The Green, Green Grass of Home…

When we talk about the American dream, with its home, 2.5 children and a picket fence, what does that picket fence surround?  A beautiful green lawn, of course!  But rolling lawns weren’t always such a common sight in America; only the wealthy could afford the care and maintenance that a lawn required.  That changed with the invention of the lawnmower in 1830 by Edwin Budding as well as suburbs designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (planner of Central Park in NY in the 1850s and many other urban parks); lawns eventually became an integral part of life.

With spring finally gracing us with its presence, you may be thinking about your lawn and making a mental checklist of what has to get done.  There are a few things you should know before you start seeding and fertilizing.

A healthy lawn has many benefits, such as reducing erosion, absorbing and filtering water, producing oxygen and cooling the temperature.  But a lawn can also have a negative impact on the environment if not cared for properly.  Fertilizers and pesticides from lawn care end up in our water, gas powered mowers pollute the air and huge amounts of water are wasted.  There are things we can do to maximize the benefits of a healthy lawn and minimize the negative impact.

  1. Don’t water during the middle of the day; in the heat of the day most of that water is just evaporating.  The best time to water is for just a few minutes at dawn, or as early in the morning as possible.  And don’t water every day; most lawns and gardens only need it every other day.  Over-watering can be very damaging to your grass while being very friendly to weeds.   Most grasses only need about an inch of water per week.
  2. Use the right kind of grass.  If you live in a dry area, make sure you choose a grass that doesn’t need a lot of water.  Also take into consideration how much shade your lawn gets and the climate you’re in.
  3. Test your soil’s pH balance.  Your grass will grow best if you have soil that is slightly acidic.  You also want to make sure there are enough nutrients.  Most gardening centers have kits available for easy soil testing.
  4. Blades of grass should be between 2 ½” and 3 ½” long.  When grass is long it has stronger roots and holds on to water more efficiently.  It also makes it harder for weeds to take root.  And keep your lawnmower blades sharp; dull blades on your mower mean jagged blades of grass and jagged grass loses water more easily.
  5. Fertilize only once or twice a year.  That’s all most lawns need.
  6. Use pesticides only when absolutely necessary.  In addition to being extremely harmful to humans and animals, pesticides and herbicides can actually kill many of the beneficial organisms in the soil.  And if you must use a pesticide, read the directions and follow them to the letter.  You can also choose from a variety of organic pesticides now available.

For more information and tips on how to have a truly “green” lawn, visit the EPA and Organic Gardening.

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