Monday, June 9, 2008

Green lawn experiment, naturally....

I'd love to get rid of my lawn. Less water use, more gardening opportunity and no more fertilizer to keep it green. We recently reduced the front lawn by about 60% and our back lawn by about 50%. Since I live in a family and I was the minority voice in the matter, this was a compromise.

Over the past couple of years, I have transitioned from the traditonal Scott's Weed and Feed to using nothing. Now I am exploring a couple of natural additives and practices to help keep my lawn green and lush without poisoning my local creeks and waterways downstream in the process.

Here are the practices I have incorporated recently and am seeing some early success (lawn looks surprisingly green):

1. Grasscycling - Using the "mulching" function on my lawnmower, I let the grass clippings, finally chopped, sit on my lawn. This adds nitrogen back into the lawn as the grass clippings degrade back into the soil. Surprisingly, the lawn doesn't look messy and we haven't tracked little blades of grass into the house;

2. Weeding by hand - yes, it is tedious, but it beats killing my soil with Round-Up and Scott's Weed and Feed; and surprisingly we have been fairly successful containing crabgrass, almost better since we stopped using Scott's Weed and Feed;

3. Applying a mix of blood meal (high in nitrogen) and bat guano (high in potassium and phosphorous) to the lawn - You have to be careful since these are considered "hot" and can burn your lawn if it is done carelessly. First, water your lawn for a minute. You can either use a fertilizer spreader and apply it low to the ground since it tends to be somewhat light and blows in the wind or you can use a sprayer with the mix inside. The problem with the sprayer is that the gritty bat guano tens to clog the sprayer. After I evenly apply the mixture, I then rewater the lawn for a minute or two right after application. Both bat guano and blood meal are sold at many independent nurseries under the brand name E.B. Stone.

The result of these steps is a surprisingly "green" lawn, healthy, maybe a little less weeds in the grass (especially crabgrass) and this is all done with natural products. Happy I tried it.

Question for readers of this post - Have a lawn? How do you keep it green and lush using only natural additives and practices?



Ross said...

Hey Sean,
I'm not sure if you have ever seen this site (, but they have great information on organic lawn care - I've found it quite interesting.

ilex said...

Good for you, Mad Man! Lawn care is one of the biggest scams of the 20th century. Dead zones of petro-grass break my heart- especially when I think of all the acidifying chemicals leeching into our waterways. And, being a Food Not Lawns girl, I have an additional hatred of the stuff- what a waste of potential food-growing space! I know you need to keep some of it, but good on you for going green. It does make a difference.

I don't have any tips for you, not having a yard myself, but I can cheer you on-- go, man, go.

Katie said...

Sean - you and Mrs. Mad Man have the most beautiful and welcoming front yard! I'm glad to see you've given up some lawn. So liberating!

We just cut and water the lawn. I'm sure our neighbors with their emerald colored lawns are jealous of our patch. Let's see how jealous they get when we stop watering it and put a sign up that says "Drought Declared 6/5/08"


Jeff said...

I don't have a lawn but St. John's Wort groundcover. But it needs a lot of water to keep it healthy. I'd like to have a lawn but they, too, need a lot of water and work to keep them looking nice. (Live in hot, hot Sacramento.)

I'm debating whether to xeriscape or put in fake grass that sells. I think a combo of both would look nice and reduce my environmental impact.

ninaclock said...

As a kid, I remember my dad setting the lawn on fire in the fall, after leaves had been raked. This somehow insured a green lawn for the next Spring. As I recall, this was Bermuda, the scourge of most subdivisions. Try setting your lawn on fire today and you would probably end up with the cops at your doorstep.

Mad Man Bamboo said...

Ross - Thanks for the link, will have to check that one out.

Ilex - I really don't like my lawn, if it was up to me it would have been gone long ago merely for the fact that I hate to maintain it - especially in the summer.

Katie - Thanks, this is one part of my home that we can actually say is "done."

Jeff - St. Johns Wort, interesting. Fake lawn these days looks better and better..... don't get me started about our hot Sacramento summers. Yeesh!

ninaclock - lawn on fire, eh? Yeah, the neighbors around here wouldn't take kindly to that.



Anonymous said...

Great job, Sean, and your lawn looks fantastic!!! I've never done a thing to my lawn but mow with the blades set fairly high, and it's incredibly lush, green, and gorgeous. I like seeing flowers and diversity in it, so I encourage a mix of white clover, ajuga (bugleweed), and numerous other low-growing wildflowers to mix with the grasses. (Mercifully, the dandelions around here don't get in the lawn--they tend to crop up in the borders and island beds. Go figure!) I even have some lamb's-ears in the back lawn! The mix is beautiful and lush, and it requires no water, no food, no nothin'. Guess I grew up with this laissez-faire attitude towards lawnmaking in my parents' Colonial home, where they treated their 3 acres the same way and you never saw such lush greenery! I wonder if mowing high so the roots are shaded and, of course, leaving the clippings on the lawn have anything to do with it? Anyway, as always, way to go!!!