6 Steps to a Lush Kid & Pet Friendly Lawn
When summer rolls around, it’s nice to have a beautiful lawn to spend time on, enjoying the warm weather. However, having a lush lawn requires some upkeep, especially if you have children and pets.
Follow these steps to achieve a healthier lawn that is safe for the whole family:
1. Use Natural Weed Killers
Limit use of synthetic herbicide, which can cause soil damage over time and can be dangerous to children and pets.
Here are a few ideas:
- For a completely natural weed killer that poses no threat to your lawn or your family, pour boiling water on the weeds to shrivel even the toughest weeds in just a few days.
- Like most commercial herbicides, vinegar is nonselective. It doesn’t care if it kills weeds or if it kills your flowers. Unlike other herbicides, vinegar is eco-friendly and won’t harm your children, pets or the environment. Vinegar works well for weeds with long taproots like dandelions. Putting dish soap in your vinegar mixture will make it stick better to the weeds.
- Another natural weed killer can be made from orange oil, vinegar and dishwashing liquid. Again, this weed killer doesn’t discriminate between good plants and bad, so spray before planting or be very careful with your application. These weed killers have no residual action, so will not provide any long-term weed control.
- Corn gluten meal has been used for a while now as a pre-emergent herbicide. It’s so effective that it works well on all seeds, so don’t use near your garden or other plants. Corn gluten meal is a weed preventative measure and will not work on weeds that have already sprouted.
- Water-powered weeder is what I consider to be the most fun you can have while weeding your lawn. This tool creates a powerful blast of water that makes a small hole near the weed’s root, loosening the root so it can be easily picked.
- Crabgrass germinates when the soil temperature reaches about 56 degrees F, which happens in mid-April in many regions. Wait until your soil reaches this mark for a few consecutive days before treating with a pre-emergent product. It doesn’t grow well in shaded areas, so no need to treat areas that are well shaded.
2. Take Care of Your Lawnmower
Make sure your mower is in tip-top condition. Dull mower blades tear at grass rather than cutting it cleanly, and this leaves the grass with ragged edges that can invite disease. Here on tips on caring for your lawnmower:
- When grass is growing, you should sharpen the blade after every 8 hours of use.
- If you hit something while mowing, sharpen nicked edges immediately.
- Always disconnect the spark plug when touching the blade or working on your mower to prevent the mower from accidentally starting. Use a pair of work gloves to protect your hands while you hold the mower blades.
- Monitor the oil level in your mower and look for floating debris or oil that is old. To change the oil, remove the drain plug underneath the mower and allow to drain completely into a safe container. Many auto shops will dispose of old oil safely for a small fee.
- Clean out the undercarriage. Use a wire brush to scrape dirt and grass that can get caked under the mower. Spray away any remaining debris with a hose.
- Inspect the air filter to make sure it isn’t clogged or dirty. Dirty filters will put stress on the mower and cause it to burn gas less efficiently.
3. Let Your Grass Grow
Follow the ⅓ rule. Never cut more than ⅓ of the blade height. If you only fertilize once a year, do it in the fall. Here are more tips on growing grass:
- Let it grow to around 3 to 3 ½ inches and maintain that length for the season. This allows the grass to grow enough to prevent weeds from germinating, and it reduces evaporation.
- When fall comes, you can cut your lawn short again since weeds are less of a concern. Cutting grass too short stresses it and reduces its ability to resist pest infestation.
- if you want to keep your grass green the entire summer, water your lawn infrequently but deeply. It’s better to water your lawn once every week or two for an hour than watering for ten minutes every day.
- Deep, infrequent watering encourages deep roots that are more resistant to drought and disease. Use a well-trusted organic fertilizer like Lawn Restore II, which works on several different kinds of warm- or cool-season grasses, including Kentucky bluegrass, centipede grass, Bermuda grass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue and St. Augustine grass.
Once your lawn has been established, composting can be done two or three times a year. Composting is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure your lawn stays healthy, lush and green. Regularly examine your lawn for signs of disease or insects.
4. Choose the Right Grass
Find the right grass for your climate and lawn. Have a lot of trees that shade your lawn? Keep that in mind when trying to make the perfect lawn. Not sure which kind of grass is best for your area? Check out this map from This Old House that shows which grass is best suited for your zone. Consider these other steps as well:
- Kentucky bluegrass is great for a high-traffic lawn. If you have children, this is an ideal grass for you. It handles cold and drought well, too.
- Tall fescue is another high-traffic grass, with deep roots to help it survive drought.
- Zoysia grass tolerates insects, disease, dryness and shade well but doesn’t like the cold. It will go brown as soon as cold weather hits.
- Bermuda grass loves full sun and will spread aggressively; it’s one of the most drought-tolerant grasses.
If you’re just starting your lawn, spring is the perfect time to put down sod. There’s time for your grass to take root and the weather is still cool. Your sod should be fresh, avoiding rolls that have been sitting outside for a while.
When you purchase your sod, ask someone at the garden center for information about which grass best suits the conditions of your yard and what your watering schedule should be. And pH test your soil, this will tell you a lot about the health of your soil and what it needs to properly nourish your lawn.
5. Fertilize Naturally
Considering using a mulching lawnmower, which leaves organic matter on the lawn and boosts nitrogen levels. Never mow when wet. Synthetic chemicals in fertilizers are harmful to your pets, children, soil health and the environment in general. The chemicals can run off into other water supplies.
Keep these tips about fertilizer in mind:
- Nitrogen is the most important nutrient for growth, but too much nitrogen can lead to discoloration and yard burn. Leaving your grass clippings can contribute up to 25% of your lawn’s yearly fertilizer needs, and since grass clippings break down so quickly they won’t cause thatch.
- Too much quick-release fertilizer combined with spring rains can create overly lush growth, which increases fungus problems. Use a slow-release fertilizer instead.
- Organic lawn fertilizer doesn’t provide immediate results like a synthetic fertilizer but improves the quality of the lawn over time, reducing the need for future applications
Fall is the best time for aerating and dethatching. Even though they are a time-consuming hassle, they really makes a major difference in the health of your lawn. They open up the soil so it can get water and oxygen more efficiently
6. Natural Pest Control
Only use natural products to control pests. Keep in mind these tips:
- For controlling the pest population in the fall, such as mole crickets, neem oil is a natural insecticide you can dilute with water and spread with a pump sprayer. Neem oil also prevents powdery mildew on plants.
- Beneficial nematodes will control soil-dwelling pests like grubs, Japanese beetles and cutworms.
With the foot traffic children can create, and the unsightly nitrogen burns that dog urine can leave behind, keeping your lawn healthy and beautiful may seem like an impossible task, but regular maintenance will help your lawn reach its full potential. Prevent nitrogen burn by pouring water on the area where your dog went, and repair by planting new seed to fill in dead grass.
It may seem easier to use synthetic herbicides and fertilizers for faster results, but doing things naturally will lead to more reward in the long run. Your time and effort will create a lawn that is healthy and safe for your family, your pets and the environment.
Ali Lawrence is a kombucha tea-sipping writer who focuses on healthy and sustainable living via her family blog Homey Improvements. She also writes about DIY projects, home tips and other house related topics. Ali was born and raised in Alaska and dabbles in marketing, Pilates, and is a princess for hire for kid’s parties. Find her on Twitter at @DIYfolks.