Many of the people that I respect and follow in the gardening world make it clear that you should dig out your lawn completely and just plant vegetables. I wish that I could go there. I wish that I was not hypocritical. But… alas.. I am shallow. And I like a nice green lawn.
Why? Why do I like this symbol of the suburban chemical warrior? Why do I aspire to a lawn like Augusta?
I don’t know. I just do. I like to walk in my lawn and feel the thick grass. I like to see the sprinkled (and NECESSARY NITROGEN-FIXING) clover. I like to watch my dippy dog roll in the dew. I like to wallow in the gorgeous green.
Nice green lawn! Note the stalking border collie coming at me
But, after many years of not knowing better, these days I most certainly do not like using the vile, evil, soul-stealing rotation of Scotts fertilizers.
Before I knew any better, I believed in the petrochemical miracle of seasonal fertilizing. How could you not think that weed killing, bug killing, summer stabilizing, fall fertilizing was a good idea?
Well, those fertilizers require tons and tons and tons and tons of gasoline to happen. Creating that magic mixture of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. And the weird pseudo ecology that they create in your lawn… well, it turns out that it’s not so good. Back in the day, I wanted to believe that I was doing the right thing – especially when suppressing (gasp) weeds and (holy shit!) ticks and fleas.
But, and this is important, it’s not doing the right thing. There are better, easier ways to get a good healthy, green lawn. Paul Tukey and the SafeLawns.org have been showing the way for a long time now. I follow a few of the simple things that they suggest:
- Compost in the Fall. A good spread of compost works wonders.
- Aeration every other year or so. My soil is pretty compact. Aeration helps a lot and is great thing to do when overseeding.
- Cut it high. Most people cut their lawns way, way too low. Let the grass come up. It stays healthier and can smother out the growing weeds.
I do feed the lawn as it is waking up. For this I use corn gluten meal. It is a crazy source of nitrogen and is very safe – no crazy pesticides or petrochemicals. If you watch carefully, you can tell the right time to apply it. Here in Connecticut, when the crocus come up and when the forsythia start to bloom, I spread it. It has a component that will inhibit new seedlings from establishing sufficient roots and will therefore prevent many common weeds from getting started. Just be careful not to spread it near your garden starts until they are established.
So. I’m not a total lawn crazy person! But I do like it green.