Organic Ways to Care for Your Lawn & Soil
by Sydney Boogaard, SLCgreen intern
Maintaining a traditional green and lush lawn in Utah’s arid climate can be a real challenge. Utah’s extreme weather can place a significant amount of stress on our plants, grasses, and vegetables. But with a little proactive care, we can keep our yards healthy, happy, and pesticide free.
The key to this is to remember that our soils, lawns, and gardens are dynamic living systems that depend on a healthy ecosystem to thrive.
The suggestions below are sustainable and natural practices that can help maintain that healthy ecosystem– and thereby a strong flourishing yard.
Don’t forget to join our #PesticideFreeSLC campaign and pledge to keep our yards healthy and our bodies safe
Check pH Levels
Attending to the pH levels of your soil is essential to a healthy quality lawn and garden. Soil health is dependent on its pH levels. Soils pH is measured on a scale of 1 to 14. A number below 7 is acidic and a number above 7 is alkaline. In order to obtain optimal growth, you want your soil pH to be between, 6.2-7.2, nearly neutral.
Checking your soil’s pH is not as daunting as it may sound. You can pick up a kit at nearly any garden center or home improvement store. The test will determine if your soil is acidic, alkaline, or neutral. The test may also indicate any nutrients missing from your soil and what to add in order to treat the problem. Speak to your local gardener about how to supplement appropriately to correct any imbalances in your soil.
The blade height of your lawn mower directly impacts the well-being of your lawn. The shorter you trim your grass, the more frequent it will have to be mowed–contradictory to common belief. Mowing too short and too frequently is one of the common causes of lawn death.
The taller your grass blades, the deeper your root system. When lawns are mowed at a lower height, their roots are compromised, which in turn affects their energy reserves. This makes your grass vulnerable to weed invasion. Additionally, taller grasses reduce weeds by preventing sunlight from reaching weed seeds on the soil’s surface.
So, always make sure to mow your lawn at a 3-4 inch height!
The roots of your grass will determine its life expectancy and the amount of watering and fertilizer needed to support optimal health. Thus, it’s ideal to keep those roots deep and healthy. Aeration helps roots grow deeper, by alleviating soil compaction, improving air circulation, reducing water runoff, and enhancing water and nutrient intake.
The most beneficial time to aerate your lawn is during the early growing season and after you have mowed a few times.
Adding Organic Material
Organic waste, such as grass clippings, leaves, and other dead plants can help your lawn or garden in a number of ways.
Placing this material on garden beds suppresses disease, decreases thatch, and discourages the growth of crabgrass.
Organic waste also is a natural fertilizer. As these organic materials begin to decay, they provide much-needed nutrients to our soils. They also assist in binding the soil particles, improving soil’s water-holding capacity. As this cycle continues, the soil will require little to no chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
If you yard does not have a lot of organic material, or your lawn needs a little extra help, sprinkle ¼ inch of organic compost over your lawn in the early spring and fall.
Applying organic compost directly after aeration or seeding will allow the organic material to penetrate the soil directly. It can be smoothed out with a rake to help blend it in. After a few days it will no longer be noticeable on the surface of your lawn.
Additionally, if your lawn’s pH is low (acidic), adding organic compost will bring your soil pH closer to the desired neutral state.
After mowing or raking, recycle some of your grass clipping and leaves as a free and natural fertilizer. When grass clippings and leaves are left on your lawn, they promote root growth by helping the soil retain more water.
Another method which provides our soils and plants with beneficial nutrients is molasses. Not just for baking– molasses contains high levels of calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium which is essential to the growth and development of valuable microorganisms. These microorganisms in turn encourage healthy plant and turf growth and pest resistance.
Add 3-5 tablespoons of molasses to 1 gallon of organic fertilizer. It can also be added to water and sprayed on plant leaves or poured directly on the soil.
Pledge to be Pesticide Free
We hope these suggestions help you increase your organic and sustainable practices this spring season. Take the pledge!
Together, we can reduce the use of harmful pesticides and chemical fertilizers in our yards and in our community!
When you take the pledge, you can also request an attractive yard sign (below) as a symbol of your commitment. We expect it will also serve as an inspiration to others in your neighborhood to ask and learn more– and hopefully make their own Pesticide Free pledge.
Share this post on social media and use the hashtag #PesticideFreeSLC and stay tuned for next week’s tip!