Go Green! Go Organic!
Thinking of transitioning your lawn care from conventional to organic? According to Organic Materials Review Institute, the best time to renovate or start a new lawn is between late August and September after the weed seeds have sprouted. Start your organic lawn care journey in fall and give your lawn some tender love and care. In order to switch from conventional to organic lawn care, we must first have a deeper understanding of what organic lawn care means and what it takes to have a healthy lawn for your family, pets, and the environment.
Now more than ever is the time that we focus on staying healthy. Everything that enters our home should contribute to our safety. Most of us prefer to stay indoors nowadays since the COVID-19 which makes our own outdoor space essential during these times.
What is Organic Lawn Care?
Organic lawn care is not just about turning away from the use of conventional chemicals, nor is it a substitution of organic treatments for synthetic ones. In today's world, what need is an economically sustainable approach just like how organic farmers used animal waste and green crops thousands of years ago.
Organic lawn care centers around the overall health of the soil and lawn. If the soil is healthy, you get to have healthy plants too. Once your lawn is healthier, it will require less water as it gets most of its water from the soil it's growing in. That means switching to organic lawn care is cost effective and can greatly minimize your water bill. A lawn that is organically maintained will naturally resist pests, drought and outgrow weeds.
Organic Lawn Care includes:
Organic fertilizer is made from organic sources such as rock minerals, natural plant and animal materials. It improves soil structure and texture. It adds natural and organic matter with nutrients into the soil. It decomposes within days and eventually gets absorbed by the grass, plants, and trees.
Topsoil not only adds nutrients to the soil but it also provides extra oxygen to plant roots. This is essential when transitioning to organic lawn care as it contributes a lot to overall plant health and growth. Better drainage and less soil erosion are added benefits of topsoil. It is also used for minor re-levelling/correction of the lawn.
Compost consists of bacteria, algae, fungi, and nematodes that help keep the soil healthy. Adding compost to your lawn helps nourish the soil. It increases beneficial microbial activity in the soil. When the soil is rich in microbial life, it means less fertilizing, less water, and saves you the money that is spent on controlling weeds.
Actively Aerated Compost Tea
Spraying Actively Aerated Compost Tea to the lawn helps speed up the lawn's transition to organic. It contains beneficial microorganisms that makes it essential to lawns. AACT has 12 bioavailable essential nutrients that contribute to plants' optimum growth and reproduction: Nitrogen, Phosphorus/Phosphate, Calcium, Iron, Soluble Potash, Magnesium, Sulfur, Copper, Manganese, Molybdenum, Sodium, Zinc. It makes nutrients immediately available to be absorbed by the grass, plants, and trees.
Organic mulch materials include wood chips, bark, grain straw, tree leaves, hay, and other crop residues. Organic mulches have been proven to suppress weeds. They also provide soil protection, add organic matter to the soil, retain soil moisture, prevent soil compaction, and improve curb appeal.
Organic Weed Control
For the longest time, it cannot be denied that most people use weed killer as part of their lawn care. These days, that is slowly changing and growing number of people no longer resort to chemical-based treatments to kill weeds. Organic weed control is becoming a trend and more people now understand that organic weed control does not completely eliminate weeds. A healthy lawn does. Healthy soil equals healthy lawn and when you have a healthy lawn, it discourages weed growth. When weeds are present on a healthy lawn, that is when organic weed killer is used or other homeowners choose to pull them by hand. According to The Spruce, this philosophy is known as integrated pest management (IPM).
Core Aeration and Dethatching
Thatch is an accumulated layer of organic matter on a lawn. It is composed of grass roots, crowns, stolons, rhizomes, and other living and dead plant matter. Thatch buildup may slow down if soils have sufficient amounts of organic matter, beneficial microorganisms, and earthworms. A thin layer of thatch about 1/2-inch thick may allow water, nutrients, and air to penetrate into the soil and benefits the lawn health. Once thatch becomes thicker, 1 inch or more, grass will likely suffer. It will block water, air, and fertilizer. To know when to dethatch, check the lawn's thatch layer by digging up a small wedge of your lawn grass and soil. If the thatch is 2 inches or more,
Proper Lawn Mowing
Proper lawn mowing is essential to organically grown lawns to prevent weeds and diseases. It is advisable to mow organic lawns higher the conventional ones as longer grass helps prevent weed seed germination, water loss, and to keep the soil cool.
Maintain the grass height at 3-inches tall following the one-third cardinal rule of mowing. The grass' growth potential depends on every season. In Spring, the grass grows the fastest which requires frequent mowing whereas in Summer, the grass grows at a much slower pace that requires less mowing.
How to know if a lawn is healthy?
A healthy lawn must have healthy soil. Healthy soil supports the development of healthy grass. It naturally resists weeds and pests. Diseases and pest problems are rare in a healthy and well maintained lawn.
Chemicals can greatly damage our lawns as they kill good organisms and encourage disease whereas organic lawn care enhances the soil chemistry of the lawn in the long run and this will help the lawn develop a better root system that will result to thicker turf which will eventually eliminate nasty weeds.
Majority of lawn care companies use synthetic chemicals. These harsh, toxic chemicals work directly on the grass blade that makes it green in an instant with excess nitrogen. These chemicals will help the grass grow quickly and give it a green look. But in this approach, soil fertility will be depleted due to quick grass growth and due to lack of substantial nutrition, the microbes will suddenly deplete the soil.
To know if the soil is healthy, the soil must undergo a soil fertility test. It takes a little amount of soil to know its overall nutrient level. Generally, a good soil pH is between 6.0 and 7.0. At 50K, soil fertility test is a complimentary service that we give to all our clients. By soil testing, you will be aware about which primary nutrient levels (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) are deficient and which organic amendments you will need to start with.
Why Switch to Organic Lawn Care?
Conventional lawn chemicals can be a health and environment hazard. It can pollute water, and has adverse effects not only to our health but to pets as well.
A study from Purdue University scientists finds exposure to herbicide-treated yards has been related with essentially greater bladder cancer hazard in canines and a discovery that could prompt new information about human being receptive to the illness. According to the research done by Lawrence T. Glickman, a professor of epidemiology and environmental medicine in Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine, and other veterinary researchers, they have discovered a relationship between risk of transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder in Scottish terriers and the canines' exposure to synthetic compounds found in chemical-based yard treatments. Glickman said that the danger of transitional cell carcinoma was observed to be somewhere in the range of four and seven times more apparent in exposed animals. They are working on finding the similarity between human and dog genomes. Canine and human genomes could be the key for researchers to find the gene in humans that makes them vulnerable to developing bladder cancer.
How many humans and canines are affected?
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 56,000 men and 17,500 women get bladder cancer, and about 12,000 men and 4,700 women die from the disease.
According to American Kennel Club, bladder cancer in dogs is relatively rare, about 1-2% of all canine cancers. However, it appears to be on the rise as more than 50,000 dogs get affected every year.
AKC listed the breeds that have the highest risk according to veterinarians:
West Highland White Terrier
Wire Fox Terrier
American Eskimo Dog
Other breeds that could also be at risk:
Australian Cattle Dog
Parson Russell Terrier
While conventional lawn care highly affects humans and pets, it does the same to our environment. Chemical-based treatments contribute to environmental pollution with excess phosphorus and nitrogen runoff. They do not just cause pollution but they greatly affect the number of pollinators too. These chemicals tend to reduce the number of flowering plants which results to the amount of food available for native pollinators declining.
Chemical-based lawn care has indeed harmful effects to humans, animals, and the environment. The question now is, what is in chemical-based treatments and why are they harmful?
Here is a list of the most commonly used lawn pesticides:
Among these most common pesticides, the most widely used on lawns are glyphosate, dicamba, mecoprop (MCPP), pendimethalin, pelargonic acid, and trifluralin. Glyphosate is one of the most used herbicides in the United States and has been classified by The International Agency for Research on Cancer as carcinogenic. Glyphosate is seriously harmful that it could disrupt the endocrine and reproductive systems. Another most used pesticide is imidacloprid. It is part of the neonics (Neonicotinoid class). Neonicotinoid pesticides have contributed a lot in putting the bee population at risk of being extinct.
All of these chemicals put all of us at risk. Water pollution around the globe is becoming a serious problem, and these pesticides and synthetic fertilizers have been greatly contributing to this world-wide problem. It is evident that we should all contribute to the betterment of the environment, wildlife, and human health. One way of doing so is to put an end to using these toxic chemicals.
3 Main Advantages of Organic Lawn Care
Disadvantages of Organic Lawn Care
U.S. Organic industry is undeniably growing. According to Economic Research Service U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), consumer demand for organically produced goods continues to grow. This goes to show that more people are becoming more conscious of their health and environmentally responsible. Always remember that lawn care is a big part of it.