We’ve been doing organic lawn care in the Boston area since 1999. Over that time things have changed considerably. I used to be a little embarrassed to wear my Organic Soil Solutions name tag when I went to trade shows. Now, every one wants to be “green”.
One way we keep up to date is by attending seminars and workshops on turf management and soil health. This year we will be going to the Organic Turf Trade Show on Long Island, have a booth at the Ecological Landscaping Association in Springfield and going back to Cornell for a workshop on the Soil Health Assessment. I enjoy listening to the experts on the latest research on turf grass varieties, but we can’t wait to get back to work by March.
I recently attended a trade show in Boston called ‘New England Grows’ and took in a few interesting talks by scientists and experts.
Cornell researchers have shown that mulching leaves on to the lawn in the fall results in faster green up in the spring. They also measured better weed control in lawns where leaves were mulched. Of course, not raking the leaves in the fall will smother the grass, but mulching them with the lawnmower until there are too many is a great idea. It adds organic matter to the soil and probably keeps annual weed seeds from getting a chance to germinate. You can also pile them in the fall and mulch them in the spring.
Applying the right amount of fertilizer, by itself, to a lawn keeps down weeds, including dandelions, significantly.
When the lawn grows quickly under warm, moist conditions, it’s not the water that is stimulating growth. It is the increased biological activity under these conditions. Bacteria multiply and are eaten by protozoa and nematodes to make nutrients, especially nitrogen available to the plants. Carbon is broken down by fungi.
Crabgrass continuously germinates through the summer. 25% of crabgrass plants germinate in April and 75% of them have germinated by mid June. All have germinated by mid August.
It is particularly important to mow grass high in the shade where sunlight is at a premium and leaf surface to capture it is more important. Deeper roots are needed to store the extra food manufactured as the result of photosynthesis. Mowing high also helps the plant survive wear and tear. The crowns of the plant aren’t broken by foot traffic. A walkway is a good option to prevent damage to the lawn, especially in shade where the grass is more fragile. Fine fescues, which grow well in the shade, are the least wear tolerant of the grasses.
Researchers from Rutgers scour Europe and North Africa each year looking for new cultivars of grass that are resistant to fungal diseases. They are trying to find grass types that do well with little maintenance.
And finally, the reason we keep attending seminars on turf grass and soil health is best summed by Will Rogers, “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”