We all love our green grass — we love to play in it, walk barefoot in it, sit back in a comfortable chair and enjoy it — And, we certainly want to feel safe doing it! Endless research is emerging on the negative impacts of lawn chemicals on both human health and the health of our environment. The reasons to “go organic“ and use organic lawn care are obvious and the road is relatively simple.
Organic turf management and organic lawn care involves a systems approach rather than a product approach alone. It begins with proper understanding of your soil, use of natural, organic products as indicated by a good soil analysis, and the use of proper cultural practices. Cultural practices are often as easy as changing your mowing height, grass seed selection and watering habits, to name a few. See Tips for a list of healthy lawn practices.
Healthy lawns, as with all organic land care, start with the soil. Organic lawns have far greater numbers of soil bacteria and fungi, which are nature’s decomposers responsible for breaking down organic matter. In fact, one teaspoon of biologically active soil contains several hundred billions of bacteria, fungi and other decomposers. That’s why you are more likely to see thatch build up in synthetically treated lawns, which are typically lacking in good soil biology. A sign of a healthy lawn is an abundant population of earthworms that happily consume grass cuttings and leaves, converting them into nutrient-rich castings, as they help aerate and break up compacted soil in the process.
So, how can you get started?….
Comprehensive Soil Analysis & Interpretation – Lawn
Creating soil conditions conducive to growing grass versus weeds is the first step to a beautiful lawn. We offer a professional 22-point lab analysis of your soil that detects levels and ratios of micro and macronutrients, cation exchange capacity, pH and organic matter percentage. We pull numerous soil core samples from throughout your property to assure a representative profile. The results provide baseline information and strategies for all aspects of landscape management including fertilizer, soil amendments, over-seeding, core aeration, weed, crabgrass, insect, grub and disease management.
Without a proper soil analysis, blindly applying lime, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium annually can lead to an overload or imbalance of nutrients. And the old saying, “if some is good, more is better” can be detrimental to your lawn and the environment.
Homeowners and landscape contractors both need to be aware of the new fertilizer law which govern the application of phosphorus and nitrogen in the state of New Jersey. This law is meant to reduce the high levels of eutrophication currently affecting the quality of many our coastal and fresh water bodies.
Currently, phosphorus may not be applied unless a soil analysis indicates a deficiency. Nitrogen is restricted to per application and total season amounts, of which a minimum of 20% must be slow-release, meaning water insoluble. These regulations also require certification and training for commercial landscapers, and create “black-out” periods for both homeowners and contractors when neither nitrogen nor phosphorus may be applied. All of our staff are either certified or trained as required by the 2011 New Jersey Fertilizer law.
For a complete review of the fertilizer law and regulations, visit:
Grass needs nitrogen annually, as well as a balanced supply of other nutrients in order to thrive. Our high quality organic fertilizer supplies those needs in a slow release manner, providing steady availability of nutrients versus spoon-fed, quick release synthetic fertilizers. Our program includes an application in early spring, early summer and early fall.
Each granular fertilizer application is “watered in” with an application of actively aerated compost tea. Compost tea helps build necessary bacteria, fungi and protozoa populations in the soil, especially lacking in transitioning lawns. Active, diverse soil biology plus a supply of organic nutrients is the formula leading to the establishment of nutrient and nitrogen cycling. Once achieved, nitrogen cycling, the ultimate goal in our organic programs, over time helps reduce the need for and cost of external fertilizer inputs. The microscopic food chain begins with bacteria breaking down organic matter and nutrients, protozoa then consuming the bacteria, and in the process nitrogen is released into the soil for plants to consume. We brew our compost tea for lawns specifically to be more bacterially dominant (versus fungal dominant) to provide the biology that’s most conducive for grass.
The best, natural defense against weeds is to grow dense, lush grass. Once you’ve provided soil conditions conducive to the needs of grass versus broadleaf weeds, core-aeration and over-seeding or slit seeding with high quality grass seed, appropriate for your particular climate, is the key to “crowding out” weeds. It is also helpful in breaking up compacted clay soils native to our region, allowing oxygen and water to penetrate more deeply into the root zone. Early fall is the optimal time to do this in order to maximize seed germination and establishment, and minimize weed seed competition.
Again, the best defense is… healthy, dense grass… to combat a myriad of pest pressures, specifically grub damage. When necessary, through regular monitoring, Organic Plant Care uses organic cedar oil to suppress grubs at their most vulnerable stage when populations exceed damaging thresholds. Our product is OMRI-approved (Organic Materials Review Institute) and safe for people and pets, as well as for beneficial insects.
The first step in combating weeds is to first understand why they are present. Appearance of broadleaf weeds in your lawn is an indication that there are chemical, physical and/or elemental imbalances in the soil. Soil compaction, pH that is too high or too low, and nutrient deficiencies are some of the conditions inviting unwanted weeds. Address those conditions and weeds will often go away. When weeds comprise more than 25-30% of the yard, especially in transitioning lawns, Organic Plant Care has both pre and post-emergent rescue treatments available to initially suppress weeds to a manageable level.
We have proven results: lush, dense lawns… beautifully and organically!