Summer is a season best spent outside. Hiking at your local park, exploring beaches, and kayaking rivers are all great warm weather activities, but there's one green space you'll be in the most this summer: your own backyard.
Stargazing, catching fireflies, grilling, gardening, playing tag, and relishing time with your family and friends all happens in this special outdoor space. The only thing that can make it better is a lush, green, weed-free lawn. But isn't a perfect lawn impossible to achieve unless you apply chemicals and pollute your local waterways? Not necessarily. Natural green lawn care can be safe for your family and your watershed, and leave you with that happy space you want.
I caught up with Alec McClennan, founder of Good Nature Organic Lawn Care and author of the book A Beautiful Lawn Organically. He has a passion for his kids, his pets, and hanging out together in a backyard free from fertilizers and pesticides that harm nearby creeks. Alec shared some tips about how to care for your lawn in an eco-friendly manner.
Caring for your lawnmower properly can be the first step to natural green lawn care. First, sharpen your mower blade annually. The shredded, yellow tips of individual blades of grass come from a dull mower blade. While you are working on the mower, move up the blade height to about 3.5 inches. This sightly taller grass will have deeper, stronger roots, Alec notes. Additionally, cut no more than a third of the grass height at a time.
He agrees that mowing your fallen leaves in autumn instead of raking and landfilling them is the best option. Not only are your mulched leaves super locally produced fertilizer, they break down to feed worms and increase soil permeability.
If you must water your grass, do it deeply and infrequently, no more than weekly. Lawns that are watered more often and only for a bit have shallow root systems. Use a hose rather than an automatic sprinkler so you're aware of how much water you are using.
Types of Grass
Most homeowners aren't going to rip up their entire lawn and reseed. If you do ever find yourself doing so, Alec recommends a mix of 5 percent microclover, 90 percent turf type tall fescue, and 5 percent Kentucky bluegrass for the Midwest. We can all add some microclover to our lawn by spreading some seed on the existing grass.
Microclover is not the red or white clover you're used to seeing with the large flowers. This is a smaller plant that only grows about four inches high and doesn't flower annually. It's also a legume, notes Penn State's Department of Plant Science, and will add nitrogen to your soil without the need for chemical fertilizers. This plant remains greener than grass in the hottest parts of the summer, making your lawn look green even when the grass has fried to a golden crisp. Early spring is a great time to spread clover seed either by hand or with a spreader. Prepping the ground with furrows made by a slice seeder will improve germination but is not necessary.
Getting Rid of Weeds
When weeds do creep into your lawn, Alec recommends an organic weed killer. It may not be as fast as the more mainstream weed killers, but this one is pet and creek friendly. You can inject the organic weed killer directly into more stubborn weeds with a syringe.
Additionally, invest in a tool specifically designed to pull weeds out of lawns, such as a weed fork or long trowel. The most thorough even have a button or lever to push so that the tool will do the pulling for you.
Beyond the Grass
There's much more to your yard than green grass. Consider a few more things to keep your backyard's eco-impact low. Planting native plants in your gardens will ensure that they are well-suited to your climate and won't become invasive. These natives won't need extra water or fertilizer to thrive, lowering your carbon footprint. Heavily mulch garden beds around your plants with chipped fallen branches or leaves to cut down on weeds. This way, you can avoid buying dyed or plastic-wrapped wood mulch and put some garden waste to use.
Also consider adding some wildlife habitat areas or leaving a portion of the yard as wild meadow or woods. Large garden debris and dead tree limbs serve as a great bunny hiding spot, while loose leaves in garden beds invite insect-munching toads and box turtles. And don't forget to add a patch of milkweed for the monarch butterflies!
How do you keep your grass green and get rid of stubborn weeds in an eco-friendly way? How are you creating wildlife habitat in your backyard? Let us know on Twitter!
The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.
Why It’s Good
Natural green lawn care produces green, weed-free lawns with the help of your dedication to eco-friendly practices.