Organic Lawn Care


You may think that without the use of insecticides and pesticides one would have difficulty growing lush grass.  Not so.

Insecticides and pesticides destroy the ecosystem in the soil: the worms, microorganisms and microorganisms that live in the soil and keep it alive and healthy.  The result is that the soil becomes  depleted, the grass is not getting full nourishment, so it becomes prey to bugs.

The secret to a beautiful lush lawn is to keep your grass healthy.  Compare that to your health.  If you stay healthy, you can fight the viruses and diseases more easily, right?  The same goes with any plant including grass.

To achieve a healthy lawn, consider using this step-by-step organic lawn care system:

1. Cut no more than a third of the grass blade length and leave the clippings in the grass.  This reduces the need for fertilizer by 30%.

Set your lawn mower higher so as to mow high – up to 3 inches- and mow often.  Not only should you mow higher,  you should also keep your blades sharp so that you do not tear and injure the grass.

Grass doesn’t drink its food through its roots.  Like any other plant, the grass gathers its nutrients through its roots, but manufactures its food in its leaves — the green part of the leaf. Therefore if the leaf is cut back to one inch high, it is as healthy as you would be with one meal a week.

The lowest you should cut it is two inches (5 cm) minimum, and three inches (8cm) is best.

A second reason for keeping the grass blade at least 2 inches long is that the long blade shades the roots so keeps them cool.  Secondly, longer grass makes its more difficult for weeds to grow.

2. Test The ph Of Your Soil — if grass cracks, the ph is off.

Test the ph of your soil. If you don’t know how to do this, you will find the full explanation at

Grass requires a slightly acidic soil (a ph of 6.5 to 7 is best).  Soil that is too acidic can be ‘sweetened” with garden lime.  Please be careful with lime. You need very little to make a difference. Follow directions carefully.

On the other hand, soil that is too alkiline can be made more “sour” by adding sulfur. (Again, follow directions carefully)

3. Fertilize Only As Needed

Best time to fertilize is in the fall. Most lawns need to be fertilized every year because they need more nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium than soil usually contain (unless you mulch your clippings as mentioned above).Most fertilizers have these three elements but they vary in proportion, depending what you buy.

Avoid the stuff that makes your lawn grow quickly — your grass does not have time to root deeply; this new fast growth is weak and becomes easy prey to bugs.

Use a slow-release granular fertilizer.  Organic fertilizers are best because they last the whole year and prevent weak green growth that bugs love to eat.

If you need a plant activator, use fish emulsion or kelp.  Microbes feed on it and it makes better soil.

4. Aerate And Add Soil Amendments

Aeration is important in order to allow the grass roots to breathe in air in order to work properly.  A root trying to breathe in packed soil is comparable to a human trying to breathe with a plastic bag over his/her head.

Note that where the soil is compacted you will see a lot of dandelions. Rent a small aerator or hire an organic lawn business to do it once a year.

Next rake it all smooth, and overseed it with a bit of high quality chewing fescue or perennial ryegrass.   Most ryegrasses have endorphins, so the thicker the better.  Then water the seed in.

5. Water For Maximum Absorption

Watering deeply and not too often is best.  Watering properly will help your lawn grow deep roots that make it stronger and less vulnerable to drought.

Frequent shallow watering trains the roots to stay near the surface; thus the lawn is less able to find moisture during dry periods.

Bluegrass lawns need about one inch of water once a week. Fescues and perennial ryegrasses need only about half that much.  Put a small can on the lawn before turning the sprinkler on to measure watering accurately.

Depending on local rainfall,  soil type, the type of grass chosen, and the general health of the lawn, you may have more or less watering needs. However, no well established lawn should need to be watered daily.

When you do water your lawn, try to imitate a slow, soaking rain by using soaker hoses, trickle irrigations, or other water conserving methods.  Watering should be done early in the morning.

Watering during a hot summer day is a waste because of evaporation. Apply about one inch of water — enough that it soaks 6 to 8 inches into the soil.  Then let the lawn dry out thoroughly before watering it again.

6. Top Dress With Compost and Topsoil

When you wish to level your ground and to prepare for overseeding,  top dress with compost and/or topsoil.  Use “soil for grass” — not for garden.

Putting down about 1/8 inch is best. Buy the sterilized soil or certified weed free soil.  You can also choose to use compost to relieve compaction.

7. Overseed With Grass Varieties Appropriate For The Specific Area

Like any plant, grass has preferences.  Some grass prefer a humid climate while other grasses do very well in an area with water shortages.

Other factors to consider are type of soil required, nutrients they need, and their resistance to pests.

In addition, certain grasses grow well in shade while others require full sun.  It might be to your advantage to check these factors before you buy grass seed for your lawn.

If you buy sod, you usually get bluegrass which has V-shaped leaves with fairly blunt ends.  Bluegrass needs a lot of water and sun compared to other grasses.

Chewings fescue has very fine leaves with slightly rolled edges and visible veins.  This grass grows well in shady areas.

The creeping red fescue is best for dry areas.

If you grow perennial ryegrass, you will notice that this grass (particularly the varieties “Cutter” and “Edge”) are good at resisting insect problems.  The ryegrass leaf has prominent veins and is shinier below than above

8. Dethatch When Thatch Is Too Thick

Have you ever noticed a layer of dead material between the grass blades and the soil?  If so, you were looking at thatch buildup.  If this thatch buildup gets to be more than half an inch thick, it will prevent the water and nutrients from reaching the soil.  Not good!

If your lawn is healthy, this thatch is kept in balance by the microorganisms and earthworms who help it decompose and release its nutrients into the soil.

However, sometimes certain grasses tend to form a thick layer of thatch or you may have overfertilized your lawn or used a fertilizer which made the grass grow quickly.

In such a situation, you can get rid of a lot of that thatch (especially in the spring) by giving your lawn a good raking or by using a machine that slices through the thatch layer to break it up.

Another way to get rid of some of the thatch is to sprinkle a thin layer of topsoil or compost.

9. Control white grubs safely.

White grubs are the larvae of various species of beetles, such as Japanese beetles, June bugs, and European chafer beetles, and they can cause extensive damage to lawns by feeding on the roots of grass, leading to brown patches and a weakened turf. Here are some methods for safely controlling white grubs in your lawn:

  1. Biological Control: Beneficial nematodes, which are microscopic worms that naturally occur in soil, can be used as a biological control to target white grubs. These nematodes parasitize the grubs and effectively control their populations. They are safe for humans, pets, and beneficial insects, and are an environmentally-friendly option for controlling white grubs.
  2. Cultural Control: Keeping your lawn healthy and well-maintained can reduce the risk of white grub infestations. Regular mowing at the recommended height for your grass type, proper watering, and aerating your lawn can help create a healthy and dense turf that is more resistant to white grubs.
  3. Mechanical Control: If you notice signs of white grub infestation, such as brown patches in your lawn that can be lifted like a carpet due to the grubs feeding on the roots, you can try physically removing them. Use a shovel or a lawn rake to lift the affected turf and manually pick out the grubs. This method is labor-intensive and may not be practical for large lawns, but it can be effective for small areas with low grub populations.
  4. Chemical Control: There are chemical insecticides available that can be used to control white grubs, but it’s important to use them according to the manufacturer’s instructions and with caution. Follow all safety precautions, such as wearing protective clothing and avoiding application during windy conditions. Be aware that chemical insecticides can also harm beneficial insects and other wildlife, so use them as a last resort and only if other methods are not effective.
  5. Integrated Pest Management (IPM): Integrated Pest Management is an approach that combines multiple methods to control pests, including white grubs, in a holistic and environmentally-friendly manner. By using a combination of cultural, mechanical, biological, and chemical controls, you can effectively manage white grubs while minimizing the use of pesticides and reducing their impact on the environment.

It’s important to properly identify the type of white grub species you are dealing with, as different species may have different life cycles and require different control methods. Consult with a professional if you are unsure or if you have a severe infestation that requires expert intervention. Always read and follow the instructions on any pest control product, and consider using organic or natural alternatives whenever possible to minimize the impact on the environment.

If you follow all of these steps, your lawn will be the envy of your neighbors.