Natural Lawn Care
The way to a lush green lawn begins with an understanding of how lawns grow and a respect for the needs of the grass plants. Misunderstanding and mistakes abound, especially in the areas of mowing, watering, and fertilizing. Let’s take a look at these aspects of lawn care.
How high or low you set the mower blade is based on the needs of the grass plants at the time, and that can change with the seasons. But one of the biggest mistakes people make is setting the blades too low. Their theory is that by cutting the grass very short they won’t have to mow as often. What actually happens is that they are putting the health, and maybe even the life, of their lawn in jeopardy.
For one thing, photosynthesis takes places in the blades of the grass, creating sugar as a food source for the roots. When the blades are cut too short, the plants are stressed in their attempt to make an adequate supply of sugar and must work harder. The result is actually faster growth. And the way to thicken the turf is to be sure the plants are allowed to make not only enough, but more than enough, sugar. That excess goes into the production of new plants, called rhizomes.
Another factor to consider is the competition between the grass and the weeds. Whichever one gets the most sun will shade the other. Without enough sun plants can’t carry on photosynthesis and they die. You want to give the grass the advantage. Longer blades mean better health, and their length and density will allow the grass to outcompete with weeds. With too much shade, weed seedling, especially, won’t stand a chance.
Therefore, during the growing season, set your mower as high as it will go. (That is probably 3 to 4 inches. As temperatures cool and winter rains begin, it’s a good idea to then lower the blades a little. The lower lawn height will allow the grass blades to ”dry off” faster, helping to prevent fungus and disease.
When you do mow, leave the clippings right on the lawn. As they break down, they add nutritious organic material that helps prevent thatch and feeds the plants.
Watering and Soil pH
As counterintuitive as it may seem, you should water your lawn LESS often for better results, BUT WHEN YOU DO, WATER DEEPLY. That helps to develop grass roots that go farther down into the soil. Grass watered frequently and shallowly develops shallow roots and the many horizontal runners that make up mat of thatch. If the grass doesn’t show any signs of drought stress, it may not need watering. If the lawn has become quite dry, it works better to give it only ½ inch, wait for about 90 minutes, and then give it another ½ inch. Add organic mulch in late spring to help reduce heat stress in the summer. Dr. Earth® Natural Choice® Compost makes an excellent top dressing or mulch.
You can check to see how much water your lawn really receives, by putting a cup in the zone of the sprinkler and running it for the normal length of time. You should see at least an inch of water in the cup.
Have the pH of your soil professionally tested because the inexpensive kits you can buy are often inaccurate. Your local county extension will sometimes test samples for free or for a minimal charge. Add lime if it is below 6.0 and soil sulfur if above 7.0. A higher number is more favorable to weeds, like dandelions, and grass prefers a pH of about 6.5, so accuracy matters.
Grass consumes high levels of nitrogen. Weeds like clover, which are legumes, can draw nitrogen from the air but grass cannot, so their presence could mean your soil needs more nitrogen.
If your lawn needs fertilizer, apply Dr. Earth® Supernatural™ Lawn Fertilizer as recommended on the package. This will feed it and supply organic material to the soil for up to 3 months. Dr. Earth® contains PRO-BIOTIC™, beneficial soil microbes and 3 species of endo mycorrhizae. These living organisms develop a symbiotic relationship with your lawn, helping it to better absorb nutrients from the soil. They also aid in relieving drought stress by absorbing water from a much greater volume of soil.
Beneficial microbes in Dr. Earth® Supernatural™ Lawn Fertilizer not only help to digest the organic fertilizer, but also aid in the consumption of thatch. Some of the microbes even produce antibiotic compounds that suppress disease-bearing fungal pathogens, preventing them from becoming established in your lawn. The end result is a healthy, productive, weed, drought and disease resistant lawn that will give you years of enjoyment.