4 Natural Ways To Keep Your Lawn Green

In 17th Century Europe, neatly mowed turf emerged as a status symbol among wealthy landowners, explains Planet Natural. The areas around their mansions were carefully landscaped by teams of gardeners, and this trend directly influenced the design of town and city parks that began to spring up during the Industrial Revolution. It wasn't long before middle-class homeowners wanted their own little patch of park, and thus, the American obsession with lawns was born.

According to Landscape East & West, in 2011, Americans spent over $8.5bn maintaining their grassy yards, mowing an area as large as the state of Pennsylvania. Lawn care is big business, but spending extra money or time on your lawn doesn't guarantee green grass. Furthermore, there are more and more challenges facing lawn lovers. Water shortages across drier states, concerns about biodiversity, pollinators, and runoff, as well as ordinances against noisy landscaping tools, have all damaged the reputation of lawns in recent years, according to U.S. News. However, many neighborhood associations continue to stipulate that residents maintain a neat and tidy lawn. So, how can you keep your lawn looking lush and natural without it costing the Earth?

The perfect grass species

If you can plant grass into its preferred type of soil, it will develop a healthy root system and with it better resilience to changes in the levels of water and nutrients in the soil, according to LawnStarter. Although well-kept lawns look almost identical, there is a wide range of grass species to choose from. Each variety has its own preferences in terms of soil, temperature, water levels, and some specialist adaptations — such as salt resistance for coastal gardens.

Lawns that thrive in the Northern U.S. and Canada would turn into brown patchwork doormats in the warmer climates of the South. According to Clemson.edu, there are several options for grasses that grow well in the heat: carpetgrass grows well in wet, acidic soils; bahiagrass enjoys sandier soil, and tall fescue grass can deal much better with heavy clays. Just like any plant, different grasses are adapted to different levels of sunlight exposure — they can get scorched or shaded to death if planted in the wrong situation.

Rather than focusing on the potential pitfalls though, this means there is a perfect grass species for your lawn out there — once you discover your niche, you've just got to find the type of grass that fits it.

Watering, when and where?

Watering lawns is often in the headlines as the global need to conserve water intensifies, notes Greentumble. Part of the problem is that people overwater their lawns. According to Deseret News, nearly half of Utahans use too much water on their lawns in an effort to keep their lawns healthy. Not only is this a waste of water, but it is also bad for grass. Daily watering encourages sensitive, shallow roots. 

Per Gilmour, the average lawn only needs watering 2 to 3 times a week in summer months and 1 or 2 times a week in cooler times. This will encourage the roots to grow deeper and healthier, as well as provide protection against fungal growth — another risk for lawns that are watered too often. According to Popular Mechanics, the absolute best watering routine for a green lawn is enough water to soak 6 inches into the soil, once or twice a week, before 10 in the morning — if you can set up a system to do that automatically for you, all the better!

Mowing methods

Lawn care is not evenly distributed throughout the year. The winter is pretty dormant, but the summer can feel like a constant battle with your lawn as it grows quickly. There is an understandable temptation to mow the grass harder and lower in order to give yourself more time between each mow, especially if you have a large area of property to manage. However, this would be a mistake.

According to Consumer Reports, letting your lawn grow a little longer and maintaining a generous blade height is the key to helping your grass stay lush and healthy through the summer months. Let the grass grow to 4 or 4 1/2 inches high, and then mow to around 3 inches high and repeat throughout the season. The extra biomass shades and cools the ground, preserving water and preventing overheating. Short mowing runs the risk of exposing the roots to the intense summer heat and can turn a lush lawn brown very quickly.

Another common oversight is the blades of the mower itself. Garden Tool Expert explains that mower blades ought to be sharpened after every 25 hours of mower use. That could be once a year or a few times a month, depending on how much lawn you've got to take care of! Blunt blades don't cut grass, they tear and rip it, which looks unsightly and puts your lawn at risk of disease.

Use organic fertilizer

Plants, like people, need a complex mix of micro- and macro-nutrients to function healthily and well. They pull most of these chemicals from the soil via their root system. The level of these chemicals present in the soil goes down slightly with every inch of grass grown, and with every inch of water that washes through the soil. It's critical, therefore, to replenish your soil regularly so that your lawn can continue to grow with strength and vigor.

Inorganic fertilizers are chemically-produced compounds that contain plant nutrients in various quantities — according to the University of New Hampshire though, there is often a lot more phosphorus in these mixes than grass really needs to grow in a healthy way. This excess can have negative unintended consequences for local flora and fauna.

A more natural way to fertilize your lawn for green growth throughout the year is to use slow-release organic fertilizer. This isn't absorbed by the grass but is broken down by organisms in the soil into the perfect blend of nutrients for the grass. Because this is an ongoing process you only need to apply an organic fertilizer to your lawn once or twice a year and it will provide a constant source of nutrients. Exactly when to fertilize your lawn will depend on your location, but Lawn Chick advises waiting until your soil temperature is above 55 degrees as a rule of thumb.