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Transitioning from a Chemical Lawn to an Organic Lawn

Making the switch to organic lawn fertilization might mean dealing with some weeds-at least for the first year or two.  In that period, your soil and grass can gain enough strength to control them naturally. One thing you can do to prevent weeds is spread corn gluten meal, an organic weed preventative, on your lawn in the spring. Be careful not to do it when you’re overseeding, since it prevents germination of all seeds, including grass. While corn gluten meal works only 65 percent as well as chemical herbicides, it can still significantly reduce weed infestations.

If a few isolated weeds show up, pull them by hand or try an organic weed killer, such as citrus oil or vinegar, which dehydrates weeds down to the roots.

Weeds can also be indicators of specific problems with your soil. If you have crabgrass, it can point to soil compaction usually in highly trafficked areas along driveways or walkways. Instead of zapping it with pesticides, get to the root of the problem by aerating the area where it’s growing. You can kill the messenger all day long, but it doesn’t change the message that something is wrong with your soil. Not all weeds are out to destroy your lawn; some can even help it. Clover, for example, is a common broadleaf weed that works as a natural fertilizer factory, transforming nitrogen in the air into a digestible form for your soil. Some organic-lawn-care experts recommend adding a pound of clover seed for every 1000 square feet of lawn.

Insects and fungal diseases can also point to lawn problems. Chinch bugs are attracted to dry, drought-stressed lawns; and watering at night, especially in warm weather, can encourage fungal diseases like dollar spot or brown patch, since turf stays moist longer.

Most importantly, be patient because you’re transforming your chemical lawn into organic after years of synthetic fertilizers. Rest assured, your children and pets are safe to roll in the grass as much as they want.

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