A healthy lawn will endure drought, diseases, and pest infestations better than a stressed lawn, and healthy grasses will compete better with undesirable weeds, so the best way to avoid using chemicals is to build up a healthy lawn, naturally.
Follow these tips for a toxic-free lawn:
Nourish the Soil
Don’t use pesticides and synthetic fertilizers because they kill the natural bacteria and fungi that nourish your soil and protect you plants.
Aerate in the fall. Core and slice aeration of the soil before seeding will improve germination and alleviate compaction.
If you have problem areas, test the soil and replace only what is missing with certified organic supplements. Cornell Cooperative Extension does soil testing.
Nourish the Grass
Leave grass clippings on the lawn and look at “Leave Leaves Alone” to learn how to mulch your leaves in. They break down to provide all the nitrogen a healthy lawn needs.
Seed in the Fall to Outcompete Weeds
Seed in early fall with a mixture of native grasses. A mixture of compost and grass seed is the best solution for filling in bare spots.
Let grass grow to 4 inches and cut it down to 3 inches, allowing it to shade its roots, conserve moisture and keep out weeds. Keep mower blades sharp so they do not tear the grass, making it vulnerable to disease.
Dig out weeds you really can’t stand. The best method to combat weeds is to use a little grass seed to outcompete weeds, but some people like to use an organic corn gluten product that prevents weed seeds from germinating on established lawns (but it also prevents grass seeds from germinating as well). It may take several years to control problem areas. For spot weed control on driveways and walkways, use a horticultural vinegar or vinegar/citrus oil combination product. You can buy this at Mill River Supply in Bedford Hills.
Control Pests Without Chemicals
Common pests (grubs, sod webworms, chinch bugs) can be controlled with applications of beneficial nematodes. Milky spore powder is another effective control for Japanese beetle grubs.
Commit to a toxic free yard and take the Great Healthy Yard Pledge!