Why Clover is your
TIPS FOR NATURAL AND INEXPENSIVE LAWN
UPdate Spring 1999
is not a weed. This plant naturally takes nitrogen out of the air
and transfers it to the soil where
your grass can utilize it. Don't kill
clover with herbicides, such as 2,4-D
in Weed-n-Feed. You'll save money in two ways: the clover will supply
free fertilizer and you don't need to buy any harsh lawn chemicals.
Caution: even lawn care products listing
so-called "inert," "other," "unknown,"
or "unlisted" ingredients, or are
described as "organic-based," can contain
pesticides, heavy metals, hormone disrupting chemicals, non-benign surfactants
(soaps), and other toxic materials. Buy only products which list
all their ingredients.
spring, sprinkle any bare lawn patches with a seed mixture of
ryegrass, with 10% (by volume) Dutch
White Clover seed, and 30% (by volume) of a LOW MAINTENANCE GRASS SEED
MIXTURE, such as "Greenfast," or "Shady Nook" (available at Halifax Seed)
and some soil or compost. "Low maintenance" mixtures (or "low input"
mixtures) can thrive on low nutrient levels. This is what you are
looking for. Fine fescues require less moisture and nutrients, and
tolerate shade better than many Kentucky Bluegrass varieties. Clover
looks more uniform and quite beautiful when it is spread evenly throughout
the lawn by dispersed seeding. Add lime inspringtime, if desired.
weed for plantain and dandelion, etc., at least twice a year: once in May
and once in the Fall. Some gardeners use vinegar to kill weeds, or hire
students to do the work. You can also use a "Bernzomatic" propane weed
torch sparingly on the growing points (this is a wand used while standing
up; Lee Valley Tools, Bayers Lake). More "No-Bend" weeding tools
are offered at this website: http://www.webcreations.com/notstooped/
Adding six inches (or more) of any clean, seed-free mulch will suppress
weed growth in unplanted areas and nourish the soil at the same time, but
be careful of
unlabelled herbicide-soaked bark mulches.
Insist on buying only those
untreated with herbicides or other
pesticides. Ask the NS Department of
Environment to insure that pesticide
treated mulches are LABELLED properly!
Mow the grass frequently (once a week), even if growth is slow, but do
not cut shorter than three inches. The generous height keeps the
healthy and resistant to drought and
weed invasion. Let the clippings lie.
They will feed and nourish the lawn
for free. Thatch build-up is usually
only a problem in very dry climates
or where lawn chemicals have killed off earthworms and other organisms
in the soil that break down thatch naturally (and keep chinch bugs in check).
The health of your soil will gradually improve when you stop using chemicals
the end of October or early November, apply a "dormant feed" organic fertilizer
such as fully mature compost, or "Eco-Val 4:4:8." The combination
of (1) dormant feed fertilizer, (2) recycling of clippings and leaves by
mulch mowing, and (3) clover, should be enough to keep your lawn as green
as those fertilized several times through the season with chemical fertilizers,
but without their negative effects. Although they produce a quick
temporary green, fast release (or so-called, high-grade) chemical fertilizers,
cause shallow root growth, thatch build-up, essential trace nutrients to
be rapidly washed out of the soil, and the die-off of
earthworms and other natural soil organisms
(that attack chinch bugs, and aerate the soil for free). If they
contain pesticides, these chemical lawn products increase the morbidity
and mortality of pets, increase the risks to human health (especially for
children), and can result in pesticides (unlicensed for indoor use) entering
the home where they bond semi-permanently with carpet dust, and remain
there for up to one year, causing further inhalation exposures. For
further information on non-toxic landscape information, explore RATE's
informative links (http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/Environment/RATE/).