For a healthy lawn without toxic chemicals, organic fertilizer is the way to go, says Becky Kielstrup, general manager and horticulturist at Avant Gardening & Landscaping in McFarland. It might cost more, but the payoff is worth it. Be sure to check the organic fertilizer label for recognizable heavy metals like copper, which could hurt your lawn.
Compost is also a key ingredient to eco-friendly lawn care, particularly with the heavy clay soil in this region. “[Spreading] all that compost, it’s getting all the good guys back into the soil; all the things that are necessary to make that grass healthy and happy,” she says. Compost helps the grass develop stronger roots and grow to take up more space. That leaves fewer nooks and crannies for the seeds of weeds to take root.
Kielstrup recommends composting twice a year: First, when the spring rains are over and again in the early fall. Lawns treated with compost can get a boost from compost “tea,” Kielstrup says. The liquid can be made at home (look it up on YouTube) with water, compost and a few other organic ingredients. Compost tea feeds microscopic organisms that are important in cycling nutrients. The tea is best applied with a sprayer after the compost works its way into the soil.
Aeration is also a big help to a healthy lawn. When using an aeration machine, make sure you pull the plugs (also called soil cores) out of the soil to reduce compaction in your lawn. Another tip: Don’t mow your grass too short. “If you really want to have good, bluegrass-quality turf, it absolutely must be mowed no shorter than 3 inches ever. 3.5 or 4 inches is even better,” Kielstrup says.