Life Times Newsletter

Summer 2010
Vol. 12, No. 3


      HOME & GARDEN

 

    Lawn care, naturally
 

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Nathan Brandt, MS
Horticulture Specialist
BrandtN@missouri.edu

Lawns are important to us. They can be found everywhere: around homes, schools and businesses, at parks and sports fields, along roadways, and so on.  All of the lawns in the United States put together would occupy an area larger than the state of Missouri! 

Lawns provide us with many benefits: They moderate air temperatures, trap dust, and reduce soil erosion. But did you know they also are a significant source of pollution to local rivers, lakes and ground water? Researchers have shown that the average homeowner applies 10 times more chemical fertilizers per acre than farmers use on their land.

By switching to natural lawn care practices, you can reduce the impact your lawn has on the environment. Here are four key points:

1. Improve the soil. The secret to a healthy lawn is to have healthy soil. Unfortunately, standard home-building practices leave soils compacted and infertile.

    First, to begin improving your soil, take a soil sample to your local MU Extension office for testing. Be sure to follow their instructions on how to collect and prepare the sample. You will receive recommendations for any nutritional amendments your soil needs.

     Second, consider adding compost to your soil. The best time to do this is in the fall. Start by having your lawn core aerated. Then spread one-half inch of very well-aged compost over the lawn. Drag an upside-down rake across the lawn in several directions to work the compost into the aeration holes. This combination of soil testing and annual compost additions will increase your lawn’s resilience and hardiness over time. 

2. Reduce stress. There are several ways to do this. Mow your lawn at your mower’s highest setting, usually about 3 inches. Try not to remove more than one-third of the leaf blade at a time. This will reduce weed competition. Wait to water until your lawn takes on a bluish tint and your footprints are left behind. When you water, do it deeply and infrequently. This will help a deep root system to develop. Sharpen your mower blades at least once a year to reduce incidence of diseases.

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3. Use natural products. Chemical fertilizers do not promote soil health and are more likely to end up in waterways. Reputable nurseries carry stable, organic fertilizers. These do not provide instant results. However, in the long run, they will create a lawn more able to withstand insects, diseases, and weeds, reducing the need for pesticides. If you must spray, look for natural alternatives.

4. Accept less than perfection. A little clover is not going to harm your lawn; neither will a dandelion here or there.  Maybe you could drop one of your fertilizer applications. An imperfect lawn sometimes means trading the color green for being green. The latter is far more important.

  For more information:
 
Natural Lawn Care, #G6749, MU Extension,
 
extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=G6749

 

 


 

 

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University of Missouri Extension Editor: Roxanne T. Miller
MillerRT@missouri.edu