Lawn Care, Naturally

image credit: donhavey.com

Spring is in the air and thoughts turn to outdoor activities, including lawn care. Here we offer ideas to help you free up your time and energy and make your lawn-related experience more pleasurable and healthy.

If you will be planting a new lawn, we encourage you to check out varieties that require less water than our old friend Kentucky Bluegrass. By doing so, you will save time on mowing and watering, conserve water, and still be able to enjoy a beautiful lawn.

For those of you living in our neck of the woods, the MU Extension office has a plethora of articles on-line about grasses that will work well with local conditions, and other topics related to lawn care.


People living elsewhere could contact the Extension office serving their area, or check out an article from Weekend Gardener that includes a chart to help you choose the appropriate grass based on your climate and usage.

Keep in mind that if you plant grasses that are well suited to the local climate, you will have a better chance of encountering fewer problems associated with pests and drought conditions. There are a lot of options for pest control that don’t involve poisons. Chemical approaches to lawn care come with risks not only to the health of the person applying the substances, but also to human visitors, animals, and groundwater. We urge you to learn about your non-toxic options.

The statistics associated with using chemicals on the lawn are pretty grim. Thousands upon thousands of birds are poisoned by lawn pesticides annually. And the amount of water that is used to keep the grass alive is mind-boggling: an estimated 30% of the summer water use on the East Coast and 60% on the West Coast goes to lawn watering. A sobering article by Jeanette Namura makes the case for giving up chemicals altogether. A quick Google search reveals many suggestions for healthy lawns (and thus healthy people and animals); the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has a great article on chemical-free lawn care. Homeowners are encouraged to start with the basics – the health of the soil is key. The more nutrient-rich the soil, the better chance your grass stands of being able to stave off pests and vagaries of weather.

How you mow is also important. Make sure your mower blades are sharp. Giving the lawn a crew cut might be attractive, but it is very hard on the grass. According to the NWF, "Grass that is cut too short becomes more vulnerable to stress from heat and drought. Cutting the grass too short also allows too much light to get to the soil, enabling weeds - especially crabgrass - to prosper."

If you are in the market for a new mower, you might want to consider an alternative to those that require gasoline. Options include electric mowers and push mowers. If you are ready to learn more about the environmental issues related to mowing with traditional mowers, eye-opening statistics abound, including an EPA estimate that gas mowers account for 5% of all the air pollution in the U.S.

In 2010, Greensburg GreenTown received an electric mower from Excel Industries in Hesston, Kansas. This is a very cool machine that not only emits no fumes, but has a zero-turning radius, requires little maintenance, and will run for 80 minutes on one charge of the battery. 

As with anything, the key to a more satisfying experience with your lawn is to work with nature. Going to battle with pests using traditional chemicals and overwatering to make up for drought may offer you some short-term relief, but in the long run you can get into a vicious – and frustrating - cycle. Fortunately, there are lots of options for a healthy, attractive patch of green grass. 

For further reading, here are some recommended websites:

7 Chemical-Free Fixes for Common Lawn Problems

Natural Lawn Care

National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns

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