Green Living: A Sustainable Lawn Care Guide for a Greener Atlanta
Spring and summer bring to mind a host of pleasant thoughts. Walking barefoot across a lush, green carpet of grass, for example. Watching children and grandchildren playing on the lawn. Hosting a garden party. Barbecuing for family and friends. Making your home the center of all kinds of outdoor celebrations during these warm seasons starts with creating a lawn that is healthy and sustainable all year long.
Creating a sustainable lawn means maintaining a healthy and environmentally friendly landscape that promotes a sound ecosystem. Ecosystems are biological communities of interacting organisms, and non-living entities. Soil, water, sunlight, and minerals are all non-living factors crucial to a healthy ecosystem. Plants are important living components of a robust ecosystem.
Start from the ground up
Building a sustainable lawn starts with healthy soil. It’s a good idea to test the soil to make sure it is healthy before you plant your turfgrass. Take a sample of your soil to your local extension office so it can be tested for minerals, pH, and acidity. The results will reveal what type of fertilizer and how much of it to apply to your soil.
Clay soil found throughout Georgia, should be tested every three to four years. For lawns, dig about four inches deep into the soil and pull up samples from eight to 10 spots in the yard. For gardens, dig six to eight inches.
Need help? Contact Simply Green Lawn Care Plus to collect a soil sample. If you are able to get your own samples, they can be taken to your local extension office:
The Fulton County Cooperative Extension Office
1757 E Washington Road, East Point, GA 30344
Free the soil
Is the soil on your property compacted? If the answer is yes, that means the roots of your plants, including turfgrasses, are not taking in the necessary nutrients and oxygen they receive from the soil. Compacted soil can pose challenges to plant growth by restricting root development, water infiltration, and nutrient absorption. Fortunately, there are several measures you can take to address compacted soil and improve its structure.
Here are steps to fix the problem of compacted soil:
Aeration: Aerating the soil involves perforating it with small holes to allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the root zone. Core aerators or spike aerators can be used to make holes in the soil. This process helps break up compacted soil so the roots can receive and encourages root growth.
In some cases, gypsum can be applied to clayey soils to help break up compacted clay particles. Gypsum works by promoting flocculation (clumping of the soil), improving soil structure.
Liquid Aeration is a soil improvement technique that uses a mixture of liquid chemicals and water. It is applied through a sprayer, or an attachment to a garden hose. Studies have shown it can be more effective than Core Aeration because the liquid penetrates deeper into the soil. Core Aeration pulls about 3-inch plugs of soil from the ground, whereas Liquid Aeration can penetrate up to a foot below the soil surface.
Organic Topdressing: After aerating, spread a layer of organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, over the compacted soil. This helps improve soil structure, adds nutrients, and enhances water retention. Topdressing is a versatile practice that can benefit different types of soils and landscapes. It helps improve soil fertility, structure, and water retention, promoting overall plant health. Additionally, it can be part of a sustainable lawn care routine, especially when using organic materials.
Avoid Heavy Traffic: Minimize foot traffic and heavy equipment use on compacted soil areas. Designate specific pathways to reduce compaction in high-traffic areas.
Addressing compacted soil is an ongoing process, and results may take time. Regularly incorporating organic matter and practicing good soil management will contribute to long-term soil health. Before implementing major changes, conduct a soil test as advised above to understand the specific needs and characteristics of your soil. Consulting with local agricultural extension services or soil experts can provide personalized recommendations based on your soil conditions.
Selecting the best fertilizer for your Georgia lawn depends on various factors, including the type of grass you have, soil conditions, and your lawn care goals. In Georgia, where warm-season grasses are common, fertilization practices often focus on providing nutrients during the growing season. Before fertilizing your lawn, conduct a professional soil test so you know what your soil is lacking. Then you can determine the best fertilizer to use to give your soil a boost. Consult a professional if you need help with choosing the correct nutrient ratio. Professional lawn care technicians will make the right choice, and apply the fertilizer for you.
Here are some general guidelines for choosing and using fertilizer for your Georgia lawn:
Choose a fertilizer with the right nutrient ratio:
- After a professional soil tester has determined what nutrients your soil is missing, look for fertilizers with a balanced nutrient ratio appropriate for warm-season grasses. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are all necessary nutrients to feed the roots of your new grass.
Consider Slow-Release Fertilizers:
- Slow-release or controlled-release fertilizers provide nutrients to the lawn gradually over an extended period. This can result in more even growth and reduce the risk of nutrient runoff.
Apply Fertilizer According to Grass Growth:
- Warm-season grasses in Georgia, such as Bermuda grass and Zoysia grass, experience active growth during the warm months. Plan your fertilization schedule to coincide with the growing season, typically from late spring to early fall.
Follow Professional Recommendations:
- Check with your local lawn care company, or university extension service for specific fertilizer recommendations based on soil tests and regional considerations.
Use Organic Amendments:
- Consider using organic supplements, such as compost, to improve soil structure and provide a slow-release source of nutrients. See notes above on some good, organic materials to use.
- Over-fertilization can lead to excessive growth, increased susceptibility to pests and diseases, and environmental issues. Follow recommended application rates.
- Water your lawn after applying fertilizer to help nutrients penetrate the soil and reduce the risk of fertilizer burn. Avoid fertilizing before heavy rain to prevent runoff.
Consider Seasonal Variations:
- Adjust your fertilizer application rates based on seasonal variations in grass growth. Grass may require less fertilizer during periods of dormancy.
Incorporate Soil Amendments:
- Based on soil test results, incorporate any necessary soil amendments to address specific nutrient deficiencies or imbalances.
- Choose fertilizers with minimized environmental impact, considering factors such as nutrient runoff and water pollution.
Always read and follow the instructions on the fertilizer label for proper application rates and timing. Additionally, consider seeking advice from local experts, such as your county’s Cooperative Extension Service, for guidance tailored to your specific lawn and regional conditions.
Once you have a well-established lawn, it’s time to put best practices in place to keep it sustainable. It will take a persistent approach, but the work is worth it to see lasting good results.
Keys to maintaining a healthy lawn and making it sustainable include:
Water Conservation: Conserving water is a priority when building a sustainable lawn. Incorporating drought-resistant grasses, shrubs, and plants as well as installing an irrigation system are great ways to minimize water usage. A few plants to consider are juniper, cone flowers, black-eyed susans, and herbs like rosemary and lavender, which are beautiful in any garden. Drought-resistant shrubs that do well in Georgia’s climate include the Dwarf Aucuba and Japanese Boxwood. Grasses such as Zoysia and Fescue grow well throughout the state and are a good, drought-resistant choice. Building a landscape with plants that don’t need a lot of water improves water conservation and builds a garden that will perform well during times of drought. When selecting plants for your garden, it’s essential to consider factors such as soil type, sunlight, and local climate conditions. Additionally, providing proper mulching and amending the soil with organic matter can contribute to the overall health and drought resistance of your plants.
Natural Lawn Care: If possible, avoid applying harmful chemicals, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers to your lawn. First, opt for natural, organic alternatives that promote healthy soil and biodiversity, such as planting native plants and creating natural habitats to attract beneficial insects. Good insects to have around are pollinators like butterflies, honeybees, and spiders (although not technically an insect, spiders are good for a garden because they prey on plant-eating insects). This sustainable practice will encourage biodiversity and reduce the need for chemical sprays.
Mowing Practices: Regular mowing is vital to the health of any turfgrass, but technique is just as important. Adjusting mowing height and frequency can contribute to a sustainable lawn. Taller grass shades the soil, reduces evaporation, and promotes deeper root growth. Additionally, leaving grass clippings on the lawn can act as a natural fertilizer. Keep in mind, however, that clippings should be mulched, and the smaller the better. Grass clippings should not lay on top of the lawn because that will cause a barrier for water and other nutrients getting into the soil. Mulched clippings are healthy for the soil because as they decompose, they add organic material to the soil which promotes strong roots and new grass growth. Therefore, the healthier the soil, the healthier the grass and the less chance of weeds taking over your lawn.
Soil Health: Sustainable lawn care emphasizes soil health. This involves aerating the soil to improve water absorption and root growth, using organic mulch to retain moisture, and ensuring proper drainage. Healthy soil provides support and nourishment to plants. Using organic materials such as manure and composts is a great way to feed soil so it will in turn feed roots of grasses and plants. Apply the correct fertilizer for your turfgrass during the growing season (spring and/or fall). This will keep the soil balanced and ready to promote healthy plant growth.
Reducing Lawn Size: Minimizing the size of your lawn by incorporating other landscaping elements, such as native gardens, can contribute to sustainability. This reduces the need for water, fertilizers, and maintenance. Removing grass from the corners of your yard and building curved gardens instead will make it easier to mow and add to the beauty of your yard. If there is an area of your lawn that is a struggle to maintain, consider replacing it with a vegetable or ornamental garden.
Energy-Efficient Equipment: Using electric or battery-powered lawn care equipment instead of gas-powered options can reduce environmental impact. Electric models are easy to operate because they are generally light-weight, which simplifies the process of mowing around garden areas. The only inconvenience to an electric mower is making sure the cord is long enough to reach all areas of your yard, and that it stays out of the path of your mower. No matter what kind of mower you decide is best for you, make sure blades are sharpened seasonally to get the cleanest, most even cut for your lawn.
Responsible Waste Management: Proper disposal of yard waste, such as leaves and grass clippings, is part of sustainable lawn care. Composting or recycling these materials can contribute to a “closed-loop” system. This means that yard waste never leaves your yard. It’s created from your hard and put back into your yard. Items such as eggshells, coffee grounds, tea leaves, fruit peels, and even expired spices can be composted into garden soil to provide. Composting is an organic method to enhance soil nutrients. If you’re new to composting, here is an article that will help you get started.
By incorporating these practices, you can establish a lawn that not only looks good but also contributes positively to the overall health of the environment. Sustainable lawn care focuses on balance, conservation, and working in harmony with natural processes.
When the soil is properly aerated and ready to work with, the next step is to seed the lawn. In Georgia, fescue is the grass type of choice. Fescue adapts well to cold temperatures and resides well alongside grasses that are more heat-tolerant, such as Bermuda grass. Fescue will stay green in the winter whereas Bermuda will go dormant and green up quickly in springtime. Bermuda grass is drought-tolerant, heat-resistant, and establishes quickly.
When selecting the right grass for your Georgia lawn, consider the following factors:
Sunlight: Different grasses have varying sunlight requirements. Some thrive in full sun, while others tolerate partial shade. Take in your current landscape and consider how much sun and shade each area of your lawn gets, and choose grasses accordingly.
Soil Type: Understand your soil type (clay, sandy, loamy) and choose a grass variety that will grow well in that type of soil.
Watering Needs: Consider the water requirements of the grass variety. Some are more drought-tolerant than others.
Maintenance Preferences: Assess your willingness and ability to provide maintenance, including mowing, fertilizing, and pest control.
Intended Use: Consider how you plan to use your lawn. Some grasses are better for high-traffic areas, while others are more ornamental.
Additionally, consider using a grass seed blend or mix that combines different grass varieties to achieve a more resilient and adaptable lawn.
Look here for more information about creating a sustainable lawn for a greener Atlanta. You’ll find important topics such as lawn biodiversity, natural pest control for a healthy lawn, creating a pollinator-friendly garden, and water conservation strategies.
- Lawn Biodiversity – A diverse habitat includes both plants and animals. A well-balanced habitat contributes to the overall health and success of nature’s ecosystem. Our next topic will focus on ensuring your landscape is diverse and healthy.
- Natural Pest Control – It seems strange to think of pests as good things, but it’s true! Natural predators feed on unhealthy bacteria and pests you don’t want in your garden. This article will feature how to attract natural predators as an alternative to chemical treatments.
- Pollinator-friendly Garden – Attracting pollinators such as butterflies, bees, and birds (including hummingbirds) can be done by intentionally planting flowers and shrubs they enjoy visiting. Learn more about how to create a pollinator-friendly garden in this upcoming feature.
Water Conservation Strategies – While some water conservation methods are discussed in this feature, a more in-depth look at how these strategies can impact the health of your landscape. Too much water contributes to rot and invites unwanted bacteria and bugs. Learn how to use just the right amount of water to promote healthy plant growth.
Simply Green Can Help
The yard is a gathering place for entertaining loved ones, neighbors, and friends. Lawn care professionals understand the value of creating a lawn that is green and free of pests and diseases. They can see the process through from start to finish, including soil testing, aeration, seeding, feeding, and maintaining your perfect lawn. If you need help establishing best practices for a greener, more sustainable lawn this growing season, schedule a consultation now with a Simply Green Lawn Care Plus professional.
About Simply Green Lawn Care
Simply Green aims to provide the highest quality lawn care, mosquito control, and lawn pest control services to Georgia residents.
We are locally owned and operated which allows us to be accessible, attentive, and responsive for customers in Georgia.
Our well-trained team is easy to work with and determined to exceed expectations.
All our plant health care specialists are Georgia Department of Agriculture Certified and maintain their Category 24 applicators license.
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I just had another comment this morning on how good our fescue lawn looks, which happens several times a week. I walked out in our back yard this AM and couldn't believe it was the same yard as what I dealt with last year. We have a good lawn maintenance crew that takes care of mowing and edging, and we have a good company that takes care of weeding, feeding, and shrubbery & trees. I enjoy telling friends and neighbors about your service. Thank you and keep up the good work!
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