With the use of chemicals being regulated and removed from the market, there are some great alternative products that meet the new standards. This new focus is more of a holistic view on lawn care, concentrating on the basic needs and conditions of the lawn and soil to fix issues. The attitude of alternative lawn care is focusing on prevention and helping your lawn out compete weeds, insects and diseases.
Here are some simple tips and products to help you maintain a beautiful, healthy lawn.
Regular fertilizing gives your lawn the necessary nutrients to keeps it strong and healthy. Keeping your lawn well-fertilized will help it out compete any possible weed infestations, and will make it tolerate a certain degree of insect infestation. You can choose to use synthetic or organic fertilizer on your lawn. Synthetic fertilizers give a huge chemical boost to a lawn, greening it up and causing lots of top growth. Unlike the synthetic, the organic fertilizers offer a slow-release feed which is better for the overall health of the plant, and will not burn the grass as synthetic fertilizers can.
Nova Scotia has naturally acidic soil. In order to sweeten the soil to benefit the development and health of your lawn, it is recommended to apply lime, twice a year. Testing your soil will help determine if your pH level is ideal for your lawn. Most pH level in Nova Scotia are around 5.5. Ideally the pH should be 6.5-7.0 for optimum turf growth.
Topdress and Overseed
Adding some organic matter (compost) every year will help build up the soil, and add macro and micro nutrients. Overseeding will help thicken up your lawn and keep it healthy, especially in areas that are sparse after the winter cold or summer heat.
Testing your soil every couple of seasons will tell you if you lack or have an excess of any specific nutrients. We carry several different products that will test your soil for pH and essential nutrients in your soil.
Aerating the soil helps to reverse the effects of compaction. It increases air and water circulation in the soil by opening up air spaces. Compacted soil is bad for grass development and will often result in various weed infestations (such as plantain and clover).
Good mowing habits will help the overall health of your lawn. Mowing your lawn too low can attract weed problems and stress out your turf, especially in mid-summer with the hot sun. It is also important to never take off more than 1/3 of the grass blade when mowing. It is healthier to mow more frequently and keep the grass longer than removing a large portion of the blade at once. Keeping your lawn mower’s blades sharpened is important to prevent injury to the grass.
Choose the Right Grass Seed
Choosing the right grass seed to seed an area is important to the development and health of the lawn. Most insects and diseases target specific varieties of grass, so it is beneficial to use a blend of different varieties of grass seed, making it more insect and disease resistant (eg. GreenFast, GreenVelvet, Shady Nook and Hi-Way Mixtures). Also be aware of the physical conditions the lawn will face (high traffic, salt spray, sun or shade, etc). Choosing the proper blend for your property is important.
Knowing Your Weeds
Various weeds are indicators of conditions that need to be improved in your lawn. Knowing which weeds are attracted to certain conditions will help you establish what you can do to improve the lawn. For example, Plantain likes compacted soil. Aerating will help prevent any reoccurrence. If you are unsure of what a particular plant is, bring a sample into either Halifax Seed location and we will do our best to identify it and offer solutions to control and prevent the weed from coming back.
A healthy lawn needs about 1” of water a week. Rainfall can take care of this. During droughts, the lawn should be kept watered to diminish stress on the grass. To encourage a deep root sytem it is best to water well less often rahter that short shallow waterings. A quick trick to help watering in drought conditions is to place an empty tuna can on the lawn while the sprikler is on, when the can is full you have watered enough.
The approach in weed control has changed to more of a holistic viewpoint, but sometimes it is necessary to nip persistent weeds in the bud! There are some great environmentally friendly weed controls available. After removing weeds, remember to put down a good quality topsoil and grass seed to ensure that grass fills in the area and not another kind of weed!
- Corn Gluten is a preventative product that inhibits weed seeds from germinating. It should be put down first thing in the spring, and again in the fall. It also adds some organic matter to your soil. Note: wait 6 weeks to put new grass seed down.
- Weed B Gon: an iron based spray that can be used as a spot treatment for many of the common lawn weeds. Does not harm grass, but can cause browning temporarily. Works best on broad leafed weeds.
- Weeding: The classic manual removal of weeds from the lawn. We sell various instruments designed to ease this task!
A healthy lawn can withstand some insects, but if there is an infestation there are environmentally friendly options.
- Nematodes: Beneficial nematodes are a microscopic insect that can be applied to certain insect infestations in the lawn. They do not harm the grass or any beneficial insects, but will target the pesky insects. Nematodes can be used on leatherjackets (crane fly larva), white grubs, chinch bug and sod webworms. These are an easy and environmentally friendly way to get rid of many lawn pests! As these are live products, Nematodes are only available certian times of the year when the soil temperatures is above 15 degrees celsius (usually when the insects are active).
- Trounce: A Safer’s product made from potassium salts of fatty acids and pyrethrins that is used for the treatment of chinch bug and ants on lawns.
- Kelp Meal: Has properties which will deter chinch bug, and also adds good organic nutrients to your lawn.
- White Dutch Clover: Although some consider white clover to be a weed, it can be beneficial in the lawn in small quantities. It has become common for homeowners to spread white dutch clover seed on their lawns as it is said to deter chinch bug, is low maintenance and is exceptionally hardy. Clover does attract bees so be cautious if you have a bee allergy. Halifax Seed does not recommend more than 5% clover in a lawn. Clover can become quite slippery when wet.