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An Overview of Organic Lawn Care

Organic is defined as any compound containing carbon and, thus, includes both natural as well as synthetic sources. In the more familiar sense, organic implies compounds which occur naturally.

Rising concern for the environment has led to an increase in the organic approach to lawn care. Organic lawn care programs are based on the development and maintenance of a vigorous turf in an effort to minimize the need for major curative or corrective processes.

In organic lawn care, when corrective methods become necessary, they tend to be "natural" as opposed to the synthetic ones used in conventional lawn care programs.

Consumer demand for "organic lawn care" has resulted in the Ecological Landscape Association's development of a program for standardization of organic lawn care procedures and methods. The goal of organic lawn care is to use ecological options, including such concepts as Integrated Pest Management and using the "least toxic pest management" process available.

The underlying basis of organic lawn care practices is soil management where the biotic character of the soil is at least preserved and more importantly improved. Organic matter provides nutrients, moisture retention, texture, and an environment to sustain high populations of microorganisms.

Fertile soil is essential for a healthy lawn. A soil test is a fundamental first step to any organic or conventional lawn care program. The two programs differ mostly in the forms in which nutrients are added.

Apply fertilizers naturally

The guiding principle of organic lawn care is to feed the soil. In this way, it differs fundamentally from traditional lawn care, which focuses on feeding the grass.

Nourish your soil with natural and organic products such as finished compost (from your own backyard compost heap), well-aged manure, grass clippings and/or slow-release organic fertilizers.

Grass clippings and compost can be applied in small amounts throughout the growing season, but slow-release organic fertilizers are best applied in late summer through early fall. An early spring application is also acceptable. Unlike quick-release chemical fertilizers, these natural and organic products will not burn grass or contaminate ground and surface water.

Topdress with compost

Nourish your soil by sprinkling finished compost over your lawn. Finished compost has an earthy odor, spongy texture and rich-brown color. It contributes a wide range of both macro and micro-nutrients, which are released slowly over a long period of time. It also contributes microorganisms, which help decompose thatch and other organic matter.

Recycle your lawn clippings

Instead of collecting and putting clippings out for garbage, leave them on your lawn. Grass clippings are the perfect fertilizer for lawns. They are free, convenient, chalk full of nutrients and organic matter and able to boost soil fertility by up to 30%. They also return moisture to your soil and shade it from the drying rays of the sun.

Beneficial insects found in turf

Healthy turf may (and should) contain a variety of beneficial or neutral (neither pest nor beneficial) insects. Some of the beneficial insects include ground beetles, rove beetles, predatory and parasitic wasps, non-pest ants. Some insects may be beneficial and prey upon harmful ones or just be neutral to the turf environment. Predatory beetles and some small flies can be predatory on turf-consuming caterpillars. Unnecessary pesticide use may reduce the insects that are actually suppressing pests.