Creating a Waterwise, Chemical-Free, Organic Lawn
Lawn alternativesPlanting a lawn has been the default, unimaginative choice of what to do with a front yard. Front yards that are full of sun can be beautiful, edible gardens. Just ask Ivette Soler, author of the bestselling book The Edible Front Yard. Need to remove some lawn to make room for a garden? Our quick sheet mulching video demos this easy procedure.
A waterwise lawn
What if you consider an edible garden, a perennial ornamental garden, a succulent garden -- and conclude that you really do want a lawn for soccer games and bouncing dogs? Guess what? Pam Geisel, head Master Gardener of California, says that a properly grown lawn takes no more water than an equivalent group of perennials. The key factors to growing an environmentally friendly lawn are found in our organic lawn care video including:
Choosing the right grass for your microclimate. Learn more in this UC Davis article on How To Choose Seed.
Organic lawn care builds good soil to foster deep roots Get your lawn off junk food. Ditch the pattern of pre-emergent weed controls and chemical fertilizers. Instead, build healthy soil for robust grasses, which will dominate most weeds. Add compost or compost tea to your lawn in the fall to invigorate the soil and grasses. Use organic fertilizers.
De-thatching or aerating your lawn Fine fescue and new varieties of Kentucky bluegrass are more prone to developing "thatch", a dense mat of dead and living grass that harbors diseases and keeps water from penetrating the soil. You can't correct thatch with some muscle and a rake, you need to rent machinery to de-thatch and then aerate your lawn.
Deep, infrequent watering First, check your irrigation system with the "can test" to be sure the water is even and not wasted. Watering daily does your lawn no favors. It keeps the roots short (they want to go where the water is, and with daily watering it's at the surface). Make a gradual transition to deep watering after you are sure your soil is in good enough shape to permit deep root growth. Warm season grasses have deeper roots than cool season grasses, and can go longer between waterings.
High mowing Don't cut more than 1/3 of the blade of grass -- cutting it shorter will slow down the root growth because the grass won't have enough photosynthesized carbohydrates to eat. Leave the grass clippings on the lawn to decompose and give your lawn about 20% of the fertilizer it needs.
For more information on growing a healthy, no chemical lawn, check out The UC Guide to Healthy Lawns.