Green Ways To A Great Lawn


With all the variety of landscapes from one home to the next, there is still one common factor present in nearly all of them: Grass. In a way, grass is the canvas where we paint in our shrubs, flowers, trees, and bushes. It compliments them and gives us functional space to play and relax.

And it seems easy enough to establish. Till up the ground, throw down some seed, scatter straw, and keep it moist.

Unfortunately, making the best yard from the best grass seed applied with the best techniques isn’t always enough. Weeds fight us at every turn, and it can be tough to stay ahead of them.

It’s even tougher when you’re eco-minded and want to avoid the use of pesticides. Without chemical intervention, it is very difficult indeed to keep unwanted plants at bay.

But if you just let the weeds slide, you’ll have unwanted attention to deal with instead. Everybody in the neighborhood has managed to get good grass going, so why can’t you?

Of course, the difference between you and the rest of the cul-de-sac is that you are taking a green approach to living, and you don’t want to slather the whole place in chemicals, endangering your health and your planet. Good for you–but bad for your neighbors.

Is there a solution? Can you keep weeds under control without polluting? While there’s no foolproof method, the answer is a qualified yes. There are some things that we can do to control weeds without using chemicals.

Let’s review some effective techniques.

Choosing The Right Grass Species

One of the most fundamental mistakes people make is trying to make a square grass fit into a round climate. In other words, they get excited about some beautiful species of grass and try to establish it in their yard, without realizing (or acknowledging) that they don’t live in the correct climate.

Grass is suited to particular local conditions, and while many species are widely adapted and can grow almost anywhere, others need to stick to climates most like the one where they developed.

For example, you can grow warm-season grasses in North Dakota, but they won’t green up until summer and they’ll go dormant at the first frost. In the meantime, weeds–which are always locally adapted–will have no competition for space, sun, or water, and they’ll take over.

So before you buy, consult a landscaper, neighbor, or university extension agent for suggestions on which grasses will be most at home at your home.

Choosing Your Battles

Some places in your yard just won’t grow grass. It’s just reality. Big shade trees, wet areas, and thin soils sometimes create an environment that’s not conducive to grass of any kind, locally adapted or not.

Of course, you can sometimes correct these problems. A few limbs off the bottom of that massive oak can permit enough sunlight for grass growth, but dense trees like evergreens aren’t so cooperative. Depending on other features in your landscape, you may end up with some areas that will never support grass. And areas that won’t support grass will gladly support weeds.

So think of a back-door entrance. If grass won’t survive and you don’t want to fight weeds, find a species that’s better suited to a shady, wet, or otherwise grass-averse location. Or find a non-vegetative choice, like a solar-powered fountain or just some beautiful stones. (After all, anybody can grow rocks.)

The point is to realize that you can’t always get grass to grow, and sometimes you just have to outsmart the site.

Mow Wisely

Many of the most pesky weeds in a lawn are annuals. That might surprise you since you see the same ugly things pop up every year. But what you are seeing is a new generation of the same old weed; last year’s edition stuck its head up, dropped seeds on the ground, and died over the winter. When spring arrives, those seeds will germinate and re-populate–and in bigger numbers than before.

The key is to interrupt this cycle. If you mow on a regular basis and make sure to do so before those gangly weeds stick their seed heads up above the desirable grasses, you will drastically reduce their reproductive rate and thin their population for the next year.

Everybody wants a beautiful lawn, but there are different ideas about how to achieve it. Fortunately, your green aspirations won’t keep you from having a beautiful lawn if you work against weeds in other ways.

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