The first steps in growing an organic lawn means understanding four simple techniques. Luckily, these are easily described and easily accomplished.
Step one: make the lawn thick.
Every fall, you’re going to add two to 6 pounds of grass seed per thousand square feet of lawn.
- If your lawn is lush and green now, then 2 pounds is acceptable.
- If the lawn is sparse and weedy, then you can add four to as high as 6 pounds per thousand square feet.
This will increase the number of grass plants per square foot in your lawn. And because grass is an effective competitor, it will choke out the many weeds.
We call this overseeding and we’d do this. When the night temperatures cool down in September.
Step two makes the soil fertile
Fertile soil feeds your grass plants and make them healthy. The simplest way to do this is to add compost at the rate of 2 pounds per thousand square feet in the spring and 2 pounds per thousand square feet in the late fall.
Compost will activate all the microorganisms in the soil and these in turn work to increase the health of each individual grass plant.
This is a good point in this note to remind you that a lawn is composed of thousands of individual plants. I invite you to consider you’re not “growing a lawn” but instead you’re “growing thousands of plants” that make up a lawn.
Organic matter is the lifeblood of good soils. So we’re going to do two things, to ensure a high organic matter content in your lawn. The first is to add one bale of peat moss per thousand square feet in the early spring. The second is to set your lawnmower at its highest setting and allow the clippings to stay on the lawn after mowing.
For the average lawn, these simples how-to steps will improve fertility greatly.
Step three: controlling weeds organically.
There were two basic types of weeds we need to control.
The first are those annual weeds, whose seeds germinate first thing in the spring.
A good example of this is crabgrass. Crabgrass is an annual, and frankly, at the beginning stages, most gardeners can’t tell the difference between crabgrass and turf grass. Annual seeds are controlled by adding corn gluten at the rate of 20 pounds per thousand square feet of lawn.
Adding corn gluten every spring, will reduce or eliminate annual weeds within three years. Note this is why we spread our grass seed in the fall, because corn gluten will stop grass seed from germinating as well.
Perennial and established weeds will not be controlled by corn gluten. This will require a little work on the gardeners part.
I use a simple tool called a spud. It has a long handle and a forked metal blade that cuts perennial roots off. I repeat this several times in the spring and the vast majority of weeds are finished. The spud kills established weeds and the corn gluten stops them from reappearing.
Step four: controlling insects.
A healthy organic lawn will be less bothered by insects, and any damage is quickly repaired by the lawn itself. After a few years of organic fertilization, you’re going to find that insects and pests are not a problem.
In the organic lawn, white grubs and other pests are easily controlled using predator nematodes and chinch bugs are controlled with insecticidal soap drenches.