To achieve a pesticide free lawn what follows is a 12 Step Program to Getting Your Lawn Off Drugs...
1. TOLERATE SOME WEEDS And allow beneficial plants to exist such as clover in your lawn for its nitrogen-fixing magic.
2. HAND DIGGING WEEDS is the best method of weed control. More than 80% of all weeds are annuals. Hand-remove annual weeds before they seed, and remember to remove the roots of perennials.
3. RESEED BARE SPOTS before weeds fill them in. Most importantly, plant a mixture rather than a single variety (e.g. 60% fescue mix, 10% Perennial Ryegrass, 30% Kentucky Bluegrass, 2-3% Dutch White Clover). Diseases can be quite selective. A mixture of grasses will prevent complete destruction of your lawn.
4. TEST YOUR SOIL. Soil test kits can be easily obtained at a local garden centre. Such a test will give you an idea about your soil's pH and organic matter content, and the nutrients needed to balance it. Organic matter increases nutrient-holding capacity and improves aeration and water retention.
5. REMOVE THATCH, the matted layer of clippings and debris on top of the soil, if it is more than 1/2" thick. Thatch chokes out grass plants, prevents air, water and nutrients from reaching the soil, and promotes almost every possible lawn problem. Aeration and a brisk raking should remove much of the thatch.
6. AERATE LAWN to break through the deep thatch and reduce compaction of soil. This encourages deeper rooting and allows water, nutrients and organic matter to feed the soil. Earthworms are terrific aerators. Lots of worm holes in the lawn means the job is being done for you.
7. FERTILIZE NATURALLY. If your soil test results show the need, add organic fertilizers. Natural fertilizers are more desirable because of their long-term benefits…and they are needed less frequently. They improve the soil's ability to retain and release nutrients and they are alive with beneficial micro-organisms that speed up decomposition of clippings and thatch. And if the soil test says the pH is low, add a natural source of ground limestone when you fertilize (as long as you aren't seeding at the same time).
8. MOW AT PROPER HEIGHT. Keep grass 2 1/2-3" high. Never cut off more than 1/3 of the height at a time or your grass will go into shock! Keep the mower blades sharp so you don't damage the grass. Taller grass will crowd out weeds, grow longer roots and shade the soil.
9. LEAVE GRASS CLIPPINGS. Less raking! Once the grass is no longer coated in chemicals, the clippings are a free and natural fertilizer for your lawn, as long as they aren't too long or lying in huge clumps. Grass clippings begin to decompose almost immediately. They provide a 4-1-3 fertilizer, which is about as perfect a combination as a lawn needs.
10. WATER MORE DEEPLY & LESS FREQUENTLY. Water only when soil has dried out well into the root zone. LONGER GRASS = DEEPER ROOTS = LESS WATERING! Frequent light watering encourages shallow rooting and leaves the grass vulnerable to insects and disease. When run-off occurs, the soil has absorbed as much water as possible. However, if the water is not being absorbed quickly, it may also be a sign that the soil needs aeration. Water slowly for better absorption.
11. CONTROL PESTS NATURALLY. Chemical pesticides are indiscriminate, killing beneficial insects and earthworms and deterring birds. Practicing natural lawn care will create a healthy lawn which is unattractive to pests.
12. ENCOURAGE earthworms and micro-organisms through these organic gardening steps. Welcome birds and beneficial insects (e.g. ladybugs, spiders, dragonflies). Above and below the soil, these are the keys to unlocking your soil's potential.
Kreg Weiss is a co-founder of My Yoga Online and certified Hatha Yoga Teacher. Several years ago, Kreg discovered yoga while teaching health and fitness. Yoga dramatically transformed Kreg's approach to teaching health and wellness as well as changed his personal life bringing new direction in finding physical, mental, and spiritual growth.