Pesticides & Organic Lawn Care
Follow these easy steps to a natural and pesticide free lawn:
Mow high. Set the mower blade to a height of 8 cm (3") to promote root development, shade out weeds and conserve soil moisture. Leave your grass clippings on the lawn, as they help to fertilize and add moisture. Sharpen your blade every spring to prevent tearing and stressing of grass blades.
Don't over water. A healthy lawn can survive several weeks in a brown or dormant state. During the dormant stage grass tends to wilt, but will recover when wet weather returns. At the very most, in the absence of rain, 2.5 cm (1") of water early in the morning once a week is enough to maintain a green lawn all summer. Use a rain gauge or a tuna can under your sprinkler to measure the 2.5 cm (1") level. If it rains, then wait 7 days before considering watering. Watering infrequently and deeply promotes deep root growth. The Town lawn watering bylaw restricts even numbered addresses to watering their lawns on even numbered days for no more then 4 hours between 12 am - 6 am or 7 pm - 10 pm and odd numbered addresses on the same time allowances on odd numbered days. Consider registering for York Region’s free Water Efficient Landscape Audit Service by calling 1-888-YORKH20 (1-888-967-5426).
Core aerate your lawn. Core aeration is one of the most important steps to achieving a healthy lawn using natural techniques. Core aerating physically removes a plug of soil and turf, leaving it on the grass. It helps to remove deep thatch, reduce soil compaction, encourage deeper rooting and allow water, nutrients and organic matter to penetrate the soil. Rent a mechanical aerator or hire a lawn care company to carry out the job in the spring and fall before fertilizing, top dressing and overseeding.
Top dress and overseed your lawn. In late summer or early fall spread a 0.5 cm (1/8") to 1 cm (1/2") layer of compost mixed with hardy, drought tolerant, pest-resistant grass species. Apply more top dressing and seeds to sparse areas. Select a seed mixture that contains a variety of seed types such as perennial ryegrass, fescues, clover, native grasses and wildflowers. Your choice of seeds should depend on the sun, soil and moisture conditions of your lawn. After application apply 2.5 cm (1") of water. Be careful when using triple mix or top soil as a top dress, because these products often contain weed seeds. Properly produced compost is disease and weed free, due to high temperatures of the composting process.
Monitor your soil and lawn. From time to time, visually inspect your lawn and soil for evidence of pests. Note any problems and do some research (e.g. consult a local gardening store or the resources on the back of this brochure to better understand pests and make informed choices about how to control them). You may also want to purchase a do-it-yourself soil test kit or hire a laboratory or nursery to determine the pH and nutrient levels in your soil. Appropriate levels of both are important to proper plant growth; and knowing nutrient levels will help you evaluate the need for fertilizer.
Fertilize appropriately. If you determine that you need to fertilize, the best time to do it is in spring or fall. Usually one application a year is plenty. Environment ally friendly fertilizing options include slow release, organic or phosphorus free fertilizers such as compost, grass clippings or corn gluten meal. Compost is an excellent soil enhancer as it provides nutrients and vital microbes that help to break down thatch and inhibit pests. Visit the Composting Council of Canada at www.compost.org for more information.
Replace some grass with native plants. Replacing your grass, gravel or pavement with native plants not only reduces the use of fertilizer and pesticide, but also contributes to cleaner air, cleaner water and more wildlife habitat. Native wildflowers, shrubs and trees slow the speed of rain and snow melt running off urban surfaces so that more water is filtered as it seeps into the soil to replenish groundwater systems. Native plants are also adapted to grow in local conditions, generally doing well with no pesticides at all. In comparison, traditional yards of mowed grass are sterile, high maintenance environments with few ecological benefits.
Use reduced risk products only as a last resort. Tolerate some pests and try hand digging to control weed problems. A small pest population in a healthy lawn is hardly noticeable and not demanding of action. If the pest begins to threaten the health of your lawn then consider using a Health Canada approved product that is lower risk to your health and the environment. Call the York Region Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653 or visit www.york.ca for a list of reduced risk products.
For more information, contact the Natural Heritage Section via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would prefer to hire a company to look after your lawn, we encourage you to consult the list of organic lawn care service providers available on the Organic Landscape Alliance Website at www.organiclandscape.org.