Lawn & Garden Time

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Eco-friendly lawn care can be easy

Homeowners know that a healthy lawn can add considerable curb appeal to a property while giving residents of the home a place to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. But few might know that a healthy lawn can also benefit the environment, especially when homeowners take a proactive approach to lawn care that emphasizes eco-friendly techniques.

A proactive approach to lawn care can prevent certain problems, including disease, insect infestation and weed growth. When such problems arise, many homeowners opt to combat them with pesticides, which can harm the environment. But a proactive approach to lawn care can reduce the likelihood of developing such problems and protect the planet at the same time.

* Emphasize healthy soil. Healthy soil promotes strong roots, which leads to a more robust, lush and aesthetically appealing lawn. While a lawn needs to be fertilized in the spring and at various points throughout the summer, it's important that homeowners avoid overfertilization, which can create thatch that, when allowed to thicken, will prevent nutrients from penetrating the soil. Lawns need more nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium than soil can typically provide, so fertilizing throughout the warm weather seasons and into early fall can promote a healthy lawn. But choose a slow-release fertilizer so it gradually feeds the lawn. Compost and grass clippings can also be spread around the lawn to promote healthy soil. The pH level of the soil should also be checked to ensure the lawn can fully absorb nutrients. Speak with a local lawn care professional to determine what a healthy pH level is for soil in your area.

* Choose a grass that can thrive in your climate. Though you might prefer the look of a certain grass, choosing a grass based entirely on appearance is a mistake that could cost you money and prove harmful to the environment. When installing a new lawn, opt for one that's suitable to the local climate. Installing a lawn that needs substantial amounts of water in a region known for drought can rob the lawn of its aesthetic appeal and will cost homeowners a substantial amount of money to maintain. If an existing lawn struggles to stay green regardless of your best efforts, then consider replacing it with a new type of grass that might be more suited to the local climate.

* Don't cut too low when mowing. Homeowners who don't enjoy mowing their lawn might be tempted to simply cut the grass as low as possible to extend the intervals between cuts. But the United States Environmental Protection Agency recommends that grass never be cut more than one-third of the height of the grass blades. Longer grass can take in more sunlight, allowing it to grow in thicker and develop a deeper root system.That deep root system can help a lawn survive drought and prevent disease, two potentially costly problems that often force homeowners to embrace solutions that are not eco-friendly. Ideal lawn height depends on the type of grass, so consult a lawn care professional to ensure you are cutting your grass to a healthy length.

* Avoid overwatering. Excessive watering not only wastes water, which is not very eco-friendly, but also hurts the lawn when dry periods inevitably arrive. That's because shallow and frequent watering encourages roots to stay near the surface, so when dry periods arrive, the roots struggle to find water. The EPA notes that an established lawn should not need daily watering. Instead, watering responsibly when the lawn needs water and when evaporation can be kept to a minimum, can strengthen a lawn and do so in an eco-friendly way.