Care for your lawn organically and on the cheap

By on May 19th

This post syndicated from Hipster Housewife.

When my husband and I started talking about buying a house, I had a major hangup: lawn care. It actually affected how we looked at houses; we wanted a home without a ton of lawn. Less lawn meant less water, less time, and fewer chemical applications.

We ended up scoring a house with almost zero lawn. Yes! But I still wasn't stoked. Yes, I am that much of a crunchy that I didn't want to buy a house because it had a lawn.

I wanted this house bad, though. I had to find a way around the lawn care issue. One night I sat down to Google and spent a few hours learning about organic lawncare. I expected to find information about spendy herbicides and fertilizers and complicated maintenance schedules.

Instead, I found a system that made so much sense to my ecosystems-loving brain.

The overall gist is simple: make it easy for your grass to be the most competitive plant. Use tactics which cater to development, growth and success — conserving your fescue or bluegrass' energy and making conditions difficult for unwanted grasses and weeds. The fact is, the way most people care for their lawn makes it very difficult for the grass to hold its own. Really!

Give your grass the competitive edge

  • Mow high.
    Your mower should never go below four inches. When grass is cut short, it wastes energy trying to shoot back up to a healthier height. It needs that blade of grass to act like a solar panel! Cutting grass too short means other weedlings also get more sunlight and therefore, more energy. 

  • Water infrequently. 
    Grass can send its roots deep in search of water, but they'll stay shallow if you water too often. Weeds like crab grass and clover have shallow roots, so in times of drought they're stressed much more than a fescue or a bluegrass whose roots have gone deep. Wait until the grass starts to wilt, then water and water hard — about an inch in each area. 

  • Use organic fertilizer
    A slow-release jobbie with no salts. Harsh stuff damages the ecosystem of invertebrates and bacteria, and it doesn't contribute to a healthy overall soil composition. Plus, it all goes down to the river. I had some trouble finding an organic fertilizer at a good price, but I ended up running into a $10 pound bag of Milorganite at a True Value Hardware. No salts and made of human poop. Yes.
  • Never ever fuck with the life in your lawn. 
    Slugs, earthworms, itty bitty bugs and birds should all be happily scheming out front. This means: NO HERBICIDE. And no pesticides, either. When you make your lown friendly for birds, they'll take care of grubs.

We started green lawn care last year, and it's going well. I can already see the difference: where our property butts up to the neighbors', their lawn is being overtaken by clovers while my grass is holding its own. There is a visible line between the two. My lawn has naught a dandelion, though they've taken over all the lawns around. I do spend some time pulling crab grass each week, but I expect the need to lessen as the soil and grass recover from the lawncare service it was accustomed to.

If these aren't enough to keep your grass happy and balanced, you need to learn about pH and topsoil, and work on those areas if they're lacking. But dollars to donuts, these four things will keep your lawn happier than most others, with less work. 

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About Cat Rocketship

I was the Managing Editor of Offbeat Home for a year and a half. I have a rich Internet life and also a pretty good real life. Hobbies include D&D, Twitter, and working on making our household more self-reliant. I also draw things.