- Midwest Pesticide Action Organization
starting at home
3 tips for healthier lawns & gardens
Most of us are not taught to test the soil. We put product down based on a manufacturer's recommendation—and it doesn’t occur to us to think any differently. The appropriate way to fertilize grass though is to take an initial soil test. That soil test will tell us what is going on in the soil and what we might need to do to correctly balance it for the best health of the grass and the life in the soils. In most regions of the country, land-grant universities provide soil testing services at very reasonable prices. You can go online and download a submittal form and send off a sample per their directions.
2. The exclusive use of organic fertilizers
If we are trying to “go organic” and eliminate a dependence upon synthetic pesticides, we also have to eliminate the use of these synthetic fertilizers. Synthetic fertilizers are manufactured using fossil fuels, salt-based and generally water-soluble. This kind of fertilizer directly feeds the plant and can be detrimental to a healthy biological soil system. In contrast, organic fertilizers, that are generally water-insoluble, feed the life in the soil, and the soil in turn feeds the plant.
3. Mowing height
It is generally accepted for most grasses (some warm season grasses excepted) that the ideal stress-free mowing height is around 3 inches. It is at this height when the grass can achieve maximum health, efficiently produce its own food through photosynthesis, begin to outcompete annual weed seed germination and many broad leaf weed pressures, develop deep roots, and stand up to drought conditions. For some of us that are used to cutting their lawns very short, this may seem like a big change. Most people, once they moved to a 3-inch height, appreciate the lush look that comes as the result.
other great resources
Non Toxic Neighborhoods, helps cities, school districts, HOAs, private businesses and major developers transition to organic landscaping practices successfully by sharing their proven and replicable methods. NTN's Toolkit and step by step Playbook provides how you can do this where you live from supporting research to shareable documents.
Osborne Organics “Chip” Osborne, Jr., Founder of Osborne Organics and the Organic Landscape Association has over 17 years of experience in creating safe, sustainable, and healthy landscapes and athletic fields through natural turf management. He shares his expertise here.
Beyond Pesticides, a national non-profit, keeps it clear and simple with their eight steps to healthy lawn care.
Northeast Organic Farming Association has written a thorough guide for organic land care.
Harvard University is clearly not anyone’s ‘backyard’ but the university has written an excellent brief on its organic maintenance program and its transition from pesticides.