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Natural Lawn Care
Get your lawn off Drugs!
Similar to Greening Your Garden, the basics of lawn care start with your soil. If you haven't had a soil sample taken in the past 5 years, this is where you need to start. Many local Garden Centers carry soil kits. The do-it-yourself kits will provide you with a bare minimum of information. You should really send a soil sample away to a lab for an "organic" analysis. An organic analysis will tell you exactly how much of each "amendment" you need to add to your soil to bring it up to par. A "regular" soil analysis tends to include only the PH level and the three main nutrient levels you can correct with fertilizers - nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Ideally, you should take your soil sample in the spring.
Most people water their lawns to much. Lawns need about one inch or water per week. If you haven't received enough rain in the past week to make up a full inch then you can add your own rain water from your rain barrels. One deep watering is much better then short spurts of water. Soaking the soil once a week will encourage deep root growth which will withstand the dry periods better.
Water early in the morning before it gets to hot and the water evaporates. Don't water at dusk as this leaves the grass wet at night which can encourage disease.
Don't cut your grass shorter than 3 inches. Longer grass crowds out the weeds and can withstand pest attacks better. Leave nitrogen rich grass clippings on the lawn to feed it.
A major cause of weed problems is compact soil. The compact soil stresses and kills the roots of your grasses, allowing weeds to move in and take their place. Aerating the soil allows oxygen to penetrate and restores proper drainage. Most lawns should be aerated at least twice a year, once early in the spring and once in the fall.
After the spring aeration, top-dress with screen compost and pest-resistant grass seed. Immediately after aerating in the fall, apply organic fertilizers as needed. A mid-season aeration is recommended for lawns with heavy thatch.
Use an aerator that leaves a "plug" of dirt on your lawn. By removing some of the soil you are sure to get air and water down into the soil. aerators that just use "spines" to make a hole could compact your ground further and the holes can quickly fill back in.
Thatch is a dense layer of dead grass stems and roots compacted on the surface of the soil. It is resistant to decay. A thick layer of thatch tends to prevent water from soaking into the soil.
Thatch, thicker than a half inch encourages insects and disease. De-thatch in the FALL. If you discover in the spring that you have a thick layer of thatch, aerate and wait for fall. De-thatching will create some stress for your lawn. It will help if you add a layer of compost afterwards.
Most weed problems can be attributed to poor soil conditions. Look after the soil and you also look after the weeks. Aerate, de-thatch, check PH levels, add compost.
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