Organic Lawn Care

Organic Lawn Care

No matter what your reasoning, switching to an all-organic lawn care program can yield a thick and healthy lawn. Whether you want to limit the toxic pesticides and herbicides, or just want to feed your lawn and soil more naturally, there’s some simple steps that can get you a dark, healthy, and lush all-natural lawn.

There are a few challenges and things to note before jumping into an organic lawn care plan. The first is to slightly reset your expectations. When you apply organic matter to your lawn, things will be a little slower to react. Example, when you apply a synthetic fertilizer with fast-release urea nitrogen, you will see a very fast “pop” of green and growth. Organic lawn fertilizers are made from more natural, eco-friendly ingredients and are generally slower to release.

If you cut ties of all chemicals in an organic based program, you will also face bigger obstacles when battling weeds and insects such as grubs. Natural products like corn gluten can take a couple of years (while applying a couple of times per year ) to really prevent most weeds – as can milky spore for grub control.

But organics can also be beneficial, too. If you focus on more all-natural ingredients, including minerals and nutrients (like vitamins and supplements) you can really develop deep roots, and soil fill with beneficial microbes.

Natural ingredients such as humic acid, sea kelp, and calcium are all major components to building a healthy turf that can naturally ward of many diseases. While incorporating molasses – an excellent food in the source of carbohydrates – magnesium and iron will help keep your lawn green all season long.

Without further adieu, let’s get into some DIY organic lawn care!

Organic Lawn Fertilizer

Switching from your run-of-the-mill synthetic fertilizers to organics will be one of the easiest transitions from standard lawn care programs. Organic lawn fertilizers are vital to a healthy lawn. Organics such as Milorganite are slow-release which means you will get a slow and steady feeding over longer periods of time. Second, since organics release slower, you won’t see a quick surge of top-growth. and the microbial activity with activate when the soil temps are > 55 degrees.

Organic Weed Control

Conversely, moving away from chemical herbicides will be more of a challenge to keep a weed-free organic lawn. Pre-emergents such as prodiamine and dithyopyr are very effective chemicals at preventing weeds like crabgrass. And post-emergent selective herbicides such as quinclorac can quickly kill crabgrass and other weeds without affecting your good turf. But when going with an organic plan, these are a no-go.

Organic Pre-Emergents

To prevent weeds, corn gluten is one of the most popular organic pre-emergent options. This can be applied up to 3-4 times per year, but like the chemical options, cannot be applied at time of seeding. Corn gluten as a weed prevention may take a couple of consecutive years to effectively control severe weed populations.

Organic Post Emergent Weed Killers

The best weed killer that is also OMRI certified is Avenger Organics. This is made from D-limonene (citrus oil) and is a fantastic weed killer. However, like most all organic weed killers, this is non-selective which means it will kill virtually everything in its path – including your good grass.

Another organic weed killer option is to hand-pull weeds, while also practicing integrated pest management (IPM). Clover, for example, is a weed that is often nurtured (not killed) in an organic lawn. Defined by IC IPM:

IPM is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties. Pesticides are used only after monitoring indicates they are needed according to established guidelines, and treatments are made with the goal of removing only the target organism. Pest control materials are selected and applied in a manner that minimizes risks to human health, beneficial and nontarget organisms, and the environment.

Organic Grub Control

Controlling grubs in an organic matter can also be challenging. Here are a couple of approaches to use in tandem:

Apply Beneficial Nematodes and Milky Spore. These will target different beetles so if you’re unsure which species is in your area, use both at the same time. The nematodes will give more immediate control while milky spore inoculation is spreading.

Note, like corn gluten, it may take two or more years for the active organisms in these products to completely control the treated areas of your lawn.

Secondly, you can also prevent beetles from laying their grub eggs in your turf. Products containing natural oil extracts (thyme oil, rosemary oil, peppermint, pepper, garlic etc.) can deter beetles from entering your lawn, but requires precise timing. Similar products that contain natural oils and extracts may also be formulated with and contain 2-Phenethyl Propionate a chemical with a non-toxic mode of action, with minimal (near zero) risks.

Organic Lawn Fungicides

The best mode of action against fungus and diseases is to provide your grass and soil the necessary nutrients it needs to ward off such fungi. I am a big proponent of Kelp4Less products and they have an entire line of organic products to feed your soil and to strengthen your turf. Let’s take a look at a few proven minerals and micronutirents.

  1. Humic Acid: A natural chelator that improves nutrient and water availability and uptake in plants.
  2. Sea Kelp: Aids in drought resistance, root development, and a proven soil stimulant
  3. Potassium: (SOP) Aids in drought tolerance, disease resistance, and all around plant health
  4. Calcium: A vital nutrient in building and strengthening the grass cell walls and structural support.

They have a full line of lawn care products but their organic acids are sold here. Use Kelp4less coupon codelawnphix” at checkout for 15% off everything in their store, and free shipping.

Organic Lawn Care Calendar

Ongoing Lawn Care Tasks

  • Set your mower high and mow between 3-4”
  • Mulch clippings (or bag and compost)
  • Hand-pull weeds – or spot spray as needed
  • Water/irrigate when your lawn shows signs of drought or heat stress

Early Spring (March-April)

  • Soil test
  • Rake/dethatch
  • Apply compost/topdress
  • Apply corn gluten
  • Apply organic fertilizer
  • Apply organic acids
  • Apply lime or sulfur if needed to adjust pH

Late Spring (May-June)

  • Apply organic fertilizer
  • Apply organic acids
  • Apply milky spore and beneficial nemotodes (grub control)
  • Apply corn gluten

Summer (July-August)

  • Apply organic fertilizer
  • Apply organic acids

Late Summer (September)

  • Dethatch, core aerate, and overseed
  • Apply organic fertilizer
  • Apply organic acids

Fall (October)

  • Apply organic fertilizer
  • Apply organic acids
  • Add lime or sulfur if needed to adjust pH

Organic Lawn Products

PRODUCTTYPE
Epsoma Lawn FoodFertilizer
Annugreen 16-0-2Fertilizer
MilorganiteFertilizer
Kelp4Less OrganicsSoil Amendments
Beneficial NematodesGrub Control
Milky SporeGrub Control
EcoVia G InsecticideGrub Prevention
Avenger OrganicsWeed Killer
Corn GlutenWeed Prevention

Sources:

  • https://www.ecolandscaping.org/05/landscape-challenges/pest-management/controlling-grubs-milky-spore-disease-or-beneficial-nematodes/
  • https://www.milorganite.com/using-milorganite/what-is-milorganite
  • https://www.ecopest-control.com/blog/2018/7/18/what-is-2-phenethyl-propionate
  • https://www2.ipm.ucanr.edu/What-is-IPM/

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