Organic lawn care and weeds

I was surprised to learn there isn’t a universally-agreed upon definition of organic lawn care.

green-lawn-blogOne of the classes I took during CSU’s Short Course day in July was “Organic Lawn Care: Is it Sustainable?” taught by Tony Koski, the extension turf specialist. I’ve taken Tony’s classes in the past and he always presents good information and in an interesting way, too.

His workshop focused on the current research for testing organic fertilizers and pest management products for managing organic lawns.  My biggest take away from the session is that if you grow an organic lawn, you should expect weeds.

This made me feel pretty good about my lawn, because the weeds have taken over the backyard.

Tony explained the reasons for weed problems in an organic lawn include poor cultural practices, improper species or cultivar selection and planting poor quality seed or sod.

The bottom line is that weeds grow because the turf isn’t strong enough to compete with weeds.

One weed control solution is corn gluten meal. This is a natural product used as a fertilizer that also can control crabgrass, dandelion and plantain, but it has only pre-emergent effect. This means that the corn gluten meal needs to be applied before the weeds first appear or it won’t work.

There are other products being developed like fungal pathogens for broadleaf  weed control. Sclerotinia minor is the active component of a product developed by Sarritor, a Canadian biotech company. New products like these are important for our neighbors to the north, because Canada law prohibits the use of synthetic lawn care products.

Tony provided this helpful list for developing an organic lawn care program:

  • Rely on the basics of mowing, fertilizing, irrigation, cultivation and overseeding.
  • Use locally produced organic fertilizers.
  • Use proven pest management products, like corn gluten meal.
  • Have realistic expectations about quality and pest control.
  • Know that more frequent applications of products may be necessary.
  • Consider that organic products will be more expensive.

CSU’s Turf Program Web Site is an excellent resource for home lawn care, with fact sheets, links to industry web sites and access to downloadable presentations on a number of turf-related topics.


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Weeds are much easier to maintain with a nice organic lawn.

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