Ahh yes - the smell of fresh cut grass - what's better? It's another sign that Spring has set in and summer will be here before we know it. None of us want a dead lawn and polluted waters so stop with the chemicals because they typically aren't required!
Most of us have seen the guy next door fertilizing his lawn every season and yet you still have to look at anything but a green lawn. In my experience, these lawns typically aren't much (if at all) healthier than a chemical-free lawn. Common sense would indicate, more fertilizer and weed kill, the better. The fact is, at least in the Northeast, the chemicals you are putting on the lawn are likely stopping your lawn from reaching its full potential and costing you more for little to no benefit.
Last season I got fancy and put down the recommended amount of fertilizer in one part of my yard, closely following the timing instructions and application procedures. As luck would have it, the next season, my lawn looked....you guessed it, worse than ever. It became clear to me that chemicals aren't needed as proven by my own lawn.
Side with fertilizer and weed kill (taken recently - this is still better than what it was so we will see how this spring/summer turns out):
You will notice the dead patches and a ton of weeds which came a season after the chemicals. Fertilizer literally killed part of my lawn - shouldn't these actions result in a 'healthier' lawn? Nope!
The good news is there are a couple of things you can do to avoid using chemicals on your lawn. Here are a couple things I learned to produce a healthy, green lawn without the use of harsh chemicals.
Use the highest cut length on your mower - Cutting your grass longer will prove beneficial in the long-run, leading to a more full, green lawn. The longer you cut the grass, the better protection the soil and insects have.
Use a mulching blade - Your goal is to provide as many natural nutrients to your soil as possible, helping your lawn's root system mature. Mulching blades make for much smaller clippings that can make their way down to the soil both for nutrients and protection. In fact, mulched grass is high in nitrogen, an important element of photosynthesis.
Chemicals are an absolute last resort - Especially in the Northeast, chemicals typically ARE NOT required if these other practices are followed. There are scenarios where fertilizers and weed killer might be required but you will find these chemicals do more harm than good.
Frequency of mows is important - Remember that grass is a living plant and requires energy & nutrients to rebuild itself (grow). Too frequent of cuts will result in a less than ideal lawn quality and could have lasting repercussions, depriving soil of important nutrients.
Realize instant results are unachievable - Be patient! Even with the fertilizers and weed killer, it all takes time. Taking your time and allowing your lawn to grow will lead to a more sustainable, easy to maintain yard.
Insects are crucial to your soil quality - One topic that is overlooked when considering the use of chemicals on your lawn is that of the insect ecosystem within your soil. This is one of the most important aspects of excellent soil quality which means excellent grass. Think twice before putting down chemicals that will destroy this ecosystem living under your lawn.
Once these six simple rules were followed, my lawn began to look much happier, making me very pleased with the result. I am happy to say that our yard is chemical free with relatively few weeds during the peak of the season (grass needs to full mature to crowd out the weeds).
Side of lawn strictly using the 6 rules above, never fertilized (other than from the dogs) or weed kill:
To build a happier lawn, spend the next 2-3 seasons laying off the chemicals and see what happens. I did and was able to prove the results are far better without the weed kill and fertilizers. In the rare instance your soil quality isn't good, you my need to give your yard an extra boost but for the most part, you can get away without spending the extra money and even reduce the chemicals abound.