Stardate: May 2015. The small lawn area in front of our rental had seen better days. Previous damage had left bare spots that would normally fill in with crabgrass, but didn’t as quickly due to a dry spell. In short, the front lawn is a disaster and in desperate need of some TLC.
Normally, I wouldn’t even bother with a lawn in an area like this, but this isn’t my property so I’m not at liberty to make any huge changes. Nor was I keen on spending a ton of money on a place I’m likely to be leaving behind to purchase a home in a the near future. So I decided to overseed and see how it went.
I applied a couple of bags of ‘York grass’ seed blend by hand after several rounds of thorough raking to get up as much of the dead crabgrass as possible, and loosen the topsoil up. Then we watered twice a day and waited.
It’s funny, you never notice how many people and animals walk on a space, until you don’t want it walked on. Every store seemed to be out of ‘keep off the grass’ signs, and I thought that between the neighbor weedwhacking half of it, the postal carrier, the window replacement guy, my kid, someone else’s kid, and several random dogs, that our project was doomed. We eventually found a sign, and after a few weeks we had results.
As you can see it made a big difference, despite the odds we faced. If you have a lawn, and want it to look good overseeding is a must. Fall is the ideal time, but when you have a lot of bare spots like we did, you’re going to need to put down seed before then. Good cultural practices are key in getting strong healthy turf. When you focus on soil health, as opposed to constant chemical inputs which are quite damaging to soil health, you will create a resilient system resistant to disease and pests.
Conventional lawn care focuses on turf and uses product input to put a temporary band-aid on problems. Chemical lawn treatments don’t solve problems, they actually make them worse by destroying the beneficial organisms needed to have a healthy system and healthy soil. You can support these organisms by applying a product such as compost tea, and compost topdressing. We are lucky to have a good source locally.
When you combine organic treatments with good cultural practices like overseeding, mowing high (3 inches or so), leaving on the grass clippings, and mulch mowing etc… you can have a beautiful lawn that’s safe for pets, people and wildlife to enjoy. Once you have established your system, it requires much less work and money than the ‘four step program’ lawns people are conditioned to. Lawn chemical manufacturers reap the monetary benefits of the short term fix in that their products must be purchased year after year after year. It’s long past time we all look at lawn care in a different way, and the best place to start is with the soil.
Check out our resources and these links to help you get started on soil promoting methods.
2015 Year of the Soil from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Benefits of a Healthy Soil Food Web from Soil Foodweb Institute
Your 6-Step Organic Lawn Plan from Rodale’s Organic Life