If your lawn has been treated with chemicals in the past, achieving a thriving organic lawn and garden that is ultra low maintenance will take a small amount of upfront effort. Jackson Madnick, a lawn care expert at Pearl’s Premium Ultra Low Maintenance Lawn Seed (www.PearlsPremium.com) can help you get started. Here are some simplified instructions that will get your lawn and soil headed in the right direction.
Cut your lawn extremely short as a first step in turning your existing lawn into a barefoot soft, low cost, low water Pearl’s Premium lawn. The most important part of a low maintenance lawn like the one in the photo is to start by purchasing the right grass seed. Pearl’s Premium is a drought tolerant, eco-friendly grass that needs cutting only once a month, and because of 12” roots uses 1/4 the water of any other grass in the world. It stays green all year long in warm weather or cold, thrives without chemicals or pesticides, and grows in all 50 states.
Surface Rake your lawn to clear clippings, stones and thatch. In spring, only rake the surface (do not deep dethatch) to avoid bringing weed seeds to the surface.
Use lime or sulpher for good soil pH: Test soil to find the right amount of either lime or sulphur to bring soil between 6 and 7 pH. In New England, use a simple rule of thumb: top spread one 40 pound bag of pellet lime for every 1,000 square feet of lawn to make the pH more correct. In some places in the south, you need to add sulpher. Again, a pH of 6 to 7 is best.
Aerate to loosen the soil: Use a “core” aerator that punches holes to bring air and water to the roots and lessen compaction of the soil. Don’t rake away the plugs. Just leave them there and they will disappear in the next week. For most lawns, do this once (or twice) per year for compacted/clay soil lawns or lawns that do not drain well. An aerated lawn favors grass and lessens weeds. A compacted lawn favors weeds.
Tip: pass over the lawn at least twice at 90-degree angles with a core aerator to ensure the lawn is uniformly aerated
Spread organic compost or fertilizer: Spread a small amount of organic compost (a 1/4 inch layer equals 3/4 cubic yard for every 1,000 sq ft) once a year or an organic fertilizer in spring and fall to add nutrients to your lawn and help reduce weeds and grubs. Compost requires more effort and a little more cost, but also introduces microbes to help aerate your lawn for the year, and improve your soil in many ways.
Optional: Purchase liquid or concentrated compost tea (sold at most garden stores) that you can spray over your lawn in early spring and fall. If you really are getting into organic gardening, you can save money and brew your own with True Brewer. This puts nitrogen into the soil and will help the roots over the winter.
Watering: To start a new Pearl’s Premium lawn, you need to water every day in the morning for one month. If the weather is very hot, water again at 2 pm. Then cut back on the water over the next couple of weeks. To promote deepest root growth and out-compete weeds and high maintenance grasses, avoid watering your lawn frequently. It is better to deeply water infrequently. In hotter southern and western climates, periodic watering may be required. Also, in the first year of a newly planted Pearl’s Premium lawn during periods of extreme heat or drought, water deeply (1” of water) once per week. Water in the morning. Avoid watering during the hottest parts of the day.
Mowing: Cut your Pearl’s Premium ultra low maintenance lawn high, with a sharp blade (a dull blade will tear the grass, exposing it to disease). Cut only once in June, once in July, optionally once in August (only if it needs it), and once in September. If you never cut it, Pearl’s Premium leans over and turns into a 3” high meadow. In the fall, blow most of the leaves off the lawn once a week, so leaves never stay more than one week on top of the grass. At the end of the season, you can mow the leaves into the grass.
Tip: never cut off more than one-third of the lawn’s height at one time to avoid stressing out the grass. Do not cut when it’s wet. Recycle the clippings as mulch by leaving them on the lawn. This provides 1/2 the nutrients the lawn needs.
Over-seed next seeding season: (Mid April or beginning September are the best times to seed) When the lawn is dry, cut in stages with a sharp blade, 1/3 of grass height at a time, cutting back to 1” tall; rake away clippings and over-seed at the same rate or heavier rate to later shade the soil and prevent weeds from starting. This second seeding (over-seeding) is very important to help out-compete weeds, cover any bald patches, correct erosion/damage and thicken the lawn. Water every day in the morning for a month when over-seeding to thicken lawn.
Tip: cut your Pearl’s Premium lawn to about 2” height with a sharp blade before over-seeding to give the new seed sunlight for growth.
For more tips on an ultra low maintenance lawn, visit PearlsPremium.com.