Plant Solutions NJ Staff
Yes, you can have a nice lawn without chemicals: Your guide to taking your NJ lawn care organic
Spring is the ideal time to consider switching your lawn from a conventional nutrition and pest control regimen to one that is organic. It’s like New Year’s Day for the lawn, a benchmark in time when both you and your lawn begin a new and healthier lifestyle.
First, let's talk about the benefits of organic lawn care vs. chemical lawn care
Why should you establish an organic lawn? Organic lawns use nature-based materials to nurture both the soil microbiology and the grass itself, not long-lasting synthetic chemicals that can leach into the water supply. Not only do these lab-made chemicals linger in the outdoor environment, they can also be inadvertently ingested or absorbed through the skin of your family and pets. Some of these harmful chemicals include organophosphates, carbamates, phenoxy and benzoic acid herbicides like 2,4 D, pyrethroids and organochlorines.
You may also be concerned about the cost of going organic. While the initial outlay for switching from conventional to organic may be pricy, organic lawns eventually become predominantly self-sustaining, resulting in few inputs over time. Conventional chemical treatment programs keep your lawn dependent on these treatments year after year.
Commit to cutting conventional/chemical lawn care
Like any resolution, organic lawn care starts with cutting off your lawn from a diet of synthetic fertilizers and weed- and pest-killing chemicals. This frees your yard’s soil to build up naturally occurring and beneficial microorganisms. As the soil rebuilds itself, it nurtures a safe, healthy and sustainable lawn that will be green and glorious over the long haul. Once you’ve cut off the unhealthy diet to your soil and sod, taking your lawn organic is a matter of a few simple steps.
Taking your lawn organic: It's as easy as one, two, tree (See what we did there?)
1. Test your soil
To transform a conventional lawn into an organic one, you need to know your soil’s starting conditions. A soil test will reveal what nutrients are missing from your soil, thereby impacting the health of your grass. The test will also explain how those nutrient deficiencies can be remedied. An organic option should be available.
2. Prepare the lawn
Give your lawn the typical spring cleanup—rake to remove thatch, manually remove any weeds and use an aerator on the lawn (or call in your favorite lawn maintenance crew to do the job). And then maybe not so typically, spread a half-inch of compost over the entire area. This compost is rich in all the stuff a conventional lawn’s soil is lacking—beneficial bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms that will help grass roots grow and thrive. It’ll also give your soil a better structure, allowing roots more oxygen and space to grow.
3. Use organic fertilizers and treatments
Drop the synthetic fertilizers from your lawn’s menu. Use organic fertilizers with natural sources of nutrients such as seaweed and bonemeal. These natural materials release their nutrients over time. Consider it as a long but delicious meal rather than filling up on the sugars of a candy bar and soda that’ll have you crashing just hours later.
Apply the organic fertilizer according to package directions right over the compost layer, and then overseed with grass seed. Which type of grass is best? That’s a question for your lawn care professional or your local garden center. Look for one that is well-suited to your light and moisture conditions.
Organic pest control near me: Dealing with weeds and pests the organic way
The transition from conventional to organic lawn care will have a few hurdles along the way. It does take time—a few years—for an organic lawn to become the healthiest version of itself and to grow a thick enough foundation of roots to squeeze out any weeds. During that time weeds will appear. Be vigilant about removing them, especially before they flower (We're looking at you, Dandelion). Remove them by hand or use a reputable and effective organic/natural weed killer.
For NJ insect/pest management such as tick control, deer control, or mosquito spraying, your best bet is to ask your local lawn care professional or garden center to help identify the issue and provide solutions. It may be as simple as switching the irrigation timing or applying a beneficial microorganism to target the problem.