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Myths are abundant when it comes to caring for the American lawn. In this article, I'll address just a few in hope of setting the record straight.
Myth One: Chemical fertilizers and insecticides are necessary in order to get golf green grass.
In truth, using chemicals is not only unhealthy for us, our children, our pets and the environment, but it does nothing to build up the health of the lawn. Because these fertilizers act quickly, they can make an unhealthy lawn look better faster. Meanwhile, the chemicals can chase away earthworms, kill off the soil microbes involved in decomposition and soil formation, and cause tremendous top growth of the grass blades without allowing the roots to grow at the same pace.
For expanded organic thought, take a look at Chemical-Free Lawn: The Newest Varieties and Techniques to Grow Lush, Hardy Grass by Warren Schultz. It can help you figure out easy ways to keep your lawn green and chemical-free.
Myth Two: The foundation of a healthy lawn is the consistent use of fertilizers and weed controls.
Not true. The foundation of a healthy lawn is healthy soil! What makes a soil healthy is its texture, structure and what's called "soil life." A healthy soil will allow water, air, nutrients and roots to move through it with ease. It's filled with good stuff like micro-organisms, worms and other beneficial life forms. Without sponge-like soil (that can soak up water and drain with ease) as your foundation, you will find yourself treating the symptoms (with weed controls and overfertilizing), rather than getting to the "root" of the problem.
A great book to read to gather tips on soil is The Soul of Soil: A Soil-Building Guide for Master Gardeners and Farmers by Joe Smillie and Grace Gershuny. What's great about this book is it gives important information about how to get your soil in top shape without bogging you down with overly scientific information.
Myth Three: Watering lawns every day is critical (especially in the sweltering heat of summer) to keep them looking green.
Water is critical to the health of grass. Without enough water, grass can't get the nutrients it needs for reproduction and growth. Although there is no single correct way to water, rich organic soils will certainly need less water than sandy or clay soils. It's a good practice to water your grass once a week for a long period of time in order for the water to seep in.
If you have a sandy soil (test it with a soil pH meter to find out), you may have to water twice as much. Not only is it a waste to water on a daily basis, but it's also unhealthy for the grass. If the grass stays wet for too long, it becomes more susceptible to diseases and insects! Also: Use common sense and conserve water.
Note: I'd like to pay special thanks to Stuart Franklin, the author of "Building A Healthy Lawn." This book has been helpful to me over the years in understanding good lawn-care practices.