Transitioning to Organic Lawn Care

For those that have been using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides for many years, the transition to organic lawn care might be tough.

The two work on different fundamental principles. With synthetics, you're feeding the lawn directly by applying nutrients. With organics you're feeding the soil and the microbial life which in turn feeds your lawn. These microorganisms (microherd) consist of beneficial bacteria, beneficial fungi and beneficial nematodes to name a few.

Synthetic fertilizers either kill, or make the soil inhospitable to your microherd and the result can be fairly sterile looking soil devoid of life.

Earthworms also do not do well in soils that have been chemically treated. The Greek philosopher Aristotle had referred to earthworms as "the intestines of the earth." They play a very important part in healthy lawns and gardens.

Earthworms tunnel through the soil which helps push are and reduce compaction. They also eat organic matter and excrete rich humus improving soil fertility. Worm castings can contain 40% more humus than the soil they live in. Worms also eat other soil particles along with organic matter, including very small stones. Through digestion, these particles break down into a very fine grit which makes the minerals they contain more easily absorbed by plants.

It's hard to see the other organisms without a microscope, but the earthworms are easy to spot. If you see a lot of earthworms in your soil, chances are you have good soil. A soil test will also give you some other important information including organic matter content.

If you're lacking in organic matter, you can topdress your lawn by spreading a thin layer (1/4" to 1/3") of good compost over it. This will also introduce some beneficial microorganisms. You can also buy earthworms if your soil lacks them.

If you see your soil is very bad, it may take one or two seasons to see good results. You won't kill off your grass, but it may not look as good. The results will be worth it in the long run.
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