(MCT) A FEW WEEKS INTO my experiment with using only natural products on the lawn and in my garden, things are looking just fine, thanks.
Of course, it's just June. The grass looks lush because May was rainy and cool. So do the lettuces, nasturtiums and marigolds. July and August will be the real test.
But I'm not a cranky skeptic, ready to revert to herbicides, fungicides and other "'cides" the first time I spy a dandelion. I'm doing my part to give "green" a chance.
For instance, I've asked our mowing service (our 16-year-old son) to use the mulching blade and let clippings fall; they decompose quickly and replenish the soil.
Mulching, instead of bagging, works well unless the grass gets too tall. If it does, we bag the clippings and add them to the compost pile.
Also, we keep the grass taller than we used to. The mower is set to a height of about 3 inches. Leaving the grass tall does two things: It helps shade the soil, which keeps weed seeds from germinating, and prevents the roots from drying out.
I love taller grass when it's freshly mown, but after two days it looks a little shaggy. Rather than revert to buzz cuts, I'm trying to change my mental image of the perfect lawn: Instead of a putting green, how about a deep, soft grassy verge from a Merchant Ivory film? That's the ticket.
I usually devote a few minutes a day to pulling up nut grass (nut sedge), thistles and other flower bed weeds. According to K-State Research and Extension, pulling nut sedge by hand is just as effective as using herbicides. It's a myth that hand pulling makes it spread faster.
My hand weeding suffered a setback recently when I hurt my back raking a seedbed. (Lesson for safe-back gardening: Don't bend and twist at the same time.) The kids are very supportive, doing some of that work while I recuperate for cash. It's money well spent in my book: You really don't want to let the weeds get out of control in July.
Hand watering in the early morning also helps Mother Nature do her thing: Plants get enough water to survive the heat of the day but go to bed dry, which helps deter slugs and mildew.
Our organic lawn care company, BioTurf, is doing its part, too. The company recently sprayed the grass with beneficial microbes. According to my husband, who was home at the time, it stank like crazy for a few hours. By the time I got home, all I could smell was the honeysuckle on the back fence.
With any luck, natural lawn care will result in richer soil and coax even more fragrance out of my scented flowering vines: honeysuckle, annual sweet peas, sweet autumn clematis and my favorite moonflowers.