Organic Lawn Care & Eco-friendly Mower Tips from Briggs & Stratton
September 14, 2012
Organic food, gardening — and now lawn care — is rising in popularity. In this article, you’ll learn how to practice organic lawn care and green lawn maintenance.
Green Lawn Care & Mower Maintenance
As you prepare an organic lawn care strategy, it’s important to make sure your mower has reduced environmental impact. Briggs & Stratton wants you - and every one of the other 40 million-plus mower owners - to maintain your lawn mower engine. Why? Because it is reduces environmental impact - not to mention it will save you money in the long run because your mower will likely last longer with good care.
While Briggs & Stratton’s engines run cleaner than ever before, it is important to keep them that way. An annual tune-up, which takes 30 minutes or less, can significantly cut emissions and save fuel.
Organic Lawn Care & Fertilizer Tips
The first step to organic lawn care is to define what you mean as it relates to your lawn. Organic in most cases means using natural products, and doing without chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. The decision on whether to include fertilizer on your "don’t use" list is a personal one. Unlike most pesticides and herbicides, the elements contained in fertilizers that are beneficial to your lawn (nitrogen, potassium, etc.) are present in both synthetic and organic fertilizers. You decide.
Once you have reached a decision about what "organic" means to you, the next step is to evaluate your lawn and how you care for it. If you are attempting to cultivate a grass that is not recommended for your area, it will be twice as challenging (if not more so) to do so organically. It may be best to go organic only if you are growing an appropriate turf grass species for your area.
Good lawn care practices are critical if you want an organic yard. Your lawn will depend primarily on how you care for it naturally, meaning how you mow, water, feed and otherwise treat your turf. This will now be the heart, backbone and soul of your success. In most cases, it is lawn care mistakes that homeowners make that result in pest invasion (namely weeds and diseases, and to a lesser but still prevalent extent, insects).
If you mow too short, for example, your lawn could suffer from a weed invasion. If you use chemical means to correct such problems, you can regain control of your lawn rather quickly. If you make the same mistake using only natural methods of maintaining your turf, you can be dealing with those weeds for some time.
Here are your keys to success if you practice organic lawn care.
- Mow regularly with a sharp mower blade. Always follow the one-third rule. Never cut more than 1/3 of the leaf blade in any single mowing. Keep your grass as high as possible as this will help crowd out weeds and allow you to go longer between mowings. Return the clippings to the lawn as a natural fertilizer. A mower with a mulching blade is extremely helpful here.
- Water the grass early in the day, before 9 a.m. Water only enough to match the needs of the grass. Start with a target of 1 inch/week and make adjustments as necessary depending upon your weather (rainfall counts). Obviously, a sophisticated irrigation system capable of delivering precise amounts of water has a real advantage here. You can make a simple rain gauge from a small tin can.
If you decide to fertilize, you will have to make a decision: synthetic or natural? The greatest advantage to using a synthetic fertilizer is its predictability. It releases its components into the grass so they can be optimally used, providing nutrients during times of growth to help create a dense lawn which is capable of warding off pest invasion. In natural fertilizers, the nutrients - particularly the all-important nitrogen - are often in forms that are unavailable to the grass except in warm conditions. This may or may not be the best time for your lawn to use them.
Natural pesticides can be helpful. The biggest breakthrough has been in weed control. You can use corn gluten meal as a pre-emergent herbicide. It does an adequate job of preventing crabgrass, for example, from germinating in lawns that have been properly mowed, watered and fertilized. Another helpful product is one that may be in your yard - leaves from the sugar maple or red maple tree. These leaves, mulched in the fall and spread over the turf for 2-3 years, have shown the ability to prevent broadleaf weeds (like dandelions) from germinating.
In summary, is organic lawn care possible? Absolutely. Will your level of success depend on good, basic lawn care practices? Same answer. Interest in organic lawn care will continue to grow and you can expect new products to come on the market each growing season. But the cornerstone of your success will depend on doing the basics correctly.