Organic Lawn Care: How to Maintain Your Lawn Naturally

lawn care and maintenance

Organic lawn care involves using natural lawn fertilizers, proper mowing techniques, and organic weed killers. Organic lawn fertilizers have many benefits: they improve soil structure, nourish turfgrass roots, and help grass become resistant to pests.

The best organic lawn fertilizers contain natural ingredients such as plant extracts, seaweed, and bone meal. These non-toxic substances provide nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for healthy, robust grass growth.

Getting a lush, green lawn naturally without using harmful chemicals and pesticides is not difficult.

This article is a complete guide to organic lawn care. As well as learning about tips and tricks to keep grass lush and green without synthetic chemicals, you’ll find out about the best organic lawn fertilizers.

What Is Organic Lawn Care?

Organic lawn care describes maintaining turfgrass using organic and natural ingredients without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Growing an organic lawn focuses on maintaining healthy soil and feeding the roots naturally. It involves using organic weed and feed products, and watering the lawn deeply but infrequently.

Other aspects of organic lawn care include aerating your lawn, cutting the grass correctly and testing the soil.

Lawn care using organic techniques takes a long-term view of garden maintenance. Similar to conventional lawn care, organic lawn care takes time to get the best result. But feeding lawns with natural fertilizers means grass grows more robust and healthier. Healthy grass crowds out common lawn weeds such as crabgrass—thus reducing the need for using cheap lawn weed killers.

It’s vital to remember that growing an organic lawn doesn’t mean cutting out any type of fertilizer. To get stunning results from your natural lawn care, you can’t skip on maintenance. So, in the beginning, organic lawn maintenance can take more time. However, the results will be worth it.

Organic lawn care vs. conventional lawn care

Organic lawn care is a sustainable way of caring for your lawn. Conventional lawn care involves products such as herbicides that could pollute the soil and water. Synthetic fertilizers used in conventional lawn care can even damage your lawn, resulting in thatch, weak grass, and lawn pests.

On the other hand, organic lawn fertilizers are environmentally friendly and contribute to healthy soil and a healthy lawn. They contain nutrients from natural sources that nourish the ground and improve soil structure.

Natural fertilizers also encourage beneficial microbes to develop. These break down organic matter slowly and naturally to help feed healthy lawns.

Most people turn to conventional cheap lawn fertilizers because they tend to have quick results. However, excess synthetic fertilizers can cause root burn. This can cause the grass to wither and turn yellow due to a buildup of mineral salts. Unfortunately, this results in gardeners using more chemicals to try and stimulate grass growth.

Organic Lawn Care in Detail

The principles of organic lawn care are similar to caring for any type of plant. Soil conditions should be ideal to allow healthy root growth. Fertilizers add minerals and nutrients to the soil that grass absorbs. Regular trimming encourages healthy growth.

Here are the essential principles of organic lawn care:

  • Use organic lawn fertilizers. Organic lawn fertilizers provide natural sources of nutrients to stimulate healthy growth.
  • Mow the lawn correctly. Mow grass so that it is between 2.5” and 3.5” (6 – 9 cm) tall. Taller grass prevents weed growth, requires less watering, and reduces the stress on your lawn.
  • Water your lawn deeply but infrequently. This encourages the grass to develop deep roots.
  • Aerate the lawn. Aeration helps to improve drainage, and allow grass seeds to sprout easier.
  • Remove thatch.
  • Plant the right type of lawn. Always plant the type of lawn grass that is suitable for your area.
  • Maintain healthy soil pH. Keep organic soil for healthy lawns at a pH of 6.5.
  • Have enough top soil. Make sure turfgrass has at least 18” (45 cm) of soil so that a healthy root system can develop.

Organic Lawn Maintenance – How to Mow the Lawn

Mowing grass to the proper height is a vital element of organic lawn maintenance. The ideal height to mow grass should be between 2.5” and 3.5” (6 – 9 cm) tall. Longer grass naturally blocks sunlight from getting to weeds, preventing them from growing.

There are a few more surprising benefits to growing lawns naturally when you allow grass to grow longer. For example, grass grows more slowly, reducing the need for frequent cutting. Another reason to mow grass high is that you need to water it less often.

Also, longer grass blades feed better as they absorb more energy from sunlight. This type of growth saves you money because you spend less on natural fertilizers.

Here are some more mowing tips for maintaining an organic lawn:

  • Always mow when the grass is dry.
  • Never cut the grass by more than one-third of its length.
  • Keep lawnmower blades sharp.
  • Change the mowing pattern every time you mow your lawn as it encourages more upright growth rather than grass that often tends to lean towards the direction you mow.

Leaving the grass clippings as part of organic lawn care

Many organic gardeners recommend leaving grass clippings on the lawn after mowing (grasscycling). Grass clippings add organic matter back to the soil, resulting in a healthier organic garden.

However, not all lawn care experts advise leaving grass clippings after mowing lawns. For example: leaving the grass clippings is not recommended when they are too thick or when the lawn is wet. In these cases the grass clippings stick together and prevent air circulation to the lawn. This creates a moist mat that harbors diseases.

Therefore, some garden experts recommend to leave only short and dry grass cuttings when you mow the lawn. Short and dry clippings are more likely to fall through the grass to the soil surface rather than sit on it and smother it. They will more easily decompose and get recycled into the soil.

Organic Lawn Care: The Importance of Aeration

Lawn aeration is an essential process in caring for organic lawns. Aeration involves removing small plugs of soil or perforating the soil with holes. This process helps roots grow more robust and encourages vigorous growth. The benefits of aerating an organic lawn are that it reduces compaction and helps remove thatch.

The frequency of lawn aeration depends on the soil type. Easily compacted soil, such as clay, should be aerated at least once a year, whereas sandy soil can be aerated every 1-2 years. Also lawn areas with high foot traffic will need to be aerated more often.

The best time to aerate a lawn is in early spring or late fall. To aerate your lawn, give it a proper watering the day before. You can hire an aeration machine that will create the holes or remove the plugs—depending on the method you prefer. Then, you just carry on with your organic lawn care as usual.

Using Organic Lawn Fertilizers as Part of Your Lawn Care Schedule

Organically-based lawn fertilizers are crucial to non-toxic, chemical-free lawn care. Natural fertilizers nourish the soil with essential nutrients—nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). The best organic fertilizers should have a high nitrogen content to promote lush, green growth in your turfgrass.

The nutrient ratio in organic lawn fertilizers is written as N-P-K. An ideal ratio in any type of lawn fertilizer is 3-1-2. For example, a commercial organic lawn feed could have a ratio of 15-5-10. This means that it contains 15 percent nitrogen, 5 percent phosphorous, and 10 percent potassium.

During the growing season, you should feed your lawn with an organic fertilizer two to three times. Apply good-quality lawn fertilizer in late May, early July, and then in early fall. Fertilizing at these times helps promote robust, healthy turfgrass growth.

Let’s look at five of the best organic lawn fertilizers currently for sale.

1. Espoma Organic All-Season Lawn Food


This organic lawn fertilizer is high in nitrogen, with an N-P-K ratio of 18-0-3. The nitrogen content comes from a mixture of poultry manure and feather meal. As well as feeding your lawn naturally, the fertilizer contains beneficial soil microbes for better turf health.

2. Milorganite Organic Nitrogen Fertilizer


Milorganite is well-known as a quality organic grass feed that has a high nitrogen content. This slow-release fertilizer helps feed lawns for up to ten weeks to keep them lush and green throughout the summer. There are no salts in the natural, organic fertilizer, so there is no risk of root burn.

3.  The Andersons Innova Organic Fertilizer


This natural lawn feed doesn’t contain any manure or animal parts. The nitrogen content is entirely plant-based with no biosolids. Therefore, there are not obnoxious odors from the natural feed. You can organically fertilize your lawn with this fertilizer without worrying about any risk to children or pets. The N-P-K ratio is 7-1-2.

4. Worm Castings Organic Fertilizer


The nutrients in this organic lawn fertilizer are from worm castings, and it contains everything a healthy, ecological lawn needs. The organically-rich fertilizer helps nourish lawns naturally. One benefit of this natural soil amendment product is that there is no odor, and it’s easy to apply.

It should be mentioned that although called “organic fertilizer” earth worm castings is considered a soil amendment or soil conditioner.

Read our extensive review about the best organic lawn fertilizers.

Using Organic Weed and Feed as Part of Natural Lawn Care

Organic weed and feed consists of two different products: organic fertilizer and organic weed preventer. Natural weed preventer is a product that contains corn gluten meal. It prevents weed seeds from rooting after germination. Weed preventer is not an herbicide so it won’t kill established weeds. If you already have established weeds growing in your lawn, you will need to remove them naturally using one of these homemade natural weed killers.

Apply natural weed and feed products twice a year to stop dandelions, crabgrass, foxtail, and other lawn weeds from appearing.

Example of an organic weed preventer is Espoma CGP6 Organic Weed Preventer which prevents new emerging weeds.

The time to use weed and feed products is before weeds have germinated. Early spring is the best time to apply organic weed applications.

Here are instructions to prevent weeds from growing in your organic lawn:

  • Mow your grass to that it’s about around 3” long (7.5) before applying weed and feed.
  • Wait for two days and then apply the natural weed and feed to dry grass.

Organic Lawn Care: How to Control Pests Naturally

The best kind of pest control for organic lawns is using beneficial nematodes. One effective way to get rid of lawn grubs is to introduce Paenibacillus popilliae—also called Bacillus popilliae or milky spore. These useful bugs feed on white larvae that can live in the ground.

One advantage of maintaining a natural lawn is that you get fewer pests. Pest control is rarely an issue in organic lawns, as healthy grass and soil are more resistant to harmful bugs. Usually, applying organic fertilizer three times a year ensures healthy grass that is pest and disease-resistant.

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is another natural product that kills grubs without harming grass or plants, and it only works when conditions are dry. Sprinkle the white powdery substance on dry areas of grass where you suspect grubs.

Learn about the most effective ways to get rid of lawn grubs.

The Best Way to Water Your Lawn When Caring For it Organically

When growing an organic lawn, it is best to water your lawn deeply and only when the soil needs it. Thorough, intensive watering ensures that turfgrass roots get well-nourished. You should water your lawn only as often as the grass needs watering.

One of the mistakes that gardeners make is to water grass on a schedule or daily. Frequent, shallow watering encourages weeds to grow. These unwanted plants end up choking out grass and spoil the appearance of your lawn.

When it comes to organic lawn irrigation, remember that the roots of weeds are shallower than grass roots. So, allowing the top layer of soil to dry and then giving your lawn infrequent, but thorough watering is a natural weed-prevention tip for organic lawns. Ideally, you should wait until the top 6” (15 cm) of soil is dry before watering.

How do you know when you’ve watered your lawn enough? Put a few measuring cups on your lawn and turn on your sprinkler. When the level of water reaches an inch, your lawn should be adequately irrigated. As a general rule, 1” (2.5 cm) of water in a measuring cup is required to water lawns to a depth of 6” (15 cm).

Measuring the Soil pH as Part of Organic Lawn Care

Testing the pH level of your soil every two or three years is a vital part of organic lawn maintenance. The ideal soil pH level for grass to thrive naturally is around 6.5. Keeping soil slightly acidic creates the best growing environment for grass. Also, weeds tend to thrive in soil that has a pH of 7.5.

If necessary, it may be required to amend your lawn’s soil. The best organic products to raise pH levels are lime and wood ash. If you need to lower pH levels, then apply a layer of sulfur.

Organic Lawn Care: Top-Soil Depth

To grow thick, lush, green grass organically, the depth of soil is crucial to healthy growth. A lawn should have at least 18” (45 cm) of rich, fertile soil that has plenty of organic matter in it. Having soil this deep allows turfgrass to develop a robust, healthy root system.

There are many benefits to having soil at least 1.5 ft. deep. Apart from stronger roots, you’ll have to water your lawn less often. For example, water in the ground below 6” (15 cm) generally doesn’t evaporate quickly. You’ll find that in time, maintaining an organic lawn is less work than a “traditional” one.

Organic Ways to Kill Weeds on Your Lawn

Maintaining an organic lawn will eliminate most of the weeds naturally. Healthy grass crowds out weeds, depriving them of sunlight and nutrients. If lawn weeds do appear, you can use natural ways to kill weeds such as weeding them by hand, pouring boiling water or vinegar solution on them.

These come instead of synthetic herbicides that although kill weeds quickly, they pollute the environment.

Here are some ways to weed your lawn naturally and organically:

  • Weeding—Remove broad-leafed weeds like dandelions by hand, ensuring you get rid of all the root system.
  • Boiling water—Pour boiling water directly on the unwanted plants in your lawn.
  • Get soil pH levels right—Many weeds thrive in alkaline soil (pH 7.5). So, maintaining an optimal pH of 6.5 should help to prevent weeds from sprouting.
  • Fertilize your lawn regularly—Apply an organic lawn fertilizer three times a year to encourage healthy growth.

Lawn Care Summary

In conclusion, there are countless benefits to maintaining an organic lawn. You need to mow grass less frequently, water less often, and you won’t have to buy harmful pesticides. Regular natural lawn care creates a beautiful yard without the need for synthetic chemicals.

Frequently Asked Questions About Organic Lawn Care

Why is organic lawn care better?

Organic lawn and yard maintenance is a sustainable way of caring for your garden. Conventional lawn products pollute soil, water, and kills wildlife. In many cases, applying synthetic fertilizers can even damage your lawn, resulting in thatch, weak grass, and lawn pests.

Should I overseed my lawn every year?

Reseeding or overseeding is a method of sowing grass seed on an existing lawn. You don’t need to reseed an organic lawn every year. Reseeding is only required if you notice bare patches developing.

To overseed the lawn, aerate the lawn by creating holes with a rake. Spread the appropriate seed onto the bare turf and rake into the soil. Water the lawn thoroughly.

How long will it take before I see a difference in my lawn?

When changing to organic lawn care, some differences will be immediately visible. For example, mowing higher can improve the lawn’s appearance in under a week. Other changes will only be noticeable after organic lawn fertilizers have nourished turfgrass roots and improved the soil’s health. Perseverance is key to natural lawn care.

Is organic lawn care expensive?

In the long-term, maintaining an organic lawn is cheaper than conventional lawn care methods. An organic lawn care schedule requires fertilizing two or three times a year, regular mowing, and deep watering. However, initially, it can be more expensive to switch to chemical-free lawn care maintenance.

Why do weeds grow in my lawn?

Lawn weeds grow when seeds fall on lawns in the fall and then germinate in the spring. Incorrect gardening methods usually allow unwanted plants to flourish in spring. For example, mowing the grass short, frequent shallow watering, and allowing the soil to become compacted are reasons why weeds thrive in lawns.

Read our extensive review about the best organic lawn fertilizers.

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