In the third part of our Sustainability blogs, we look in more detail how you can create and care for beautiful lawns organically.
Lush, green lawns have many benefits. Not only are they beautiful, but they are also great for relaxing, playing, and entertaining. A well thought out and kept garden can also increase the value of your home, and the visual joy of a lush green lawn can help with the saleability of a property too.
All too often a green lawn is not very eco-friendly. Traditionally a lawn would receive chemical fertilizer, weed killers and pest control. Depending on your local climate they can also need a lot of watering and a lot of time!
Even mowing the lawn, which cannot be avoided during the growing months, is far from environmentally friendly if a petrol mower is used.
There are, however, remedies to these issues and we go into a little bit of detail about some alternative methods and products you can consider helping the environment.
Good soil is the key to growing and maintaining healthy plants – grass included. Did you know that you may have up to 3,000 blades of grass per square foot in your garden – that’s a lot of hungry plants to feed and water!
If you have an existing lawn, it is quite possible that it is fairly compacted from usage, so start by aerating. You can do it by hand with simple tools such as a pitchfork, or you can use automated tools such as a power aerator or a manual rolling aerator – great exercise and great for the environment.
Once you have aerated you should dress the lawn with soil amendments such as compost, sand, peat etc., depending on your type of soil and what it needs. Using a lawn spreader works for spreading organic fertilizers and amendments.
Choice of grass depends on many factors, including the type of soil you have, the growing conditions such as sun/shade. However, whatever type you choose you need to ensure that there is a minimum of 10cms of soil for new lawns. Using a mechanical seeder is probably the best way if you are growing your new lawn from seed as it will ensure a more even distribution of the seeds.
Once you have spread the seed, or indeed laid turf, one of the most important factors is to keep the area damp for around 2 weeks. A great way of doing this is to install an automatic watering system. If you install it at this stage your lawn will always be treated to the correct level of watering, from start through growth, and to maintenance stages. A garden irrigation system is a great way to control water usage, ensuring the right amount and in the right places, at the right time. Even better if you can connect your automatic system to a sustainable water source such as a bore hole.
The temptation is to cut the lawn too short. Of course, it may look neater, and you may think it saves on maintenance and mowing time. The fact is that taller grass is likely to be healthier grass with its longer roots it can get to more water and nutrients. Taller blades of grass will also help reduce the weeds that can survive in the lawn by causing shade. The optimum length of your lawn to be as eco-friendly as possible is around 7.5cms.
Your mower, which should preferably be a rechargeable battery type, needs to be well maintained, with the blades being regularly sharpened. If the blades are not sharp enough you will tear the grass when you mow, rather than cut the grass. Torn blades are much more susceptible to disease, and we want to reduce the amount of any pest treatment wherever we can.
Of course, in a perfect world the weeds in the lawn would not need any controlling, but alas we are unlikely to be in that position!
However, we can do the best thing and use organic weed control products. If your lawn is healthy and already organic, the weeds should be at a minimum anyway. The topics we have already discussed will also help keep your lawn largely weed free, but for those that do persist, dig them up using your hoe. If you feel you must resort to using products to keep those weeds at bay, there are organic lawn care products. Check online or at your local garden centre for suitable products.
If you have pets or small children using the garden, you can kill weeds using boiling water or spraying them with pure vinegar. Several applications of vinegar may be needed for more resilient weeds.
To make sure you use the “right” fertilizer for your lawn you will need to know your soil type. You can use a simple PH testing kit. Depending on the PH of your soil you will need to then use the correct nutrients to bring your soil back to the correct PH.
Organic fertilizer should be labelled with natural, organic, slow release. Of course, the alternative to buying organic fertilizer is to use your own home-made compost.
Your Organic Calendar
There is, as with every plant in the garden, a right and wrong time to carry out lawn care.
Spring and Autumn are the right time to aerate your lawn and help improve with amendments.
Late May is a great time for feeding with organic fertilizer, or compost, followed by another feed in early July – depending on the weather conditions, and a final time in early autumn to prepare for the winter and next spring’s new growth.
Mowing is of course a seasonal activity, but mow when the grass needs mowing because of its length, not just because it is 5 days since you last mowed it. Once the growing season is over, cut it slightly shorter, down to around 5cms.
If you follow the right procedures with your lawn, you can enjoy an organic, sustainable, eco-friendly lawn which will be green, vibrant and inviting.