I’ve got over 7,300 square feet of grass outside my house. Who knew? Not me, that’s for sure!
Yesterday, I picked up a bag of Concern Weed Prevention Plus from Worm’s Way in Olivette, MO. I did that because, almost a year ago, our lawn care company stopped showing up to care for our lawn. (Conveniently, they also stopped sending bills.) In between the vanishing gardener’s last visit and yesterday’s purchase, the lawn did it’s natural lawn-ish thing and I mowed as usual. We had a few more weeds by autumn but the sky did not fall and the world did not end.
Some time in late fall, I listened to a podcast on natural lawn care, featuring Paul Tukey, author of The Organic Lawn Care Manual. I liked what I heard. Tukey’s ideas jibe nicely with my ideas of how the world ought to run; little things like a lawn ought to be able to pretty much take care of itself, without the regular addition of lots of synthetic chemicals. As far as I know, darned close to 100% of the grasslands in the world got that way without man’s help. When I drive through Yellowstone and enjoy the pastures, I am quite sure that no one spread weed ‘n’ feed on them.
Tukey’s point is that you can have a gorgeous lawn by nurturing the natural eco-system in the soil. If you do that, you don’t need all of the synthetic fertilizers and pesticides because nature is really good at taking care of itself pretty much all the time. Our lawns require all the artificial chemicals because the artificial pesticides have killed off not just the pests but pretty much all of the insects and bacteria and fungi which used to live in the soil. Grass is just one part of a complex environment; it can’t live in bare dirt alone. So the choices are either artificially support the grass or rebuild the eco-system of which grass is just one component. Tukey went on to explain that, in the long run, natural lawn care is actually less expensive because the lawn needs fewer dollars of stuff dumped onto it, less watering, and less mowing. In that context, natural lawn care made a bushel of sense to me.
I borrowed a copy of The Organic Lawn Care Manual from the library and read it. Then I bought my own copy to keep. I read bunches of stuff from the University of Missouri Extension web site on natural lawn care. I learned about the benefits of soil samples and compost tea and corn gluten and clover and a dozen other goodies. I was all psyched up and ready to work magic on my lawn. There was just one problem: it was December. So I waited. My favorite pass-time. Not.
The weather finally did start to warm up, as it is wont to do, and that brought me to Worm’s Way, our local organic gardening store (and source of great beer making supplies, too). I stopped in yesterday, largely for information, and was tickled to see piles of both organic pre-emergent herbicide and organic lawn fertilizer. The clerk helpfully told me that the herbicide would treat 1,700 square feet and the fertilizer would treat 2,500 square feet. I’ve got a small-ish lawn so I bought a bag of each. I guessed that would do it for me.
Before I dumped the bag of herbicide in the drop spreader which has been mouldering on a top shelf of the garage for years, I did a little more reading. Just how was I supposed to know how to set the spreader and how much stuff I would need? The answer, doh!, was to start by measuring the yard, then set the spreader for a lighter setting than the herbicide’s instructions called for, and keep criss-crossing the yard until the appropriate amount of stuff had been distributed. That seemed much easier than trying to get the spreader set exactly right so that I would exactly run out of stuff exactly as I finished walking the yard exactly one time.
Candy and I measured our lot: 120′ x 100′ = 12,000 square feet. Whoa. That was a much bigger number than I expected.
Then we subtracted the spaces which are not grass:
- Driveway: 1,000 sq. ft.
- Garage & porch: 861 sq. ft.
- House: 2,275 sq. ft.
When all was said and done, I learned that we have 7,384 sq. ft. of lawn. Believe it or not, in all the years that I have lived in homes surrounded by lawns, in all the years that I have owned lawns, this is the first time that I have known how much lawn I have to care for.
We went back to Worm’s Way. Between yesterday and today, all but three of the bags of Weed Prevention Plus had evaporated. Fortunately, I needed exactly three more bags so I bought them, hauled them home, and spread the contents on the lawn.
This post is long enough so I’ll stop for today. Look for more installments on natural lawn care as the adventure continues.