Thursday, May 14, 2009

Organic Lawn Care - Where to Start?

So, if you're willing to give organic lawn care a shot, where should you start?

With the soil, of course. If your soil is not healthy, your lawn surely isn't going to be.

There are several things you can do at this junction. If you're a very methodical sort of person, the first thing you can do is get a soil test run. Most states have soil testing services (here is a link to Wisconsin's) for a reasonably small fee. You send a sample from your yard in, they send you a detailed analysis back. The big thing you want to look at is pH. Grass loves a pH of about 6.5. Certain troublesome weeds - like dandelions - prefer a more alkaline soil. Other weeds prefer a more acidic soil. The goal is to get your soil to the pH to that range - 6.2 to 6.9 - that your grass loves, giving it a better chance of choking out the weeds. To sweeten a sour (acidic) soil you want to add lime. To make soil more acidic, add gardeners sulfur. For more information on how to adjust soil pH, here is a handy website.

Another place to start is with finding out how much topsoil you have. Stick a garden shovel into your lawn and see how deep it goes without too much effort. If you only have a few inches, you might first want to consider aerating and amending your soil first. You can rent aerators from various home improvement stores. You want to find an aerator that removes about a 4" plug of soil. Go across your lawn at least two times in different directions (i.e. horizontally and diagonally) - one pass is usually not enough to make much of a difference. After you aerate, spread some organic compost or humus & manure over the lawn. You don't need a lot - maybe 40 lbs for 15,000 square feet. This is a somewhat slow process, so if you have a small plot (less than 1/4 acre) with very thin topsoil, you may want to consider just ripping it all out, getting a load of topsoil in, and re-seeding the lawn.

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