Tips for a Lush, Organic Lawn (2023)

A mere glance at “keep out of reach of children” label on most pesticides and herbicides and you’ll might find yourself worrying about harmful chemicals you’re spraying on your lawn.

Instead, you can go organic and chemical-free to get a lush and healthier lawn. Here’s how you can break your lawn’s addiction to synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.

How Do I Treat My Lawn Organically?

The underlying philosophy behind organic lawn care is this: healthy, chemical-free soil begets robust lawns that can virtually take care of themselves.

After years of being inundated by chemicals to fend off grubs, eradicate weeds, and green up the turf, the natural capacity of the soil to perform these tasks itself has ceased operation, practitioners say. Cut it off from the chemicals cold turkey, and you'll get things running again—naturally.

And once the soil's healthy, you might never have to deal with pesticides, herbicides, even fertilizers again. "That's the thing about going organic," says Eileen Gunn of Beyond Pesticides, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit group. "Not only do you get a nice, safe, healthy lawn, it is also a more sustainable one over the long term."

Is Organic Lawn Care Better?

Not only is it more environmentally friendly, and safer—your lawn will also look better than ever. Libby Scancarello fired her lawn-care company and hired PureLawn Organic Lawncare, a Cincinnati-based company that uses only chemical-free fertilizers and biological pest and disease control. “I haven’t looked back since,” says Scancarello, adding that her yard looks as lush as ever.

Transitioning to Organic Lawn Care in 5 Steps

1. Start with a Soil Test

The first step in going the organic route with an existing lawn is beefing up weakened soil, which means starting with a soil test. That way you'll know which nutrients are lacking and which organic amendments you'll need to incorporate. For example, soil with a calcium deficiency can be top-dressed with gypsum; and soil low in magnesium might need a healthy dose of the mineral langbeinite.

(Video) How to Grow and Maintain a Lush, Full Lawn Organically

You will need to dig up samples from several different areas of your lawn (2 cups of soil total), and mail them off to a lab to be analyzed. Call local nurseries and university extension offices to see if they offer soil tests (both should provide soil-sample boxes).

Once you know which amendments you need, you should prepare the lawn by mowing the grass down to about 2 inches, pulling up weeds, removing thatch (dead grass and roots that accumulate on the surface), and aerating (a power aerator that pulls up plugs of soil can be found at most rental yards). This will enable your soil to fully absorb any amendments you add.

2. Start Composting

Whatever the test results, you'll also want to spread a half-inch of compost on the lawn to add essential organic matter to the soil. Paul Tukey, author of The Organic Lawn Care Manual, and founder of Safe Lawns, sees compost treatments as the basis for all organic lawn care. "It's almost like a blood transfusion," he says. "It improves soil structure—especially in clay or sand-heavy soil—and is full of beneficial organisms, including bacteria, algae, fungi, and nematodes, that keep your soil healthy."

Look for compost that is made up of decomposed organic plant material, similar to the stuff you find on the forest floor. You can buy it at nurseries, or collect your own yard waste in a backyard bin. Many municipalities have composting programs, which provide information on how to compost and, sometimes, discounted composting bins. Tukey also recommends speeding up your lawn's transition to organic by brewing your own compost tea and spraying it on your lawn once a month with a backpack sprayer or a watering can.

3. Use Organic Lawn Fertilizers

Organic lawn fertilizers are another effective way to give your lawn an occasional boost during the growing season. Available at most garden centers, the best organic lawn fertilizers contain natural ingredients such as seaweed for potassium, bone meal for phosphorous, and feather meal for nitrogen.

Unlike conventional fertilizers, which deliver a heavy, instant dose of synthetic nitrogen (as well as phosphorous and potassium) for your lawn to binge on, Turkey says organics provide an easier-to-handle diet of nutrients that are released more slowly.

The thicker your grass, the more easily it can crowd out weeds. So once your soil's been treated, overseed the lawn using an appropriate turf grass (ask your garden center for recommendations). Choose a seed mix that suits your climate, sun/shade conditions, and moisture needs, and make sure it blends well with your existing lawn. Water daily until new growth is established.

(Video) Tips for a Lush & Healthy Lawn | Garden Home (709)

4. Look for a 'Greener' Grass

You can make your lawn even more sustainable by overseeding it, or completely replacing it, with native or organic grass seed. Las year, DLF Organic became the first U.S. company to offer USDA-certified organic lawn seed, grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers.

The company offers three seed mixes: one for sun, one for shade, and one that's mixed with nitrogen-providing clover. Another "green" option is using native turf-grass seed. Since these seeds are familiar with their regional soil conditions and average rain fall, they require less water and are more disease-resistant than non-natives, such as Kentucky bluegrass (from Europe) and St. Augustine grass (from Africa).

The best known is buffalograss. a native prairie grass that extremely drought-resistant and, since it's low-growing, only needs to be mowed about once a month. (For more info, visit Pawnee Buttees Seeds)

Researchers at a few universities throughout the U.S. are exploring the potential of other native grasses for use as turf grass, including blue grama, a warm-season grass thats native to the Great Plains and Southwest, and Idaho bentgrass, which is native to the western United States and shows promise as a sustainable turf in dryer climate.

5. Whacking Weeds and Pests

We're not gonna lie to you. Making the transition to organic lawn care might mean dealing with some weeds. At least for the first year or two as your soil and grass gain enough strength to control them naturally.

One thing you can do to prevent weeds is spread corn gluten meal-an organic weed preventative-on your lawn in the spring. Just don't do it when you're overseeding, since it prevents germination of all seeds, including grass. While corn gluten meal works only 65 percent as well as chemical herbicides, it can still significantly reduce weed infestations.

If a few isolated weeds show up, pull them by hand or try an organic weed killer, such as Nature's Avenger, a spray containing citrus oil, which dehydrates weeds down to the roots. Some gardeners swear by vinegar to do the same.

(Video) 5 Tips To A Lush Green Lawn

Weeds can be helpful indicators of specific problems with your soil, however. Got crabgrass? It can point to soil compaction, since it usually appears in highly trafficked areas, such as along driveways or walkways. Instead of zapping it with pesticides, get to the root of the problem by aerating the area where it's growing. "You can kill the messenger all day long," says Turkey, "but it doesn't change the message that something is wrong with your soil."

And not all weeds are out to destroy your lawn; some can even help it. Clover, for example, is a common broadleaf weed that works as a natural fertilizer factory, transforming nitrogen in the air into a digestible form for your soil. Some organic-lawn-care experts actually recommend adding a pound of clover seed for every 1000 square feet of lawn.

Insects and fungal diseases can also point to lawn problems. Chinch bugs are attracted to dry, drought-stressed lawns; and watering at night, especially in warm weather, can encourage fungal diseases like dollar spot or brown patch, since turf stays moist for longer.

There are organic solutions in the battle of the bugs, too. For example, beneficial nematodes can take care of grub worms, which chew through grass roots. These spray-on microscopic organisms target-and devour-grubs and grubs only, never harming beneficial organisms, though the timing of their application is critical.

Ongoing Organic Lawn Care and Maintenance Tips

When it comes to mowing a naturally grown lawn, conventional wisdom still applies.

Find out the Best Height for the Grass You’re Growing

Pro2Pro Tip: Be sure to mow with a mulching attachment or a mulching reel mower and leave the clippings where they fall; they’re a natural source of nitrogen as they decompose.

(Video) How to get an Organic Lawn in Five Steps

Cut it too short and it doesn't develop the strong, healthy roots it needs to fend off weeds and disease. So find out the best height for the type of turf you're growing.

  • Cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass and red fescue, prefer to be between 3 to 4 inches high
  • Warm-season varieties like Bermuda grass can be maintained at 1 to 1 1/2 inches.

Organic Lawns Require Less Water than Chemically Treated Ones

When it comes to conserving water, the good news is that organically-cared-for lawns require less water than chemically treated ones, since the latter needs lots of moisture just to digest all the synthetic fertilizers and pesticides fed to them.

As with any lawn, the key is to water infrequently and deeply, encouraging turf to send down deep roots and making it less susceptible to drought and disease.

The best time to water is early morning, since it gives your lawn plenty of time to absorb it and dry off in the sun. Most lawns require about 1 to 2 inches of water per week in summer. Use a rain gauge to measure how much water your lawn's getting; and make sure your sprinkler water isn't being wasted on your driveway or street.

With a little patience and a slight change in thinking, you'll be rewarded with a handsome lawn that's easier on the earth-and on your conscience. "The best thing is that I now have total peace of mind about my yard," says Libby Scancarello. "I want to put a little sign out front that says 'Chemical-free,' so my neighbors can see for themselves just how nice an organic lawn can be."

(Video) 4 Simple Tips for an Organic Lawn

FAQs

How do I make my lawn greener organically? ›

An organic solution for lawns suffering from poor soil
  1. Aeration. Greatly improves the soil and root structure by relieving compaction, root pruning, penetration of sub-surface thatch allowing vital nutrients and water into the soil as well as assisting vital bacterial activity. ...
  2. Scarification. ...
  3. Over-seeding. ...
  4. Top Dressing.

What is the best organic fertilizer for grass? ›

The Best Organic Lawn Fertilizers – Buyer's Guide & Reviews
  • Scotts Natural Lawn Food.
  • Purely Organic Lawn Food.
  • The Andersons 7-1-2 Innova Organic Fertilizer.
  • Safer Brand 9334 Lawn Restore Fertilizer.
  • Dr. ...
  • Espoma ELF20 20-Pound Organic All Season Lawn Food.
  • Simple Lawn Solutions Lawn Food Natural Liquid Fertilizer.
10 Oct 2022

What will make lawn dark green? ›

The number one way to increase the green color in your lawn is with Nitrogen. Nitrogen is one of the big three macronutrients needed in the greatest quantities for healthy turf. It promotes top growth in the lawn by pushing the production of chlorophyll in the plant.

How do I make my lawn lush and green? ›

7 Pro Strategies for Thicker, Greener Grass
  1. Mow Your Lawn Correctly. ...
  2. Water Grass Properly. ...
  3. Fertilize Grass Adequately. ...
  4. The Importance of a Lawn Soil Test. ...
  5. Control Lawn Weeds, Insects, & Diseases. ...
  6. Aerate and Overseed Your Lawn When Needed. ...
  7. Deal With the Shady Spots in Your Lawn.

How do I rejuvenate my lawn? ›

Aerating. The first step to rejuvenating lawn is to add air. The way to do that is simply to get a garden fork and push it into the grass, wiggling the tines back and forth. This allows air to get down into the soil and allows any rain to penetrate down to the root zone of the grass.

Should I leave grass clippings on my lawn? ›

Simply put, grass clippings are good for lawns because they turn into natural fertilizer. Clippings contain the same things as the rest of your grass – including water and the nutrients (especially nitrogen) that your lawn needs to stay healthy.

What does sugar do for your lawn? ›

'Sugar will help break down thatch, the layer of dead grass, and other organic material that can accumulate on your lawn over time, Lindsey says. 'This thatch can make it difficult for new grass to grow, but using sugar on your lawn can help break it down and improve the health of your lawn.

Is Epsom salt good for grass? ›

Epsom Salt is not just a good fertilizer for flowers or vegetables. If you want your front yard turf to look lush and stay healthy all year long, spray the lawn with an Epsom Salt solution once a month. This treatment helps grass seeds germinate and develop into strong blades.

Can you put down too much organic fertilizer? ›

Even organic fertilizers, such as compost, can be overdone. The soil lab at Colorado State University recommends no more than 5 percent organic matter, but this can be easily exceeded with regular and substantial additions of compost. It is best to focus on fertilizing before planting for the season.

What makes your lawn green best? ›

Lawn fertilizer contains nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. These nutrients support the grass. That way, it grows strong from the roots and stays green, healthy and lush. Nitrogen is especially important for getting beautiful green grass.

What is the most lush grass? ›

Fine fescues, as the name suggests, have fine-bladed leaves and are among the softest and most lush grasses for bare feet.

Will Epsom salt make grass greener? ›

Try using ammonia and Epsom salts.

Ammonia is a great source of nitrogen, which will help your grass achieve a healthier, greener color; and the Epsom salts contain magnesium sulfate, which will help your grass retain water, and reduce your lawn's thirst for water.

Does sugar make grass greener? ›

Sugar will fortify grass while discouraging weeds. It is easy to apply. It is cheap. Sugar will not only give you a green lawn, but will help you to “go green,” meaning that it is free from chemicals that damage the soil, our water supply, and ourselves.

Is coffee good for grass? ›

Just as the aroma and caffeine of a cup of Joe in the morning stimulates many of us, using coffee ground on grass can also stimulate healthier turf. It isn't the caffeine that stimulates healthy grass growth, but rather the nitrogen, phosphorus and trace minerals that coffee grounds contain.

What can I spray on my grass to make it greener? ›

LawnLift Ultra Concentrated Lawn Paint instantly transforms dead and dormant lawns into green lush lawns. Perfect for dead and dormant lawns, pesky pet urine spots, fertilization burn, frost damage, incest and rodent damage, drought conditions.

Can brown grass turn green again? ›

Naturally, rain will revive a brown lawn. However, if rainfall is insufficient watering the lawn deeply once a week will help your lawn to spring back to green.

What time of day is best to mow lawns? ›

If you wait until the middle of the morning, then you have enough time for the morning dew on the grass to dry. The ideal time is between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Plus, you also avoid possibly getting heat exhaustion or sunburn by working outside in the midday sun.

Should I put grass clippings on bare spots? ›

Some good mulch options for this situation include dry grass clippings, straw, or even a light layer of sand. Be careful not to use too much as it can damage the area and prevent growth. You want just enough mulch to provide protection and to prevent excessive evaporation of moisture from the sun.

Is rain good for freshly cut grass? ›

7: Don't Cut Wet Grass

The best time to mow is when grass is dry. When moisture from rain or the morning dew weighs grass down, the blades bend, making a straight cut difficult. You also can slip on wet grass, and the clippings tend to clump and not spread evenly.

How do I feed my lawn naturally? ›

Steps to Fertilize Naturally:

Broadcast a natural fertilizer in the fall or spring. Topdress with 1/2 inch of compost or natural fertilizer and rake into the grass. Use a seaweed extract as additional fertilizer. Focus on soil quality over time instead of a quick fix.

How many minutes should I water my lawn? ›

The ideal watering schedule is once or twice per week, for about 25 to 30 minutes each time. Taking care of a lawn doesn't have to be an overwhelming, all-consuming task.

Is it better to water your lawn in the morning or at night? ›

Watering in the morning (before 10 a.m.) is the best time for your lawn; it's cooler and winds tend to be calmer so water can soak into the soil and be absorbed by the grass roots before it can evaporate.

Why do you put lime on your lawn? ›

Lime restores balance in overly acidic soil to bring pH back to optimal growing levels. Poor grass growth and lawn moss are signs that lawns may need lime.

Can I sprinkle salt on my lawn? ›

As lifesaving as this material can be, it can prove to be quite deadly for your lawn. Salt has a damaging effect on grass and can ultimately kill it. Not only can it kill any lawn that you might have already established, but it can also prevent grass from growing for years to come.

How long does it take for an organic fertilizer to take effect? ›

Organics are slower because they have to be broken down by soil microorganisms in order to feed plants. Organic fertilizer has to essentially decompose before the nutrients are available to plants. This process can take 2 to 6 weeks depending on many factors including soil temperature and moisture levels.

What month Should I fertilize lawn? ›

Timing: Apply early spring lawn fertilizer once between February and April, when your grass is starting to green up and begin to actively grow (around the time your lawn first needs to be mowed).

Should I water after organic fertilizer? ›

Instructions on containers might vary, but you should water deeply after fertilizing, says the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. Grass roots grow about 3 inches deep, so water should wet the ground down to that level.

Should I fertilize or grass first? ›

Apply the fertilizer before seeding. When is the best time to plant a new lawn? Spring and fall are the best times to plant a new lawn.

How many times a year should you fertilize your lawn? ›

A full feeding is recommended at least 5-6 times per year. You want to feed your lawn when it's growing most rapidly. However, you should base the frequency on your climate and the type of grass you have. For example, cool season grasses can be fertilized in late spring, but only if necessary.

What fertilizer makes grass thicker? ›

The best fertilizer to thicken grass must contain Phosphorus. It's an essential nutrient that helps to stimulate root growth and enhance plant vigor and soil tests have revealed it is greatly needed in our region.

Does Epsom salt make grass greener? ›

Epsom Salt, consisting of magnesium sulfate, is a naturally occurring mineral compound that can be used on your lawn for individual benefits or a holistic approach. By adding nutrients and strengthening the grass, Epsom salt assists in making the lawn greener, healthier, and softer.

How do I add organic matter to my existing lawn? ›

Another simple way of adding organic matter back into the soil over time is by mulching your grass clippings instead of removing them. This mimics the natural process of a grassland ecosystem where grass grows, dies, returns to the soil, decomposes and feeds the grass around it.

Does sugar help your grass grow greener? ›

Sugar will fortify grass while discouraging weeds. It is easy to apply. It is cheap. Sugar will not only give you a green lawn, but will help you to “go green,” meaning that it is free from chemicals that damage the soil, our water supply, and ourselves.

What does Dawn dish soap do for your lawn? ›

Dish detergents disrupt the cell membrane of these soft, small insects and smother them to death. Grubs drown in dish soap and are suffocated by the fluid coating them. Dish soap has been shown to kill other lawn insects as well, and even dries out and kills fungus in lawns.

How do I make my grass green ASAP? ›

  1. Test Your Soil. Roots depend on healthy, nutritious soil to grow green and lush grass. ...
  2. Fertilize Your Lawn. A big part of knowing how to make your lawn greener is choosing the right fertilizer. ...
  3. Kill Weeds and Unwanted Insects. ...
  4. Use Grass Seed. ...
  5. Water Your Lawn. ...
  6. Aerate Your Lawn. ...
  7. Replace Lawn Mower Blades.

What is the easiest way to increase soil organic matter? ›

How to increase soil organic matter levels
  1. Grow perennial pasture. A period under perennial, grass-dominant pasture is an effective way of increasing organic matter in farm soils. ...
  2. Grow cereal crops. ...
  3. Grow green manure crops. ...
  4. Spread manure. ...
  5. Use organic fertilisers. ...
  6. Keep cultivation to a minimum. ...
  7. Concentrate organic matter.

What is the fastest way to increase organic matter in soil? ›

Incorporating a combination of no-til, cover crops, residues and manure can improve soil organic matter over time.

Can you over fertilize with organic? ›

Even organic fertilizers, such as compost, can be overdone. The soil lab at Colorado State University recommends no more than 5 percent organic matter, but this can be easily exceeded with regular and substantial additions of compost. It is best to focus on fertilizing before planting for the season.

What does Epsom salt do for lawn? ›

Epsom salt is an organic compound that is full of beneficial minerals for lawns. Iron in Epsom salt, for example, helps grasses to grow healthy and strong. Meanwhile, the magnesium in Epsom salt balances the PH level in your grasses so that it doesn't become too acidic.

What happens if you put sugar on your grass? ›

Sugar encourages grass roots to seek nitrogen in soil. This competitive use depletes soil nitrogen for weeds and helps grass flourish and crowd out pest plants. You can use granulated or powdered sugar sprinkled lightly over your lawn or a molasses spray.

What is a natural fertilizer for grass? ›

Some of the most common compositions include alfalfa, cottonseed or corn gluten meal; rock phosphate; cow or poultry manure; compost; earthworm castings; bone or feather meal; or even seaweed or kelp.

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