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Eco-Friendly Lawn Care 101

The Martha Stewart Show, September 2010

Just as eating local and organic pays dividends beyond just a healthier diet, eco-conscious lawn care benefits more than just your lawn: it's healthier for the environment, your family, and your pets.

Organic Fertilizer
Soil contains an interconnected array of organisms that create natural fertilizer, says Paul Tukey, a lawn-care expert and founder of SafeLawns. "Feeding with organics mimics the natural world, which grows tall trees just fine without our help," he says.

Treating lawns organically enhances soil life and reduces disease, which means healthier greenery and a cleaner environment. Studies also show that organic lawn care is safer for kids and pets, whose health can be threatened by many common lawn chemicals.

Fertilizers to Try

Eco-Friendly Grasses
If you're looking to replace the grass variety in your yard, consider one of these environmentally friendly grasses. They require less watering, less mowing, and less fertilizer, all of which helps cut down on your carbon footprint.

  • Ecolawn: This blend of fine fescue grasses is highly drought-tolerant and requires less fertilization than traditional grass. It can be grown anywhere in the United States. (Learn more: Wildflower Farm)
  • Buffalograss: As the native grass of the Western Plains, this variety thrives in drier areas of the country such as California and Nevada. It only needs to be mowed once a month. (Learn More: Todd Valley Farms | High Country Gardens)
  • Seashore paspalum: This is an eco-friendly grass for Southern states with warm climates. It doesn't even like fertilizer, and it tolerates recycled water, or even salty water. (Learn more: Phillip Jennings Turf Farms)

Using Water Efficiently
Watering too often encourages roots to stay near the lawn's surface where they're more susceptible to drought and disease. "By watering infrequently but deeply, we encourage roots to grow downward in search of the moisture," Paul says.

If you've just planted, it's good practice to water every day until the new plantings are established. But after that, you should only need to water once a week, if that. To test whether you need to water, feel six inches down into the soil: if it's wet, don't water.

Lawn Renovation
If your grass has seen better days, try Paul's eco-friendly renovation technique:

1. Rake lawn to remove thatch and dead grass, which creates good seed-to-soil contact.

2. Apply grass seed; don't skimp.

3. Cover with layer of compost; this helps retain moisture and keep the birds away, and it's a lot cheaper than spreading straw.

Learn how to turn your lawn into a garden with Paul's sod-top gardening tips.

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