A natural lawn is just as easy to maintain as grass that’s treated with synthetic fertilizer. In fact, once the organic lawn is established naturally, it’s less time-consuming and less expensive. Is your lawn safe for your pets? Is your yard a healthy environment for your children? How to have a natural lawn is easy by following these three important steps.
Popular belief about natural lawn care is that switching from a bag of chemical to organic fertilizer is all that is required. The intentions are good but there are other lawn care practices needed for natural grass. Sometimes it isn’t necessary to spend any money on natural fertilizer at all. Simply stop using synthetic fertilizers, or at least minimizing the use of them, helps improves the soil. It also cuts down on any health and environmental risks.
How to Have a Natural Lawn In Three Simple Steps
As with any living plant, the soil that it resides in is the most important factor concerning its health and vigor. Natural lawn care is no different.
When synthetic fertilizer is applied to grass, the nutrients that need to maintain a constant deep green color is provided. If you have poor soil you can still have a decent lawn with chemical fertilizers.
The problem is, you have to keep applying the fertilizers to maintain green grass. Sooner or later having bad soil will catch up to you and cause a variety of other lawn care issues. Not to mention, the constant exposure of the harmful chemical lawn fertilizers to your family, pets, and environment.
A Natural Lawn Starts with Organic Soil
Healthy organic soil requires less fertilization. Natural lawns maintain levels of nutrients by producing them through bacteria, fungi, and other occupants of the soil food web. Synthetic fertilizers disrupt this natural free resource and all the good it provides.
The benefits of healthy organic soil doesn’t end with supplying your grass with its natural fertilizer. It allows for water retention, drainage and enables fresh air to circulate in the soil. It also reduces compaction issues.
The perfect soil structure would be:
- 25% Air
- 45% Mineral
- 5% Organic Matter
Using step fertilizers on your lawn disrupts natural soil structure.
Having a soil test on your yard is the easiest yet most beneficial thing you can do for your natural lawn. For the cost of a pair of gardening gloves and 30 minutes of your time, this can be accomplished.
If you choose not to have a soil test performed at a lab then home soil test kits are available here. (Amazon link)
A soil test will tell you what nutrients your natural lawn is lacking. Your pH should be right around 7. This test will tell you your score. (Amazon link) You can go here to find out more about soil pH and how to adjust it.
You might be surprised to find that your grass is already receiving more nutrients than it needs and that you’ve been wasting money on fertilizer.
Organic matter should be between 5% and 10%. A correct percentage of organic matter is critical in achieving a beautiful natural lawn.
If you have a lot of earthworms in your soil you probably have decent organic matter content. Earthworms in your soil are vital to your success.
Organic matter can be applied in many ways:
- Compost top dressing
- Organic fertilizers
- Not bagging grass clippings
- Mulching light layers of autumn leaves on lawn
Does it seem like every year your lawn has issues no matter how hard you try to fix it? A soil test will give you the answers you need instead of just guessing! It will save you money, time, and needless work.
A Natural Lawn is Pet Friendly
Obviously grass needs water to grow and maintain a thick, green appearance. A natural lawn commands less water than that of chemically treated grass.
Naturally treated lawns will have soil full of biology (earthworms, bacteria and fungi etc.) and their food (organic matter) to keep that biology thriving. With a healthy soil food web, water is retained yet drained efficiently. Air tunnels created by the microbes, arthropods and earthworms allow water to flow through the soil system pushing out the stale air enabling fresh air to circulate.
Maintaining a lawn naturally allows this process whereas chemically treated grass disrupts this system. Synthetic fertilizers eventually hurt the soil structure and block water and roots from developing deeply.
Many debate how often and at what quantity a grass should be watered. A natural lawn should be watered once every week at 1 – 1 1/2 inch. That quantity should include rainfall. During periods of drought a lawn can be watered every few days.
Of course, trying to convince someone who just paid a couple thousand dollars on an irrigation system to do this is difficult. If you water the lawn once a week, you train the roots to grow deeper into the soil.
If the grass is watered every day there is no reason for the roots to grow. If watered once a week the roots will travel inches into the ground to get their water. This is especially important during drought periods. The longer the roots, the more water and nutrient absorption. Natural lawn care isn’t just about preventing the use of chemicals in the environment. You can still have beautiful green grass without watering your lawn to impress the neighbors.
Water conservation is everyone’s responsibility
Unless you purchase an expensive riding lawn mower, cutting your grass can be a tedious job. Whether your mowing grass in the spring when it’s wet or dealing with summer heat, lawn mowing is a factor when planning your weekend.
Lawn mowing, though, is an important step in natural lawn care. It is easier when you do not use step program lawn fertilizers.
It is imperative to cut your lawn at 3 – 3 1/2 inches for most grass types.
Reasons for mowing a lawn higher:
- Shades out potential weed seeds from germinating
- Cools soil – preventing less evaporation
- More grass-blade exposure – sunlight, water, and nutrient absorption
Mowing the lawn too short stunts root growth and the grass loses the ability to withstand drought during the heat of the summer.
Lawnmower blades should be sharpened and balanced at least three times a year, more often if possible. Professional landscapers usually sharpen them almost every day depending on their schedule. If the mower blades are dull they’ll tear the grass instead of slicing it leaving it frayed and the natural lawn will appear to have a whitish cast and it just doesn’t look right. It also leaves the grass vulnerable to disease and insect injury.
Natural lawn care is dependant on the height of your grass and how frequently you mow. Different grasses have different height requirements but regardless of whether it’s cool or warm-season turf the rule of thumb is the most you cut off a blade of grass at any one time is 1/3 of the blade length.
It can get tricky in the spring with all the rain. If you get behind schedule, which is easy to do, just raise the blades until you reach the 1/3 inch rule and then mow again in a few days until you get back to the desired height.
I’m constantly being asked if grass clippings should be bagged or left on the lawn. Leaving the grass clippings on the lawn provides 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet of lawn for that season. Yes, free fertilizer. The same stuff big corporations are charging you $40 a bag for. It also provides organic matter and food for bacteria in the soil.
- Grass clippings feed bacteria
- Mulched leaves feed fungi
Of course, you don’t want the clippings to clump up on the lawn so rake up or blow any heavy areas of clippings. A lot of commercial mowing companies cut the lawn more than once, mulching any heavy clippings. Mulching mowers definitely need a clean deck with the same mowing habits we discussed above.