How to grow a healthy lawn without pesticides – PAGE UNDER RE-CONSTRUCTION – AUGUST 2018
Simple. Easy. Cheap. The good news is that is it completely possible to have a green, healthy lawn without investing undue amounts of money and effort. Here we share the “Big Lesson” about how to outsmart weeds, offer specific suggestions for alternative practices, mention some permitted products that you can use (if needed), and provide links to further sources of information. Also look below for ideas about alternatives to regular grass for your green spaces. This may get you thinking about what the purpose of the lawn is, in the first place.
A Secret to Lawn Success
In two words, the big lesson about nurturing a healthy lawn under any circumstances is this: healthy turf. If the ground where you are growing your lawn is healthy and sound, weeds will find they just can’t get a foot in the door. Here are ways to have happy turf without tears.
1. Aerate: Aeration is a process of making small perforations in the soil so that air, water and nutrients can get down to the roots of the grass. The little cores that are punched out of the turf are left on the surface. Whether you do this yourself with your own aerator or a rented one, or hire someone to do it for you, this will be one of the best treatments you can offer to rehabilitate a tired lawn. When to aerate? We understand that spring or fall are good times to do this. How often will depend on factors such as how compacted the soil is. Once you have a healthy lawn established, you might not need to aerate every year.
2. Overseed: Manitoba covers a lot of geography from north to south, so check with a local nursery to find out what type of grass grows well in your area. Overseeding an existing lawn will help create a thick grass cover that will crowd out competing weeds. It simply involves spreading seed over the entire lawn, with special attention to any brown patches. This can also be a time to apply a thin layer of soil (not more than a quarter inch) to give the seeds something to burrow into. Then lightly water daily until the new grass is the same height as the rest of the lawn. When to overseed? Experts recommend fall as a time for this.
3. Amend: Top-dressing the lawn periodically with a layer of finished compost is a good idea. Organic compost helps improve the structure of virtually any soil type – heavy clay, sandy soil or anything in between. And compost also helps balance soil pH, whether acidic or alkaline.
4. Fertilize: Research suggests that people tend to over-fertilize their lawns, often applying more than the grass can handle. If your grass needs a little boost, use only organic fertilizers. Two of the best are grass clippings (you can just leave them on your lawn) and corn gluten (which also helps prevent dandelions and other weeds from emerging in the spring).
5. Mow: Mow when needed, but not too short. And don’t take off too much at a time.
If you feel you really have to use a product to knock back particularly pesky weeds while the above techniques are taking hold, the Manitoba Government has provided a list of lower-risk substances that are permitted. Hand pulling is still a preferred strategy, but biopesticides, contact herbicides and certain other products are allowed. See an explanation with examples on the provincial web page Pesticide Exposure Reduction. The full list is set out in an appendix to the Non-Essential Pesticide Use Regulation. (Also see below.)
Low-Risk Pesticides Permitted in Manitoba
Manitoba’s Non-Essential Pesticide Use Regulation lists the following substances as permitted under the province’s cosmetic pesticide ban: acetic acid, ammonium soaps of fatty acids, Chondrostereum purpureum strain PFC2139, citric acid, corn gluten meal, fatty acid, iron (ferrous or ferric) sulfate, iron if present as FeHEDTA, lactic acid, liquid corn gluten, Phoma macrostoma strain 94-44B, Sclerotinia minor, soap (potassium salts of fatty acid), sodium chloride, and Streptromyces acidiscabies strain RL-110T and Thaxtomin A.
Alternatives to Lawns – PAGE IN PROGRESS
Other ground covers: To avoid the need for mowing while having a green and healthy lawn, consider other ground covers such as xxxxx.
Ornamental grasses and shrubs
How about just paving the whole thing? We don’t recommend it. Cities are already covered in hard surfaces that don’t allow water to penetrate into the ground. They need open spaces to soak up rainwater and avoid flooding. This helps to re-charge groundwater supplies. So keeping some permeable open spaces is a good environmental strategy.