A truly natural lawn care program doesn't have to be a daunting task. There are some easy, cost-effective steps homeowners can take to improve their lawns while enhancing the positive effects of lawn maintenance on the environment.
A healthy lawn is not only beautiful; it provides great benefits for Mother Earth. Consider that:
- Every 2,500 square feet of lawn produces enough oxygen each day for a family of four.
- Lawns reduce noise pollution by absorbing, deflecting and refracting sounds.
- Lawns trap and help control dust, soot and pollen in the air that can cause allergic reactions.
- Turf absorbs gaseous pollutants (such as carbon dioxide) from vehicles, thus serving to combat greenhouse effect implicated in global warming.
- A healthy lawn reduces storm water runoff and directs its flow through the soil to recharge groundwater.
- On a hot summer day grass can be 10-14 degrees cooler than bare soil and as much as 30 degrees cooler that concrete or asphalt.
- Lawn grasses prevent soil erosion by water and wind, so less dust and mud make their way into a home.
How can a homeowner reduce lawn waste and lessen their environmental impact? Rob Rogan, business director for Sta-Green® lawn and garden products, offers the following natural lawn care tips:
- Select the proper fertilizer for your lawn: Most established lawns can utilize phosphorus that exists in the soil, so an alternative product such as Sta-Green phosphorus-free fertilizer is a good choice. It will support the growth of a beautiful, healthy lawn. For lawns where a soil test indicates the need for phosphorus, choose a product such as Sta-Green Xtended Feed Turf Fertilizer.
- Read and follow the manufacturer's recommendations and directions for use: Before you purchase any fertilizer, make certain that the product label contains complete directions for use. Follow the directions for use carefully and apply as indicated by the manufacturer for best results. Improper fertilization can actually make a lawn more susceptible to insects, disease and drought. Call the manufacturer if you have any questions or do not understand the directions.
- Never apply any fertilizer to a hard surface such as sidewalks, driveways or streets: Granular fertilizer that remains on sidewalks and driveways will be washed off of these hard surfaces by rainfall and into storm drains and sewers. Sweep or blow any fertilizer material that lands on hard surfaces back onto the lawn area. When applying, do not open the spreader until you are over the lawn area and walking at normal speed. A drop spreader is ideal for controlling fertilizer applied to small lawns and narrow strips of grass.
- Do not wash your spreader out over a hard surface: The small amount of fertilizer residue left in the spreader can be rinsed out over a corner of the lawn without blemishing the grass.
- Do not blow grass clippings or tree leaves onto sidewalks or into streets: Leaves from grasses and trees contain significant amounts of soluble nutrients that can be released into storm drains and sewers. Always remember that anything you place in a street can find its way into your local streams and lakes. For this reason, never blow grass clippings or tree leaves onto sidewalks or into streets when you mow unless you intend to pick them up.
- Rainwater from gutters and downspouts should be directed onto the lawn area instead of directly onto hard surfaces: Leaves and flowering parts of trees contain significant amount of soluble phosphorus. When they fall onto rooftops and get caught in rain gutters, the phosphorus will leach out with rainwater. Prevent this water from reaching storm drains and sewers by diverting it onto lawns (or into containers to be used to water plants). Or you can install gutter guards to keep leaves and other plant debris out of your gutters in the first place.
- Cover bare ground with vegetation or mulch to prevent soil erosion: Phosphorus is rapidly immobilized after application of fertilizer to a lawn as it becomes chemically bound to soil particles. Once bound to soil, practically the only way phosphorus can move is if the soil particles are eroded and become suspended in storm water runoff. Maintenance of a dense, healthy ground cover such as turf is the best way to prevent soil erosion and thus nutrients from entering into storm drains and sewers. You can prevent soil erosion by using mulch where soils are not fully covered by a dense plant ground cover.
- Do not use "all purpose" garden-type fertilizers for lawns: Garden fertilizers are generally formulated with a higher content of phosphorus for flowering plants and vegetables. Fertilizers designated as 8-8-8, 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 are examples of garden fertilizers. Typically, lawns do not need as much phosphorus as these would provide.
Follow these natural lawn care guidelines and you'll have a lush, green lawn and a green relationship with the environment.