Green lawn care is a smart response to the fact that many lawns are a chemical wasteland of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. According to the group SafeLawns, Americans use some 80 million pounds of pesticides on lawns each year -- that's 10 times more than farmers use per acre.
Advocates of green lawn care have found that a healthy, beautiful, safe lawn is easy and inexpensive to attain. Just follow these 8 tips for green lawn care, and reap the benefits of a gorgeous lawn.
1. Less Lawn Is More
It may sound like heresy to you, but a broad expanse of lush green lawn is a high-maintenance environmental nightmare. The amount of gasoline and oil, air and water pollution, dangerous synthetic chemicals, and other factors like blood, sweat and lost weekends that are involved in keeping a flat green space of uniform-height grass is somewhat insane. But there's no denying that we love our lawns. As a compromise, try planting more ground cover, trees and other plants, consider a xeriscape landscape, or think about shrinking the size of your mowed area.
2. The Dirt on Green Lawn Care
Soil is soil, right? Wrong. Soil is alive with the critical microorganisms that make lawns possible, and one of the basics of green lawn care is understanding your soil. Is it acidic, or alkaline? How much organic material is in it -- or is it mostly sand that drains quickly? Fortunately, most states have agricultural extension services or cooperatives that will test your soil, often for free. Send in a sample of your soil for testing before you spend any money on fertilizers or other soil amendments that might do not good and could actually harm your lawn.
3. The Green, Green Grass of Home
When it's time to plant or reseed a lawn, don't spend money on whatever the hardware store has on sale. Green lawn care specialists advise choosing a grass that's appropriate for your property, region and climate. Though Kentucky bluegrass and Bermuda grass are popular grasses, they also need lots of water and fertillizer. Instead, consider perennial ryegrass, fescue, seashore paspalum, centipede grass or other low-maintenance grasses.
4. Mowing and Green Lawn Care
Are you mowing correctly? First, make sure your blade is sharp -- either sharpen the blade or replace it (most new blades cost less than $20). And unless you have Bermuda grass or seashore paspalum, adjust your blade height so that you have about 3 inches of grass -- shorter grass dries out faster and invites more weeds. Finally, let your clippings fall where they may. Grass clippings are a natural fertilizer and don't contribute to thatch (the buildup of dead plant material above the soil).
5. Who You Callin' Weed?
Weeds are the bane of all lawn lovers, but unless you've entered your lawn in a competitive landscaping contest, just relax. A few weeds will always appear in a healthy green lawn, and many plants that are known as weeds, like clover and dandelions, are actually important to a healthy lawn because they help to return nutrients to the soil. If you really have a weed problem, try using pickling vinegar as a natural weed killer.
6. Watering and Green Lawn Care
Many people either over-water or under-water their grass. The best way to water is, of course, to not water, but let rainfall do the work. During dry spells, water once a week, about one inch of water, and do it early in the morning so the water will have time to soak in before the day's heat, but the lawn won't stay wet for hours, which contributes to fungus and other growths.
7. Fertilizers and Compost
The nutrients and microorganisms in compost make it the best possible fertilizer. If you don't have access to compost, your local municipal waste hauler might have some available. Many retailers now sell organic fertilizers specifically made for grass. Use other fertilizers carefully -- many contain chemicals that can burn plants or soil.
8. Overseed Your Green Lawn
Because we mow grass before it can go to seed, we prevent grasses from reproducing naturally. That can result in bare patches that weeds invade. Most green lawn care advocates recommend overseeding in spring or fall to outcompete weeds and keep your grass green and healthy.