Organic Lawn Care Schedule
Minimize vehicle and foot traffic on frozen ground to prevent damage to the lawn and turf.
Remove dead limbs and other debris from the lawn that accumulated over winter.
If you don’t have a current soil test taken within the last 3 years take one in the spring before any soil amendments are added. Use an accredited lab that utilizes appropriate chemistry for the region and that provides not only the results, but also recommendations.
It is often recommended for the first mowing to cut slightly below the recommended mowing height and catch and remove the grass and any possible mold or dead material that accumulated over winter. After the initial mowing resume cutting to the recommended mowing height for your grass variety and mulch the grass clippings back into the lawn. Factor into the annual fertilizer program that the grass clippings will contribute 25-30% of the annual nitrogen requirements of the lawn.
If using corn gluten meal for pre-emergent weed control, apply it at the recommend rate and time and factor in the amount of nitrogen contributed by the corn gluten meal into the total recommended annual nitrogen requirement for your grass variety. If corn gluten meal is used as a pre-emergent weed control then over seeding with grass seed should be delayed for 5-6 weeks or fall as the corn gluten meal will inhibit both grass and weed seeds. . See the information under the Resource section of this site titled: Corn Gluten Meal to Inhibit Weeds and Other Benefits.
When the soil is moist inspect the lawn for weeds and remove them by hand in such a way that the roots are removed intact. Weeds are more easily removed when there is moisture in the soil. Consider filling the holes left by the weeds that are removed with top soil and compost (50:50) and over seed with grass seed adapted to the site and the existing lawn.
Mow the grass as needed to maintain the proper height and not on a preset calendar schedule. Repeated mowing too close or scalping the lawn will further stress the grass, weaken the root system and increase the susceptibility to weeds, diseases and pests. Mulch the grass clippings back into the lawn. Mow to the recommended mowing height for your grass variety and such that no more than one-third of the grass height is removed during any single mowing.
Avoid clumping of the grass on the lawn and clogging of the mower by mowing when the grass is dry and by not removing more than one-third of the grass height at any single mowing. If clumping does occur disperse the grass clumps with a rake or blower. See the information under the Resource section of this site titled: Mowing and Related Considerations.
Anticipate that cool season grasses may turn brown and go dormant and typically recover without irrigation.
Before irrigating evaluate the irrigation system to determine the application rate and how evenly water is distributed across the lawn. Work with your irrigation company to ensure the water is evenly distributed and the system is run only as long as needed to meet the grass water needs. Use a rain gauge and consider if rainfall has meet the water requirements before operating the irrigation system. Do not irrigate at a rate that results in water running off the lawn. See the information under the Resource section of this site titled: Irrigation and the Use of a Precious Natural Resource.
If the lawn has a significant population of weeds such as dandelions, before the seed heads are mature, mow and catch the clippings and dispose of them properly to prevent further distribution of the seeds throughout the lawn.
In the case of cool season grasses when temperatures are hot and it is dry do not fertilize unless the grass is actively growing as may be the case where the lawn is irrigated.
Use compost and or compost teas to reintroduce beneficial organisms to the soil food web that might have been reduced in number and diversity by conventional lawn care and pesticides.
Use only organic fertilizers and check the results of independent testing of the products to ensure excessive metals and other contaminants are not added to the soil. Understand that the use of the word “organic” in fertilizers is not as regulated as organically grown food. Avoid biosolids or treated domestic sewage sludge that my contain metals, semi-volatile organics and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, pharmaceuticals, steroids, hormones and flame retardants. (Pesticides and You)
Core aerate the lawn if compaction is an issue. If core aeration is not used then use a slit seeder to increase the seed to soil contact. Over seed the lawn with grass seed adapted to the site and at the recommended over seeding rate to help maintain the vigor of the lawn and help the grass compete with weed seeds. After the soil cores have dried use a chain link or other appropriate drag to break up the cores and increase seed to soil contact.
Depending on how intensely the lawn is managed and used, fertilize with a natural or organic fertilizer according to current soil test results and grass growth needs and factor in the amount of N, P and K that was applied in earlier applications and from grass clippings. For higher levels of management consider a late summer early fall fertilizer application followed by and a late fall application.
Shinbrot, Xoco. “Biosolids or Biohazards.” Pesticides and You, 9-15. Vol. 32, No. 3 Fall 2012.
Earth Friendly Land Care, Inc.