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Organic Lawn Care

I am now into week 9 of following an organic lawn care program. To recap, on April 17 I added organic matter to my one acre of lawn with the hopes of increasing the amount of micro-organisms in the soil as this is the key to a successful organic lawn care program. On May 5 I fertilized with alfalfa meal, ammended with K-Mag and sulfer based on the recommendations from my first soil test.

I’m still quite frankly up in the air as to the success of the program so far. The lawn is healthy although not a rich green. It looks better than some neighbours who do nothing, but not as good as those fertilizing with traditional chemical fertilizers. We have had a cool spring which may have delayed the conversion of the alfalfa into usable nitrogren. On the other hand, we have also had a very wet spring which may also account for my healthy lawn — was it the abundant moisture or the alfalfa?

When I applied my first round of amendments, I based the amount on an assumption that I had one acre of lawn on my 2.1 acre property. I may have underestimated this so for my next round of fertilizing I have assumed 70,000 square feet. Not applying sufficient product may also explain why my lawn is healthy but not yet as rich a green as I would like.

So what have I decided for my second round of fertilizing? I have switched to a corn gluten meal based product for two reasons. One, it is higher in nitrogen than alfalfa. (The product I use has corn gluten based product listed as 8-1-6 compared to 5-1-5 for the alfalfa based product). Secondly, it has weed inhibiting properties. Although the abundant rain has been good for our lawns so far this year, it has also been good for weed growth.

I have also increased the application rate to an estimated 70,000 square feet rather than 50,000 square feet. I do not expect this to be any more costly as I have also decided to forgo the application of sulfur as recommended in my soil test as well as the K-Mag, both of which are expensive. I have decided to forgo the sulfur as my soil is naturally slightly alkaline. Changing the soil makeup will require constant amendment with sulfur. It may make more sense to invest the same dollars in organic material such as alfalfa or corn gluten.

As the K-Mag did not have the wow impact of greening up the lawn I was told it would have, I have similarly decided to invest a portion of the dollars I would spend on K-Mag into additional organic fertilizer. I’m hoping this will add good organic matter to the soil, improving the soil for the long term, and add additional NPK once it is eaten by the micro-organisms in the soil.

So on June 21 I fertilized with corn gluten meal at an application rate based on 70,000 square feet. We will see if this will result in a slightly greener lawn, even during the expected drier summer months.

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