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Healthy Lawn Recipe

The lawn is the most prominent landscape in residential areas. Many homeowners spend hunders of dollars a year on related services and products.  Below are some ideas that are both green and economical methods for taking care of your lawn.

Feed the Soil

  • Apply compost, either store-bought or homemade, throughout the growing season.  This product adds macro and mircro-nutrients to the soil, and increases microbial activity that will decompose thatch - a layer of dead and living stems and roots that forms between grass plants and soil.
  • Apply organic fertilizers in late summer or early fall to further improve soil fertility and increase its organic matter content. These slow-release products will not burn grass, nor will they contaminate ground and surface water.
  • Leave clippings where they fall. They are the perfect fertilizer - free, convenient and full of nutrients.They boost soil fertility by up to 30 percent and provide much needed moister and shade.
Top-quality mulching mowers are best for recycling clippings. Other mowers can be altered to do the job. Remove the bag and seal off the discharge chute so clippings fall under the mower, or use a conversion kit. If your mower drops clippings in clumps, spread them out with a rake.


Remove small plugs of earth from the top soil layer to relieve compaction, allowing more water and air to infiltrate. Hire a professional lawn care company to aerate your lawn, or rent an aerator from the local hardware store and do it yourself. This is best done in the fall just before an application of compost or organic fertilizer (see Feed the Soil section above).


Overseed ever year, ideally in the fall. Dense turf will crow out weeds like dandelions and crabgrass. Avoid Kentucky blue grass, which needs lots of water and fertilizer and is highly susceptible to grubs. Choose hardy, pest-resistant, drought-tolerant (labelled as endophtyic or endopyte-enhanced) perennial rye and fescue grass blends suited to your yard's light, moisture and soil conditions.


Mowing high is good for your lawn. A cutting height of 6-8 centimetres (2.5 to 3 inches) will shade-out sun loving weeds who need light to germinate, encourages grass root development, and keep soil cool and moist. Keep you mower blade sharp to ensure a clean cut and a healthy lawn.


Lawns need 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) of water a week. Rain often provides this amount or more. When this is not the case, water deeply once a week during early morning or early evening. Avoid watering at night as cooler temperatures and sitting water invite disease.

Clean Up

Pests feed on dead and decaying plants. By cleaning up at the end of the growing season (i.e. raking the leaves and collecting fallen branches), you will make it harder for pests to survive and have less work come spring. In the spring remember to rake the lawn to remove any thatch acquired over the winter monthes.  This will allow the grass to reawake and thrive in the spring rains.

Lawn Pests

Complete removal of weeds and pests is not possible or necessary. Focus on the overall health of the lawn, accepting that a certain amount of weeds and pest activity is normal.
Annual Bluegrass: Pull, hoe or till small bunches; cover large patches with clear plastic for two weeks and then re-seed; aerate and apply compost; do not overfertilize.
Aphids: Plants can tolerate a small population of aphids without major injury.  Natural enemies of aphids can help keep them in check. Having a garden rich in flowering plants and varities will attract insects like ladybugs to your garden.  A strong blas of water can be used to remove them from plants.
Beetle Grubs: Grubs feed on grass roots causing the grass to die. Mow high (6-8 cms or 2.5 to 3 inches); water deeply; apply beneficial nematodes in late August to mid September; aerate in the spring or fall and overseed with ryegrass and fescues in the fall.
Broadleaf Plantain: Remove by hand, root and all, and overseed. Aerate and apply compost; mow high.
Brown Patch: Rake to remove any thatch; aerate; forgo chemical fertilizers; overseed with endophytic ryegrasses; do not water at night; mow high, with a sharp blade.
Chinch Bug: Bugs are a result of poor soil nutrients, high levevels of nitrogen and thatch build up. Rake to remove any thatch; water heavily during dry periods; aerate and apply insecticidal soap every 104 days; avoid chemical nitrogen products.
Common Chickweed: Remove plants before flowering and rake up stems to avoid re-establishment; re-seed with tall fescue and mow high; do not overfertilize. 
Crabgrass: Dig out plants completely and re-seed immediately; mow high.
Creeping Charlie / Jenny or Ground Ivy: Aerate; add compost; avoid overwatering; allow soil to dry between watering.
Dandelion: Remove by hand, root and all, before they go to seed. Aerate and apply lime; overseed and mow high.
Dollar Spot: Avoid overwatering and watering at night; dethatch; mow high, with a sharp blade; check for nitrogen imbalance and correct with organic fertilizer.


Rubin, Carole. How to Get your Lawn and Garden off Drugs. Madeira Park: Harbour Publishing, 2003.
Schultz, Warren. The Chemical-free Lawn Emmaus: Rodale Press, 1989.
Tukey, Paul. The Organic Lawn Care Manual. North Adams: Storey Publishing, 2007.