic nitrogen fertilizer is inner-seeding your current lawn with Microclover® which naturally helps fix atmospheric nitrogen allowing for a completely sustainable lawn. Microclover® also allows your lawn to fill in areas that are not as thick/dense growing. Microclover® will also help with crowding out weeds making your lawn thick and lush.
In Quantum Growth, there are nitrogen-fixing microorganisms that help fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. The combination of Perfect blend organic 4-4-4, Quantum Growth, and overseeding with Microclover® will create a sustainable lawn that will make your neighbors envious.
If you have dogs, and a lawn, you have probably noticed some yellow spots where he/she is going potty. This can be alleviated by “spot training” which is basically teaching your dog to do their business in one area. Treating your beloved fur-baby with fruits, vegetables, and meat can ease the amount of nitrogen that is urinated onto your lawn. There are also pills you can give female dogs that will help with spotting. Make sure anything that you use or give your dog is organic. Also, if you do get a yellow spot from your dog, quickly treat it with a combination of Quantum Growth Light and VSC or Quantum Growth Total and then over-seed the spot with grass seed, and then treat again with Quantum Growth.
Most people take their yards for granted and just stick to the one basic—mowing. However, as you can see, there is much more that really should be done to keep your lawn healthy. This is important because grass keeps the soil covered and keeps roots in the soil, which helps keep your soil alive and teaming with microorganisms, fungi, worms, and other beneficial soil life (known as probiotics).
Now that the scientific stuff is out of the way and you have completed your soil test you can finally get down to the basics! Here are some quickie ways to maintain your healthy lawn:
- Water your lawn in the early morning - be sure to water deep and infrequently so the root system will stretch as it searches for water. Don’t water during the day because most of it just evaporates and don’t water at night because sometimes the water just sits on the grass creating a great habitat for mold and disease.
- Make sure you have sharp blades on your mower - if your blades are dull, that will more than likely cause your grass to rip instead of a giving it a nice clean cut. It’s also important to let your grass grow! Some people cut it too often and/or too short. A great rule of thumb is to only cut off one-third the size of the grass length.
- Here are a few more mowing tips: don’t always mow in the same direction—this will train your grass to grow in one direction and will give the illusion that it’s shorter. If you have a riding lawn mower, make sure your tires are always properly inflated. The reason for this is that if your tires are uneven your lawn will more than likely be cut uneven (picture an uneven hair cut...not a very good look).
- Avoid mowing your lawn when it's too dry. Doing that can break the blades of grass which can cause striping from the lawn mower wheels.
- Finally, leave your grass clippings. If you have a great mulching mower, then you're in luck, but if not, just spread your clippings around (don’t leave them in lines or big clumps) which will naturally compost back into the lawn.
If you stick to the plan above, then over time, your yard will grow fewer weeds. But, if they pop up, then you want to make sure to pull them out as soon as they sprout. A healthy and full lawn will naturally out-compete weeds and crowd them out. If you are having a weed problem (in your lawn…) we carry a selective weed killer, Fiesta. It is NOT a chemical weed killer like 2,4-D and other selective toxic herbicides; Fiesta is people and pet-friendly and the areas that are treated can be re-entered as soon as the weed killer is dry.
Be careful what you put on your yard! Lawns can be one of the most toxic parts of a home landscape. Taking time to know the products you are using on your lawn is very important. Stay away from “home remedies” and chemicals! If you want a sustainable lawn that can be enjoyed by people and pets without adverse health issues, then you need to invest time into creating a sustainable organic lawn and landscape. Your neighbors will envy you, your family and pets will thank you, and your lawn will thank you by producing luscious and dark green grass!