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Natural Lawn and Garden Care

Ami Voeltz
The Twin Cities Green Guide

Most of us enjoy and appreciate a nice-looking yard, but lawns do more than just look good. They absorb and hold water, helping to reduce storm runoff and protecting water quality. Lawn care, however, can create environmental problems. One of the biggest problems comes from overuse or inattentive use of fertilizers with high phosphorus and nitrogen content that can pollute nearby lakes, streams, wetlands, and rivers.

Get Your Soil Tested

If you think your soil needs some help, get it tested first to ensure that it receives the nutrients it actually requires. Contact the University of Minnesota Extension Soil Testing Laboratory at 612-625-3101 or soiltest@umn.edu.

Learn to Naturally Resist Weeds

If overused or carelessly applied, pesticides can pose a threat to your health as well as disrupt the ecological balance of your lawn, killing beneficial earthworms and organisms. A healthy lawn and garden can naturally resist weeds and pests. Learn to read the signs of your yard. For example, dandelions are actually an indicator that the grass is too thin. You may need to reseed rather than apply pesticides.

Leave Your Grass Clippings

Your yard’s soil quality will be better maintained simply by leaving grass clippings with their nutrients on the lawn to decompose back into the soil.

Don’t Water In Excess

Watering lawns and gardens is another area that uses an excess of resources. It has been estimated that some 45% of residential water consumption goes to watering lawns in the summer months. You can keep your water bills in check while still keeping your lawns green. Water early in the morning when it is cooler instead of the afternoon or evening when much of the water will evaporate. A thorough weekly watering is plenty and that, plus allowing grass to grow to a height of three inches will promote root development that helps keep your lawn healthy. Using mulch in gardens and around trees and shrubs will also help with moisture retention.

Want to do more?

Consider planting a rain garden to intercept water runoff and to prevent erosion. To learn more about rain gardens and how to get one started, visit the web site of local rain garden guru, Dave Stack, at www.mninter.net/~stack/rain. See the Rain Gardens article.

Natural Care

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