We need to tuck our lawns in for their long winter’s nap so that they will wake up lush and healthy in the spring. While we are doing that, we can also do right by our planet by employing eco-friendly methods and products. The following tips ensure that our lawns bounce back with the least possible damage to the environment.
Clear Up the Lawn
Rake up the leaves and add them to your compost pile. If left on the grass, they prevent sunlight from reaching the grass and allow patches of mold to settle in. The dead leaves also adversely affect water quality. The phosphorus and nitrogen run off, feed algae that kill fish and contaminate our water.
For the same reasons, it’s not okay to let leaves go down storm drains. Those nutrients go right to the nearest body of water. You might as well dump a chemical fertilizer directly into the river.
Dethatch and Aerate
Thatch is that layer of shoots, stems, and roots on the surface of the soil. It prevents the grass roots from getting the water and nutrients they need for the winter. You may be able to rake the thatch up with a garden rake. If it’s especially thick, use a thatch rake or a vertical mower. The good part of thatch is it makes for more material for your compost pile.
Aerate a lawn that had too much traffic in the summer, is now compacted and, like the thatch, is creating a barrier between nutrients and grass roots. Punch plugs of soil from your lawn with a tined garden rake or a rented self-powered aerator.
Dig up invasive weeds completely, or else they will sprout again in the spring. Don’t add them to the compost pile like they are or they will grow and spread. You first have to “cook” them to death, or practice hot composting. Seal them in a black plastic bag and put the bag in a sunny spot off by itself. In a couple of months, you will see that the weeds are mere vestiges of their former selves, and you can toss them into your compost pile.
Note: Most chemical herbicides are toxic to animals and the environment in general.
This tip is region-specific. If you live in a warm region, overseed with cool-season grassseed, such as Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass. As the warm-season grass types go dormant, the cool-season grasses will keep your lawn green throughout the winter. In the cooler regions, overseeding prevents weeds from attacking. Thin lawns are open invitations to invaders such as crabgrass and dandelions.
Tend to Your Compost
Material composted over the summer should be ready. Use that “black gold” that is brimming with nutrients to amend deficient soils or improve the fertility of your lawn. The compost gives your lawn a jump-start for the springtime.
For new compost, add a layer of straw or leaves. It needs to be alive and active even in winter, and the additional layer keeps up the internal temperature. Do not put any diseased or insect-infected plants into your compost pile, or else you’ll be returning the diseases and pests to the soil in the spring. Destroy the plants instead.
Written by Katie Marie for EarthTalk.
Featured image provided by Gus Ruballo