Use some simple steps for natural lawn care

August 9, 2011

By David Hayes

Drive through any neighborhood, and there always seems to be that one house with the lawn so immaculate that it cries out for a golf ball to be putted across its pristine surface.

When following natural lawncare guidelines, set the mower to mulching, trim the grass blades at about two inches and leave the clippings behind on the lawn. Thinkstock

Whether a labor of love or through the outside hands of professionals, many homeowners are becoming more conscious of how they got their lawn that way. As such, they’ve educated themselves about the affects of their lawn care upon local lakes and streams. The latest trend is natural lawn care, which features mulch mowing, wise watering, and using natural alternatives to fertilizers and pesticides.

Dave Rogers, owner of Issaquah Landscaping, shared some tips to help keep your lawn (and the waters) healthy, beautiful and pesticide free while using less water throughout the summer.

“The biggest thing you can do for your lawn is to mulch,” Rogers said. “It returns nitrates to the lawn.”

To properly mulch, Rogers recommends a double-bladed lawn mower and to mow high. Mowing high, about two inches, leaves the grass clippings on the lawn. They add nutrients back to the soil and reduce the need to fertilize as much.

To help an unhealthy lawn return to a luscious green the neighbor on the other side of the fence would envy, try composting.

“Cedar Grove Composting has many options that will add liquid nutrients back to the lawn,” he said.

Whichever product is used, spread a 1/4-inch layer and rake it in when the yard would normally be fertilized. If the soil is compacted, try aerating first.

The need to fertilize drops dramatically when mulching and composting. But Rogers said if you’re set in your ways and must fertilize, go organic.

“There are organic fertilizers that use chicken manure in pellet form,” he said.

Fertilize moderately and with a slow-release or organic fertilizer. At most, fertilize lawns twice a year, in late May and early September.

Living in a region wetter than the national average, the rules for watering vary.

“Usually, it’s about one inch of water per week, as a rule of thumb,” Rogers said. “But here in the Pacific Northwest, you kind of have to play it by ear.”

Most lawns wouldn’t need to be watered on a 50-degree day, he said. But it’s pretty important as temperatures climb to about 70 degrees.

The trick is to water deeply and infrequently. Wet the entire root zone each time and then let it mostly dry out before watering again. Even in the heat of the summer, most lawns don’t need more than one inch of water per week.

“If your lawn has an irrigation system, simply place an empty tuna can out there,” Rogers said. “Once there’s a half-inch of water in the can, your rate is about one inch per hour.”

Lastly, when it comes to a lawn where weeds have become an unwelcome presence, there’s only one method to remove them under natural lawn care.

“Mechanical,” Rogers said. “You gotta dig them out.”

He added if you find yourself leaving big patches cleared out by removing the invaders, just reseed the former battleground. The effort will be well worth it.

“Once you’ve got your lawn back to a healthy stand of grass, that will keep the weeds out,” he said.

David Hayes: dhayes@isspress.com, 392-6434, ext. 237. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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