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House with meadow
Photo © Geof Burbidge

Ecological Lawn Care

You CAN have a beautiful lawn without pesticides. There are ecological lawn care companies who can do the job for you at a reasonable cost, but with little effort you can learn how to do it yourself, just follow these simple steps.

Mow high: 8 cm in summer, a little lower in early spring and late fall. Cut no more then one third of the leaf at once and keep your mowers blades sharp.

Mulch your clippings: leave them on the lawn to fertilze your lawn.

Water deeply and seldom: one inch, once a week maximum ealry morning or evening. Leave your lawn dormant during the hot summer days (no watering ).

Aerate and top dress: aerate your soil first then spread compost or composted manure once a year, spring or fall.

Overseed and diversify: include a mix of hardy pest resistant seeds (red fescue and perennial rye grass with endophyte fungi ) as well as white clover (resists drought and fertilizes your soil), spring.

Use only 100% natural fertilizers: blood meal, rock phosphate, etc., spring or end of summer.

Be tolerant: accept some biodiversity in your lawn leaving some "weeds" in it in you cannot remove them all by hand and remember that the majority of insects in your lawn are beneficial.

Modify the site: consider the alternatives to a lawn below (#2)


How to get your lawn and garden off drugs- pesticide-free gardening for a healthier environment. Carole Rubin. Friends of the Earth. 1989.

Rodale organic gardening basics volume 1 Lawns. Karen Costrello Soltys ed, Rodale Inc. 2000

The Chemical -Free Lawn. Schultz, Warren-Rodale.1989

Reduce the size of your lawn and save water

Do you really need a lawn as big as it is now?
A good rule-of- thumb is to have a lawn no bigger that it takes to mow in half-hour with a reel mower. ( A gas mower is four times as polluting as a car's engine, and disturbs wildlife). A smaller lawn is much easier to maintain without pesticides and creates less of demand on water.

Consider growing ground covers instead of grass
Some areas are weedy simply because grass cannot grow well there. They are many alternatives to grass if you want to cover ground with a single kind of plant, especially in shady areas: Thyme, Ajuga, Sweet Woodruff, Lily-of-the valley,Periwnkle, Goutweed, Janpanese spurge, Creeping phlox

Naturescape your property
Natural landscaping ( naturescaping) is becoming a popular new way to garden. You may encourage alternate ground-covers (thyme and bugleweed do well in Chelsea). Better still, plant native bushes such as dogwood, viburnum and amelanchier. Why not start this year and with a small area as an experiment!

Grow a meadow
A meadow will reward you with an ever-changing panoply of wildflowers, birds and butterflies. A meadow is far more environmentally-friendly than a lawn and requires mowing only once a year, in the late fall. Dandelions and ragweed will not survive in a lawn left to grow into a meadow.

Join your neighbours to make a green matrix
If all of us were to re-naturalize 60% of our properties, it would create a matrix of natural, continuous wildlife habitat. This is a very important way we can reduce our « footprint » on nature.


How to get your lawn off grass: A North American guide to turning off the water tap and going native. Carole Rubin Harbour publishing. 2002

Naturescaping in the Outaouais - published by ACRE 2001

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