MPAC’s Executive Director Ruth Kerzee discusses how to build a strong and healthy lawn from start to finish.
A beautiful lawn is like cultivating a new idea. It takes the right ingredients, maintenance, and time. To start, you need a solid foundation of facts and information before elevating the glimmer of an idea into action. I’m talking the hard facts that take time to understand and absorb, not the junk of reality TV, infomercials or entertainment magazines. Junk information makes for entertaining water cooler conversations, but no one cures cancer by reading the daily rags. Likewise, your lawn needs “real” food that nourishes slowly and provides the proper balance of life-sustaining nutrients like compost, not the junk food of synthetic products like “weed & feed” or other pesticides and fertilizers that provide quick results at the expense of soil and overall plant health.
Organic fertilizers, compost, leaf clippings, and other organic matter will start your lawn on a strong enough foundation to make the next critical planning decisions such as planting the right seeds for the right place. Selecting the right seeds can literally make or break the roll out of a good lawn, similar to if you don’t fully understand the target audience for your idea. Areas may be too wet, too shady, or too trampled and need different seed varieties or different strategies all together for success.
You’ve now reached the point of putting your idea into action after assessing the lay of the land. You may have some crazy thoughts moving in and you’ll have to weed them out as tangential and harmful or, perhaps, beneficial – adding life and color to the idea. These “weed” thoughts may help you see the full beauty of the original idea by providing contrast and synergy making things more interesting. Same goes for a lawn. Maintaining a monoculture of a single species is not natural or easy. “Weed” plants will want to share in the wealth of resources you established. Respond to these invaders wisely and recognize that not all of them will harm your lawn. Clover, for example, adds life to the lawn by attracting pollinators and even feeding your turf with nitrogen. Target the weed you don’t want by nurturing those you do, and selectively removing the ones you don’t.
You’ll find it hard to identify a happier time than rolling out a fresh and fully formed idea. The slog, however, waits for you at the maintenance stage. Suddenly, competing ideas of others and new information comes forward, or the realized idea drifts from its original intent. Now you need to strategize how to keep it fresh but in shape and true to the original. Doing too much or too little will result in negative outcomes. Same for your lawn. Like all of nature, your lawn abides to the forces of entropy – moving toward maximum randomness – or going wild! By watering and mowing correctly, weeding periodically, feeding naturally, and over-seeding, we give our lawns the support needed to flourish into the future.
The short cuts may achieve short-term gain, but if you want sustainable long-term solutions you must build a strong foundation, plant the right seeds, mind the invaders, and manage growth properly and your lawn – or that idea you want to move forward – will flourish.