My venture into natural lawn care has produced a beautiful lawn, far exceeding my expectations. Let me tell you what I have done and then relate a funny (but true) story from Wednesday evening.
I had a soil analysis performed by the University of Missouri extension and, while waiting for the results, I applied some corn glutten as a combination pre-emergent herbicide and fertilizer. See My Lawn, Naturally for details. The soil analysis told us that the dirt is fine, an unexpected pleasure, and that the only thing we need to do is add a bit of fertilizer in the late summer or early fall. I had expected at least one more round of fertilization, probably to add nitrogen, so I am delighted to save the effort and money. This does bear out the advice that I read in so many places: have your soil analyzed. Without knowing the condition of your lawn, how can you intelligently decide what treatment it needs?
We set the mower to a higher setting, up to 4 from 3. The taller grass crowds out weeds; they cannot even get started. I have read that it will be more drought tolerant, too, but this spring has been so soggy that drought has been the farthest thing from my mind. I tried setting the mower all the way up, at 5, but that was so tall that the grass was forming seed heads within a few days of mowing. Mown at 4, the lawn looks lush and green from a distance. Walking on it is kind of cool because the grass is so deep and springy.
I have been very careful with the weed-whacker, trimming the edges to the same height as the rest of the lawn. I used to be a mad man with a trimmer in my hand, gleefully slashing everything in sight down to the ground so that I wouldn’t have to deal with it again. Turns out, that is exactly the wrong thing to do. By cutting the vegetation short, the weeds grow more easily than the grass, which leads to more weed-whacking and a never-ending need for herbicides and weed-whacking all around the edges of the lawn. By simply leaving the grass as long at the edges as it is in the middle of the yard, very few weeds have gotten hold, even next to the curbs and the driveway.
Candy spent an hour, on two occasions in early April, pulling dandelions. In hindsight, I am not sure it was worthwhile but we were worried that the dandelions would get out of control. Next time they raise their yellow heads, I think we will just watch and see what happens. The grass has dealt with everything else so well that it will probably fend off most of the dandelions, too. I actually like dandelions so if I have some of them, I’ll be a happy camper. And since we don’t have any chemicals on our lawn, they may well end up in our salad bowl.
In addition to these four things (one application of fertilizer, mowing taller, weed-whacking taller, and pulling a few dandelions), we have done nothing else to the lawn except enjoy it.
On Wednesday evening, Candy and I were sitting on the patio enjoying the evening and the results of having mowed and weed-whacked. A guy came walking along the street; he was passing out fliers for lawn care service. Since we were within easy chatting distance of the curb, he stopped to chat and to try to sell his service to me.
Guy: What are you doing to take care of your lawn?
Me: Natural lawn care.
Guy: You put that down yourself?
Me: Yup. The lawn looks pretty good, doesn’t it?
Guy: Well, yeah, every lawn looks good this time of year.
Me: Do you see any weeds?
Guy: Looks silently at the lawn
Me: Why would I put anything else on a lawn that looks this good?
Guy: Continues to stare silently at the lawn
I had not realized just how well our grass can take care of itself until that moment. Here was a guy who wanted to sell us something, probably for a very reasonable price, and he clearly had nothing to offer in the face of cool, lush, green, objective evidence. As for me, I will just keep enjoying my yard and wondering why so many people around me pour so many dollars and chemicals onto the dirt outside their homes.