The Easy Organic Lawn


The Easy Organic Lawn  
Goal – easy, lasting, inexpensive, safe
How – strengthen grass to weaken weeds
May 2009
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In 2008, my husband and I built a small house. It was my first home. I wanted everything to be done God’s way, including the lawn. When I began, I knew nothing but four facts: 

  • The sod had been laid on hard clay and rocks that gave the grass roots little chance to thrive,
  • Our yard was next to a field of weeds at the time,
  • I wanted the lawn to be safe for us, our friends, their children, and pets, and
  • I knew conventional lawn treatments were toxic to the environment, lingered on the grass and in the air, and were difficult to remove from the water tables underneath.

I wanted shalom over my yard. Shalom is a Hebrew greeting offering a blessing upon every part of life. The shalom of God means harmony, wholeness, purity, and completeness in our bodies, emotions, mind, relationships, provision, and environment. Shalom is the stability and contentment that comes when nothing is emphasized at the expense of something else. Shalom is fulfillment and restoration.  

As I began to learn, I was fascinated to understand how God created this world to work together in a gentle balance, and how we were given the privilege to cultivate it. I knew it would take some time to have a healthy lawn that required less effort with each year. I am sharing this paper so that you can bypass the mistakes, frustration, perseverance, and doubt. So, come along with me and see how amazing our Creator God is!

Benefits of an Organic Lawn
Organic lawns:

  • Are less expensive to care for than conventional lawn treatments,
  • Are safe for all creatures,
  • Absorb water, reducing storm runoff,
  • Improve water quality by filtering rainwater contaminants,
  • Cool the yard,
  • Provide oxygen to your environment,
  • Trap dust and dirt,
  • Promote healthful micro-organisms,
  • Prevent erosion, and
  • Create a restful landscape.

The Main Goal – Strong Grass
Strong grass diminishes the weeds and survives most droughts. Instructions:

Use Tall Fescue Grass Only
Tall Fescue has deep roots making it durable, drought-tolerant, and thatch-resistant. It stands at five inches, shading weeds. It thrives in sun, shade, and frost. Three years after our sod was laid, we had the lawn split-seeded (not over-seeded) with tall fescue by Elfner Organic Lawn Company. This was our first, best action! If you can, before your sod is placed, hire a company to rid the ground of rocks and debris.

Encourage Soil Nourishment
Since our soil was clay and rock, I had to change the composition of the soil underneath the sod to add nourishment. I did this by encouraging microbial activity. After a few years, the soil became healthier (softer and darker) with less clay. Encourage microbial activity by allowing God’s natural processes:

  • Microbes.  Let them live! Microbes are tiny, naturally occurring organisms in the soil that provide full service to the grass. Conventional lawn treatments kill their masterful work. Microbes:
    • Decompose dead plant and animal residues into humus
    • Combine nitrogen and carbon to prevent nutrient loss
    • Suppress disease and clean up chemical residues
    • Produce plant growth regulators
    • Develop healthy soil structure that promotes good water penetration and water retention thereby aerating and nourishing the soil
    • Balance the soil pH and control the nitrogen supply to the grass according its need
    • Retrieve nutrients from distant parts of the soil

  • Earthworms.  Let them live! Conventional lawn treatments kill valuable earthworms.
    • Earthworms aerate the soil providing drainage and water retention, so you will never have to hire someone to aerate your lawn.
    • Their burrows create pores allowing oxygen and water into the soil and carbon dioxide out.
    • They decompose plant matter releasing nutrients locked up in dead plants and animals. This process allows the grass to assimilate the nutrients.
    • They mix soil layers. This process incorporates and disperses organic matter into the soil and clay improving its fertility and nutrient retention.

  • Organic fertilizers. Conventional, chemical fertilizers weaken the grass’s resistance to weeds, insects, and diseases, and kill beneficial microbes. Organic fertilizers promote healthy grass. Elfner fertilizes our lawn, but it is easy to do yourself with a spreader.
    • Use protein-based fertilizers. Elfner uses dried distiller grains, a pre-emergent that prevents germination of weed seeds. The grains also provide microbes and other nutrients.
    • Use a mulching mower to leave grass clippings on the lawn for nutrients.
    • In early fall, Elfner spreads composted chicken manure pellets, a safe, great source of nitrogen and calcium. They break down slowly to provide steady plant and root growth.
    • Use organic dry fertilizers, such as Espoma, which are protein-based and may be applied any time of day in any amount without fear of hurting the turf. Give three weeks for the microbes to process the protein before seeing the benefit.
    • Mulch your flower beds with undyed, hardwood mulch.

Water the Right Way

  • Water infrequently. Unless you are growing new seed, water only when the grass shows signs of stress (grass starts to curl before it browns). Keep the surface of the grass dry as long as possible. This forces the grass roots to go deeper than most weed roots and causes the weeds to die in the upper dry soil. If you must water, water deeply; put a cup in the sprinkler zone, and water until the water is 1 inch or ½ inch deep; wait, then water another ½ inch.
  • Water early in the morning. Watering in the evening encourages pathogenic fungus disease.

Mow and Seed

  • Mow high (3 to 4 inches). High grass shades the weeds and weed seedlings preventing their growth. Also, when grass is cut short, it grows fast causing it to use up stored sugar thereby weakening it. Grass needs the sugar to make rhizomes (more grass plants) and thicken the turf.
  • Mow frequently. Grass grows near the soil, and weeds grow near the top, so mowing cuts the heads off some weeds. Also, grass suffers if more than one-third of its height is cut.
  • Mow dry. Mowing wet grass spreads disease.
  • Mow sharp. Change the blades. Damaged grass blades