Fifteen to 20 years ago homeowners had few choices in managing their lawns besides what traditional lawn care programs were offered by lawn care companies and the products offered in garden centers. Like all other areas that surround our lives, lawn care products have evolved as well. Fertilizer formulations, protection products have all improved, allowing for better effectiveness, more uniformity of application, and a safer environment than those of the past.
As society has come to recognize that we impact the environment around us, a growing trend in lawn care is the realization that there are organic alternatives now that were not available to the homeowner just five or 10 years ago. In Illinois for example, if you compare lawns to field crops like corn and soybeans, lawns would be the third largest crop grown. What is applied to our lawns certainly impacts our environment.
This growing trend is likely to continue as these new organic products become mainstream, become more readily available in retail outlets, and are a common choice when choosing your lawn care company. This website includes organic products that can be used on your lawn and will reference organics whenever appropriate and where a known product exists. Organic products can be produced from by-products of the animal, grain and fish industries. They are formulated to provide macro and micro nutrients, humus, carbohydrates, amino acids, vitamins and enzymes that feed the living soil organisms, whichin turn feed grass plants. Organic products can be applied as liquid or dry materials, very similar to the inorganic products we have known in the past. Homeowners can now make these organic applications themselves or have their lawn treated by lawn care companies offering organics.
If your interests are going organic, the transition will typically take two to three years. The lawn will begin to respond to organic management better each year. Weeds can still be a problem in certain situations; yet organic weed control products continue to be developed.
Proper soil preparation is critical for establishing a lawn by seed or sod. This includes having a soil test done to be sure the proper soil amendments if needed are incorporated into the soil bed. Other lawn care practices such as proper mowing, water management, soil aeration and thatch control are no different than what has recommended by University of Illinois Extension for many years. By following good management practices, your lawn will benefit whether you utilize traditional or organic products.
Today how we manage our lawns depends on local water restrictions or bans on watering as our water resources dwindle and the quality of the water we have is put into question.
In 2010, Illinois legislation amended The Lawn Care Products Application and Notice Act that prohibits any commercial lawn care company from “applying a phosphorous –containing fertilizer to a lawn, except as demonstrated to be necessary by a soil test established that the soil is lacking in phosphorus ....” Homeowners are exempted from this law, and there are other situations where a commercial lawn care company can apply phosphorous to a lawn. Environmentally, it is in everyone’s best interest to lower the levels of phosphorous that are applied to the soil and may later migrate into our water resources.