An attractive lawn, park, or playing field is an important part of summer recreation for many of us. However, lawn care practices can have unintended consequences, impacting the health of our waterways and wildlife, not to mention children and pets. The good news is that we don’t need to use chemicals to have healthier, more attractive lawns, parks, and fields. The Lebanon Conservation Commission shares the following steps homeowners or businesses can take, now and through the growing season, to improve overall lawn health.
This layer of dead grass and root tissue that builds up in a lawn can prevent water, air, and nutrients from reaching grass roots and beneficial soil organisms. Over-fertilizing can lead to thatch build-up. Dethatch in spring with a rake or power dethatcher.
Set your mower to 3 or 4 inches. A taller lawn retains more moisture, inhibits germination of weeds, and encourages root growth. But keep mower blades sharp. If cuts are ragged, grass blades lose more moisture and are more susceptible to disease.
Let clippings lie
Grass clippings are high quality and free fertilizer for your lawn and are mostly water!
Over time, lawns can become compacted. By removing plugs of grass and soil, aeration allows water, compost, and air to reach the soil and grass roots. Earthworms aerate and fertilize lawns for free. Attract and protect earthworms in the soil by spreading compost and forgoing chemicals.
Lawns often don’t need fertilizing in the spring. To promote a healthy lawn, focus on root health now, not green growth. Consider just top dressing your lawn with a good top soil or compost. Fall is generally a better time to add slow-release organic fertilizer. Keep in mind that fertilizer use is not permitted within certain distances of some bodies of water.
Before adding any amendments to your lawn, get the soil tested. Send a sample to the UNH cooperative extension soil testing service. It costs $17 and I highly recommend it! Here is a link to the form.
Adding grass seed to your lawn in the spring or fall is a good way to thicken your existing carpet of grass. Henry Homeyer talks more about over-seeding here.
Water wisely (or not at all!)
Lawns need 1” of water per week from rain or irrigation, but there is nothing wrong with a brown lawn in the heat of late summer. Your grass may turn brown, but it is still alive, just dormant. Over watering can wash nutrients into our waterways.
And remember, a lawn is more than just grass. Flowering plants have a place in lawns too. Bees and other pollinators might depend on those creeping charlie and clover blooms.
“What you do everyday makes a difference for the Connecticut River and its watershed. And whatever you do to benefit the river will, in the long run, benefit you, your family, and your community,” from A Homeowner’s Guide to Non-Point Source Water Pollution in the Connecticut River Valley from the Connecticut River Joint Commission.
Want more information?
Here are some helpful links: