The “Chemical-Free Lawn” Project – Environment Canada
Be a good neighbor! Don’t poison the soil, the water or the people in your neighborhood with chemicals.
Weed & Feed and other chemical fertilizers and pesticides are not necessary and there are natural lawn care steps you can take to reduce your weeds and pest problems!
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. But don’t give up! An old knife or fork will do or dandelion weeders are inexpensive.
3. RESEED BARE SPOTS before weeds fill them in. Most important is to 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. Purchase a soil test kit. Such a test will give your soil’s pH, organic matter content and nutrients needed to balance it. Organic matter increases nutrient-holding capacity and improves aeration and water retention. Don’t underestimate the importance of knowing your soil’s condition!
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 THE 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 mean 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 are needed less frequently. They improve the soil’s ability to retain and release nutrients and they are alive with beneficial micro-organisms which speed up decomposition of clippings and thatch. And if 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 THE PROPER HEIGHT. Keep grass 2 1/2 to 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! Northern lawns may need watering only in dry summers. 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. But, water that is not absorbed quickly 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. Get rid of thatch to get rid of pests. Just don’t use pesticides! (This is inconsistent with #9 – I think it best to come clean and say tolerate a higher level of pest damage).
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.