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Organic lawn care

05/27/03 12:00AM By Charlie Nardozzi
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(Host) Commentator Charlie Nardozzi has some organic advice for keeping your lawn green and healthy.


(Nardozzi) The American lawn is as synonymous with summer as hot dogs, baseball, and picnics. It seems everyone's got one, but few are happy with how it looks. This dissatisfaction with our lawns has encouraged a whole industry of lawn care products including fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. All have the specific intent of making your lawn greener, more lush, and weed-free. However, many have questioned the wisdom of applying all these chemicals.

Up until the past 10 years or so, the solution has been either bite the bullet and spray or do like I do, and just live with it. As with vegetable, fruit, and flower gardens, lawns have entered the organic age. There are now many products and techniques that allow you to have a beautiful lawn without having to weed and feed it. Here are some organic lawn care tips.

A healthy lawn will be able to naturally fight off many pests and diseases. The key is feeding the soil. Top dress your lawn every spring and fall with a 1/2-thick inch layer of compost. It will build the tilth of the soil that is supporting all that green growth.

Grass roots need air, water, and fertilizer to grow properly. Aerate your lawn every spring with an aerating rake, aerating machine, or aerating sandals. By loosening the soil underneath the grass, air, water and fertilizer can easily move to the roots where they are needed.

Mow high, often, and leave the clippings. Mow grass to three inches tall for most Vermont lawns, not removing more than 1/3rd of the grass height at any one clipping. This allows the grass to shade out germinating weeds. The clippings are fertilizer for the lawn.

If the lawn gets ahead of you, as it can during rainy weather, remove and compost the clippings, or move the cutting height to the highest setting and mow. Mow a second time a few days later at the normal setting. Keep the mowing blades sharp to reduce tearing the grass.

Be smart with pest controls. Use new mole repellents with castor oil as the active ingredient, on mole infested lawns. The moles hate the smell and tunnel elsewhere, but the castor oil won't hurt any other animals.

Get rid of skunks digging in your lawn by reducing one of their main food sources - grubs. Spray beneficial nematodes on lawns in early June to parasitize the grubs while not harming any other soil critters, pets, or people. Not only will you reduce the skunk damage, you'll also reduce the number of Japanese beetles you have on your roses and flowers in summer.

Spread corn gluten herbicide for crabgrass control in late May. Derived for the corn syrup making process, this natural herbicide inhibits the germination of crabgrass seeds, while adding about 10% nitrogen fertilizer to your lawn.

These are just some of the ways you can have greener pastures without poisoning them in the process.

This is Charlie Nardozzi from Hinesburg.
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