Lawn Care

by Phil Haynes

Everyone can empathize with the trauma a person must go through to withdraw from chemical dependencies, and I believe there are some real similarities with rehabilitating your lawn and soil, though not as bad as what you might see on Celebrity Rehab! Converting a lawn from traditional (chemical) care to organic care requires an ongoing discussion, and I use it as an opportunity to talk with potential and existing customers about what is actually happening with their lawns and what they can expect from me as their service provider. Continue reading

Maintenance dilemmas of a modern obsession
by Nick Novick

A bizarre and wasteful fetish to some, a proud achievement of a caring property owner for others, our modern “boring carpet of green” has become ubiquitous, accepted, and in some circles has even achieved status as an object of envy and desire. How we have come to this point is a long and curious tale of primal urges; 19th-century, English land-use practices; and aggressive marketing from the emerging Lawn Industrial Complex after World War II. But, that’s another story. Continue reading

by Peter Schmidt

Interest in making and applying Actively Aerated Compost Tea has grown tremendously in recent years, particularly in turf grass management. Many homeowners no longer wish to live in toxic environments, and many schools no longer allow the application of pesticides and petroleum-based fertilizers. Compost Tea provides a way to manage turf and avoid these hurdles. Continue reading

by Josh Fodor

California has received a welcome reprieve from the drought with above average rain fall this winter. Although we may not be faced with stringent outdoor water use restrictions this summer, now is a great time to plan for future dry years, which are sure to come. Installing and establishing drought tolerant landscapes is easiest in good rain years, when plenty of summer irrigation water is available to get your new plantings established. Continue reading

By Judy Eisenberg
Reprinted by permission of the author and of the Somerville Journal

Growing the perfect healthy lawn free of crabgrass and weeds in shady areas requires high maintenance care, excess watering, and the use of chemicals and pesticides that are damaging to the environment. You can certainly grow your lawn organically, but consider replacing the grass growing in the shade with native groundcover, plants or shrubs. Continue reading

Spring – Gypsum is used in areas where snow has been piled, where salt has been used and where people or vehicles may have cut corners or parked on the lawn during winter. Gypsum relieves soil compaction and the effects of salt by chemical binding it. It is better to use calcium chloride rather than sodium chloride around any landscaping to melt snow in the winter. Gypsum and grass seed should be applied to any bare spots.

In the spring, it is advisable to rake, aerate and put down lime. Lime is used to change the pH, to sweeten the soil, and to move the acidity to a more neutral pH. Fertilizing, the natural cycles of decay and acid rain are some of the events that contribute to the ongoing acidity of the soil. Grass in particular thrives better in a more neutral pH environment which allows it to take up nutrients at the optimal rate.

When re-seeding look at the light conditions and buy sun or shade tolerant seed. Always purchase mixes and drought tolerant varieties to reduce single variety diseases and blights. Apply seed and then cover with a thin layer of compost to hide it from birds. Keep the seeds damp initially, watering twice a day for no more than 15 minutes. This is long enough to ensure dampness without seed or compost erosion. Water in the afternoon, no later than 3 PM, so that the incidence of fungus attacks is minimized. After two weeks, cut this schedule to once a day, in the morning. There is no need to water this much if it has been raining, or if it is cool and humid.

Corn gluten meal is an organic weed seed suppressor. It CANNOT be used when one is trying to also re-seed bare patches in the lawn. Corn gluten meal also adds a significant amount of nitrogen to the soil, so if one is planning to use it then the rate/type of fertilizer must be adjusted accordingly. However, a liquid form of corn gluten with a lower nitrogen content has recently been developed. Most fertilizers advertised on the market for promoting grass growth have an excessive rate of nitrogen. The more nitrogen, the more mowing is needed! But perhaps more importantly, excessive nitrogen is leached through the soil and can create serious ecological problems with wetlands, rivers, ponds and aquifers.

The best way to suppress weeds is to keep the lawn re-seeded on a regular basis AND to mow the grass high all summer long. Three inches at a minimum and four inches is better. Mowing the grass high will cause more competition for weeds and will also shade the soil so that weed seeds do not germinate readily. The shaded soil stays cool and moist longer and the grass is less prone to drought stress. Stressed plants are vectors for insect and diseases. Consider higher lengths in areas where the lawn is not readily visible (e. g. “the back 40″) and/or adding in meadow flower plugs.

Irrigation is necessary to keep the lawn green in July and August. Watering once a week in a given zone, approximately one inch will promote the best root growth and help prevent drought stress. Watering lightly and frequently promotes shallow root growth, and allows fungal diseases to develop because the lawn is frequently damp. Deep roots are also less prone to grub attacks. There will always be grubs, but if there are more roots the grass can withstand a grub attack and can regenerate the roots faster.

Fall – In the fall, the last mowing should be cut short and a light fertilization applied to promote root growth for the cooler months. If the soil is very acidic, another dressing of lime can also be applied.