Spring is here! How to get started with an organic lawn care plan

This content is sponsored by the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection.

As temperatures warm up, the new pesticide law in Montgomery County has residents rethinking their approach to lawn care. Only organic pesticides and herbicides are allowed to be used in the County to protect families and pets from the harmful effects of pesticides including respiratory tract irritation, anxiety, and behavioral disorders. Our environment benefits when we reduce pesticide use, as many pesticides kill or harm non-target organisms through runoff into streams, consumption by wildlife, and drift onto important pollinators and bird species.

Making the switch to organic lawn care is relatively simple but requires a plan and some patience. If your weed care plan was to rely only on chemicals to control weeds in your lawn, you may need to put extra effort in the first few years or your lawn conditions could suffer. Chances are you need time for your soil to adjust to the new conditions, and an increased effort to increase the density of grass in your lawn. With the right amount of effort and care, you could see positive results within a year.

The first thing that is recommended when making the switch to organic lawn care is to take a soil test. A soil test costs between $10 and $18. This will help you make a plan for what your lawn needs. Good soil health is imperative for good lawn health.

Next, you need to feed your soil.  Core aerate the lawn if the soil is compacted, and feed the soil with organic amendments such as compost, earthworm castings, compost tea or other natural materials.

It’s important to remember to be smart when mowing your lawn. Make sure to set your mower blade to cut higher than 3 or 4 inches. Leaving the lawn longer is healthier for the grass and helps to reduce weeds – and it does not mean you’ll cut the grass any more often than you already do! Rather than bagging lawn clippings, just leave them.  They are an important fertilizer for your lawn and this is less work for you.

When weeds pop up, use your hands, not herbicides. Pull a few weeds a day, or head out for an hour or two of healthy exercise in the fresh air each week. Leave some clover to help provide nitrogen to the soil, and tolerate a few dandelions, violets, or other flowering plants that are good for pollinators and wildlife. Although it may be tempting to water frequently or use sprinklers, avoid the quick and frequent water sessions. This encourages weeds to grow. Instead aim to water deeply, and infrequently, to promote healthy root growth of the grass.

Most importantly, overseed your lawn to fight weeds. A dense lawn can have up to 6,000 blades of grass in a one-foot by one-foot area! The denser your grass, the harder it is for weeds to get established. Check with a local landscape supplier or company that mixes certified seed blends for your area to get the best grass for your lawn. Fall is the best time for broad overseeding, but you can repair bare or thin patches of lawn all season while waiting for fall to come back around.

Switching to organic lawn care is healthier for your kids, pets, lawn and the environment, and it’s the law. Making a plan is key to making the switch to organic lawn care successful.

For more information about the law and to learn about organic lawn care practices, go to MontgomeryCountyMD.gov/lawns.


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