I recently wrote an article about pet-friendly lawn fertilizers, and the topic got me thinking more about my own lawn and my methods. Chemical lawn fertilizers, despite their claims of non-toxicity, are still chemical agents. These chemicals may remain in the lawn for quite some time. Dogs romp in the grass, and may absorb the chemicals into their skin. Cats nibble the grass and lick their paws. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like chemicals, period, and I don’t want my pets rolling around in it.
There are ways to fertilizer and improve your lawn naturally, without any chemicals at all. And even better, the natural methods are less expensive and better for the environment, too. Here are some tips I have gathered throughout the course of my research.
1. Aerate your lawn.
Over time, grass lawns become packed down from foot traffic, lawn mowers, and thick growth. Grass needs air just like any organism. Use a lawn scarifier to aerate the grass. The scarifier, available as manual or powered devices, roll across your lawn. A roller with peg-like appendages puncture your lawn. Some fancier models remove dead grass, moss, and weeds, too. The small holes will be barely noticeable to you, but they provide little channels where air, water, and minerals can soak directly into grass roots.
2. Mulch the lawn.
Leaves are nutrient-packed mulch, like liquid gold for your lawn. It’s best to compost them the year before– pile up leaves in a bin in the fall, and allow them to decompose. By the time spring arrives, the leaves should have decayed into a dark loam. Sprinkle the mulch onto the lawn with a shovel, in broad strokes, and rake the mulch into the grass. This is THE best fertilizer for your grass.
3. Shred the grass clippings.
Some folks mow their lawns, then rake up the grass clippings and pile them on the street curb for the town to pick up. Know that if you do this, you are giving away some very valuable (and free!) fertilizer. Instead, invest in a lawn mower that shreds or mulches the grass as you mow it, and leave the clippings on the lawn. The clippings will decompose and provide the lawn with nitrogen and other yummy nutrients. Never leave clods of grass in your lawn, however. The clods block the sunlight and can cause fungus or mold to grow. Rake up large clods of grass clippings.
4. Don’t over-mow the lawn.
If grass is cut too short, it cannot photosynthesize properly to produce enough food for growth. The weeds will eventually overpower the weakened grass. For most grasses, the lawn mower should be set to 2 to 3 inches. A good rule to follow is called the 2/3 rule: mow only the top third of grass, and leave the other 2/3 intact.
5. Keep weeds at bay.
Weeds are fellow competitors, contending with grass for water, sunlight, and soil nutrients. Large weeds such as burdocks and plantain should be removed quickly before they establish a party in your lawn.
Weeding the lawn is a tough one for me. My front lawn used to be a lush, beautiful lawn. Then came several years of destructive flooding, where muddy waters and silt covered my lawn. The flooding introduced a profligate number of weeds seeds. My lawn has never really recovered, and it is not possible to root out all the weeds that wiped out my lawn. So sometimes, in serious cases, you can only do so much before you have to completely re-sod the lawn.
I hope these tips help you! There ARE ways to make your home environment an enjoyable place– and a safe place– for your pets.