By Robin Catalano
Once our gardens and flower beds are planted and mulched for the season, and with outdoor parties just kicking into gear, many of us turn our focus toward lawn care, and creating a lush, green, welcoming outdoor space. While most people have heard the term organic in the grocery store, when they hear it applied to lawn care, they’re not really sure what it means beyond avoiding the use of toxic chemicals. We like to help them take a step back and look at the bigger picture, and learn what organic lawn care is all about.
In nature, there are a variety of individual systems—including people, plants, and soil. Each have their own way of functioning independently, as well as cooperatively. Each also have their own innate intelligence, and can balance and heal themselves in response to changes in their environment. We even named our company after this idea—that nature works out its own ways of protecting itself and flourishing.
Nature is so sophisticated that each plant responds in real time to all the other plants and soil around it. So when a lawn develops a less-than-ideal condition—from soil compaction to extreme acidity or alkalinity, overabundance of moisture, or dryness—certain weeds will grow as a response. These weeds are not inherently bad; they’re communication tools that we can use to diagnose what’s going on in your landscape, and allow us to customize a treatment program to restore optimal health. Our goal then becomes to help, not harm. By understanding and honoring these systems, we can offer nature the support it needs to thrive.
We consider each lawn its own ecosystem, and assess what it needs at different times of the year to look and grow its best. For some lawns, that might mean aeration, overseeding, or better drainage. For others, the organic land care program might mean supplementing the soil with rich, nutrient-dense compost and liquid fertilizers.
Mowing practices also play a key role. Most lawns are cut far too short and too often, and frequently during times of stress, such as hot, dry weather. This encourages a host of problems, from brown or bare patches to structural weakness in the plants.
Insect issues are also common at this time of year, especially in wooded areas. This can be exacerbated by inappropriate plant location and soil; when trees, shrubs, and other plants are placed in areas that don’t offer ideal growing conditions for their needs, they become susceptible to disease—and to insect infestation. The good news is that these trees and plants can often be restored to health by relocation or corrective soil treatments, which then make the plant resistant to diseases and insects.
Organic lawn care is a holistic system of landscape maintenance that considers not only what you would like your lawn to look like, but what conditions exist now and how we can work within those natural systems to create a beautiful, luxuriant outdoor space that functions as an extension of your home. It’s about creating a custom program to encourage a healthy, happy, toxin-free lawn, from the roots up, throughout the spring, summer, and fall. And all it takes is attention to the cues nature is giving us, a little time and patience, and the right combination of natural, organic products.