Making the Grass Greener
Now that spring is here, it’s time to begin dreaming about the grass growing beneath your feet. But a lot of lawns aren’t very “green” - at least, not for the environment. Residential lawns can use a lot of toxic chemicals - up to 10 pounds of pesticides per acre. The poisons don’t end at your front door. When it rains, pesticides may be flushed into local streams, rivers, and lakes, harming fish and plants along the way. Here are some tips to make sure your grass looks great - and is safe for pets, children, and other living things.
- Use natural fertilizers, which release nutrients slowly throughout the year, won’t leach away, and support the variety of soil organisms that improve fertility and combat diseases.
- Water deeply but infrequently. Grasses do best when the whole root zone is wetted, and then dries out between waterings. Avoid frequent shallow watering that causes poor root development. Overwatering also promotes lawn disease.
- Aerate in the spring and fall. Use a rented power-aerator, or insert a garden fork six inches deep every four inches and lever back and forth to loosen the soil.
- Remove weeds using pincer-type weed pullers, which work great in moist soil and can be used standing up. Or, if you must, spot-spray problem weeds.
- Crowd out weeds by growing a dense lawn. Mow higher, leave the clippings, fertilize properly, and improve thin areas with aeration, overseeding, and top dressing.
- Create healthy soil. Earthworms and other soil organisms keep the soil healthy. By moving through the soil, they allow water and air to penetrate, and they recycle thatch back into nutrients that the grass can use.
Then again, why grow grass at all?
Given how labor and water intensive maintaining a lawn can be, why not opt for a yard that's grass free? Here are some alternative ground covers that require little mowing or watering (before planting, check with a local nursery to make sure the option you choose can tolerate your local climate conditions):
- Yarrow - withstands light foot-traffic and grows in poor, dry soil.
- Alyssum - tolerates dry soil and is very attractive in bloom.
- Thyme - grows low, spreads quickly, and offers colors ranging from light lemon yellow to deep grayish green; several types make for great ground covers.
- Sweet Woodruff - loves shade, has slight, sweet fragrance, and sports fine white flowers when in bloom; not very tolerant of foot traffic.