James Pinsky: Tips for managing your lawn

James Pinsky

Most folks I know like green lawns. Some of us like ours, others like theirs – and a few like our neighbors’ more than our own. Envy it seems can be a fertilizer too.

Having a healthy lawn though doesn’t mean it’s always green, cut golf-course short or free from critters. The truth is managing your front and back yards takes more than an annual trip to the local box store for fertilizer, a new lawn mower and weed-killer. Actually, chances are managing your lawn probably takes less.

As summer tries to assert itself this month, here are some helpful lawn managing tips from the good folks at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. To learn more about the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, visit them at www.cbf.org.

Test your soil: Find out what your lawn actually needs to thrive, and find organic, local materials to protect it.

Feed the soil to feed the lawn: Proper use of fertilizers and compost is critical: choose natural, organic fertilizers, or create your own organic compost to give your lawn the nutrients – and only those nutrients – it needs. The best alternative to water-soluble chemical fertilizers for your lawn and garden is compost. You can make your own from food waste, grass clippings, yard waste, and other natural ingredients, or purchase it from garden centers.

Mow high: Don’t cut your grass too short. Taller grasses help prevent weeds, allow roots to reach deeper and reduce runoff, and stay green longer during drought. A height of 2 1/2 to 3 inches is ideal.

Pick the right grass seed: Do your research to select the best grass for your lawn.

Water thoughtfully: Don’t overwater your lawn. In fact, excess water can cause disease. During the hot summer, it is normal for the grass to go dormant, and the tops of grass blades to go brown.

Deal with lawn problems safely: Weeds can be removed by hand, or with natural products like corn gluten or vinegar. Most insects and “nuisance” animals, like moles, aerate the soil and are actually good for your lawn!

Minimize pollution from lawn equipment: A gas-powered push mover used for one hour produces as much air pollution as 10 cars driven the same amount of time.

Reduce your lawn: Great expanses of grass are not your only option. Consider enlarging flower beds, planting native shrubs under large trees, letting fallen leaves serve as compost, and creating a rain (or wetland) garden in wet areas. Smaller lawns need less water, maintenance (mowing, watering, and fertilizing), and toxic chemicals. Determine how much of your lawn you actually use (for a play area, paths and walkways, access to the mailbox, or utility areas). Plant alternatives to lawn area, such as islands of trees and shrubs or a no-mow meadow. Bring the edge of your property closer by densely planting a mixture of native trees and shrubs. The result in a short time is a wooded area that you don’t have to mow and provides many wildlife benefits.

James Pinsky is the education and information coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District. Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org. Visit us at www.lfswcd.org or follow us on Twitter https://twitter.com/lfswcd.