15 tips to keep your lawn and garden happy and healthy!

1. Reduce your use of pesticides

Pesticides should be your last defense against pests! Frequently, people apply more pesticides than needed, resulting in excess chemicals in our lawns and streams, and leading to pesticide-resistant weeds and insects. And that only makes your job more difficult! If pesticide use is absolutely unavoidable, apply just enough to address the problem, no more! Do your research - buy the right pesticide for the job. Make sure you follow the directions, read labels, apply a minimal amount, and only apply during non-windy conditions to minimize drift.

2. Practice proper disposal

Make sure to dispose of any unwanted pesticides properly. Most pesticides are considered household hazardous waste and cannot be thrown away with the trash. Metro hosts neighborhood collection events throughout the year, and household hazardous waste can always be taken to one of Metro’s regional facilities, free of charge. NEVER pour pesticides down the sink or into storm drains.

3. Choose the least toxic alternative

If pesticide use is unavoidable, do your research and find the pesticide that is least harmful to you, your family, the community, and the environment. Choose pesticide products with ingredients such as citronella oil, citric acid and cloves. 

4. Identify your enemy

Spend a little time researching your pest. Most insects are actually beneficial, and most lawn and garden weeds can be removed by hand. You must first determine what type of pest you have, then research what types of manual methods work to fight off the pest.

5. Water properly and efficiently

For a healthier lawn, it’s better to water deeply and infrequently. Shallow watering can actually damage your yard! Grasses do better when the roots are thoroughly soaked, and then dry out before the next watering. The general rule of (green) thumb is that your lawn should receive one inch of water per week during the summer months. Water slowly, so that it doesn’t pool or puddle, but rather soaks into the soil. The idea is to saturate the roots. It’s best to water in the early morning or early evening, because less moisture will be lost to evaporation. 

6. Limit your lawn, grow your garden

By replacing even a small patch of grass with garden you can significantly reduce maintenance costs and time. Plus, you get the added benefit of fresh vegetables, all summer long! 

7. Create a riparian buffer

Even as little as a 25-foot strip of planted grasses, rushes, shrubs, and trees can significantly reduce the amount of run-off by trapping sediments and chemicals, preventing them from reaching the stream. Plus, you protect your stream banks from unwanted erosion. 

8. Mulch, mulch, mulch madness!

By applying organic mulch around smaller trees and in your garden, you can reduce weeds, reduce the need to water, and reduce the need for other fertilizers. Mulches act as slow-release fertilizers, meaning that the nutrients they provide slowly leach into the ground, rather than all at once. 

9. Recycle your yard waste

One of the best things that you can do for the health of your lawn is to recycle your grass clippings by mulching. Grass-cycling, rather than bagging, can reduce the need for fertilizer by 50%, because the nutrients are returned immediately to the ground. Plus, it’s less work for you! If you cannot mulch, then bag your yard waste and set it out for collection, to be composted off-site. 

10. Build your own compost bin

Composting your yard and kitchen waste is simple. You can construct a composting bin from a wooden box, a plastic bin, or even an old bucket! Or purchase one at a discount from Metro. 

11. Plant native over ornamental

Plants that are native to this region are adapted for our weather patterns of dry summers and wet winters (requiring less watering) and are more weed– and pest-resistant (requiring less pesticide). Selecting native plants and grasses over ornamentals can save significantly on watering costs.

12. Mow higher and more often

Giving your lawn a ‘buzz-cut’ can damage the grass. It’s better to set your mower blade higher. Mow on a higher setting (3 inches or 7.5 cm) to crowd out weeds, block out light, and retain soil moisture. Keeping your mower’s blades sharp will also prevent lawn pests. 

13. Encourage beneficial insects

Some of your lawn ’s greatest allies are natural enemies to weeds and other pests. Some insects act as biological controls and work hard to fight off pests in your lawn and garden. For example, damselflies, centipedes, and many predatory insects can be friends to your lawn and garden. To encourage these natural enemies to come to your lawn, try to provide optimal habitat for them. For example, have water available and grow a variety of plants and shrubs for shelter. 

14. Weed-and-feed is overkill

Although it seems convenient to kill weeds and fertilize your yard all at once, the weed-and-feed method actually does more harm than good. You end up applying considerably more chemicals than are necessary. Fertilizers, like pesticides, should be used only as needed. And spot-treating weeds, rather than a blanket application, can save you a lot of money — and save your yard from unhealthy exposure to toxic pesticides. 

15. Aerate and Dethatch

By aerating your lawn and removing the layer of thatch (the dead layer of grass accumulating at the top of the soil), you can reduce your dependency on/need for fertilizers. Aerating promotes water retention and air circulation, helping keep your lawn happy and healthy. Aerating your lawn is easy! You can aerate your lawn by puncturing your lawn with a garden fork or by renting a power aerator.

Thatch is the organic layer that is present near the grass and soil. A thin layer of thatch helps retain moisture, but too much thatch can be harmful. To de-thatch gently rake your lawn in late spring, or use a de-thatching attachment on your mower or rent a de-thatching machine.