Organic Gardening

Bald Mountain Press: organic lawn care is cheaper, easier, and better for you and the environment. We have advice and instructions for growing an organic lawn. Check out the organic lawn care supplies, books, and equipment. Don't miss our organic gardening blog. For more on organic pest control, healthy soil, and organic gardening, start at our organic gardening home page.

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Click here to order Gardening for Independence, by Barbara and Mort Mather

Organic
lawns are healthier, greener, stronger, and more drought, pest, and disease tolerant.  We have plenty of free advice on making your home, lawn, and garden organic and natural.  Keep your kids out of the poison!   Visit our organic gardening site!

Amount of money spent by Americans on lawn care aid annually: $6 billion.
Warren Schultz, The Chemical-Free Lawn

Organic Lawns are Green Lawns
Mulch your grass clippings and leave them there! They are full of water and nitrogen! Just what your lawn needs!

Click here to buy Rodale's Chemical Free Yard and Garden!An E-mail exchange with a reader:

Hi, my name is Donna. I live in Alvin, TX. I'm just putting in lawn in the front yard and I want to put worms in it. The only thing is the ground is gumbo and clay. I put a layer of sand and then I seeded it. My next project is a veggie garden in back. Please let me know if worms (and what kind) can live in this stuff..... Thank You. Donna
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Safe and Easy Lawn CareWell, Donna, worms need food. They eat decaying organic matter, so I'd first suggest, like I always do, that you start a compost pile. Or, in your case, buy some compost and spread that out, then seed that. The worms will come if there's something for them to eat.

Mort has a great article about worms at his site:
http://supak.com/mort
I'm forwarding your question(s) on to him as well.

Good luck!
------------------------

Donna,

Scott is right. Feed them and they will come. While compost is the best form of organic matter I am much more casual. I have a compost pile going all the time but it doesn't generate as much of the good stuff as I would like. Oh, it would if I ran all my organic matter through it but that takes more work than just spreading whatever organic material I can get directly on the soil I want to improve.

First, never take grass clippings off your lawn. [Get a mulching lawn mower] That is a tremendous waste as you are hauling good fertilizer and soil conditioner away from a place that, especially in your case, needs it. If you can get some horse or cow manure, spread it directly. If the material is too clumpy, put it in a pile, maybe turn it once, and it will break down into smaller, easier to spread texture. This is composting, of course, but as a lazy gardener I try to fool myself into thinking I just stored it in a pile for a little while. You may hesitate to put stuff like this on top of your grass. Certainly don't put on enough to smother the grass you have growing. But don't worry about the looks. It will disappear from view fairly soon. From what you say you will probably have to keep doing this for several years once or twice a year, more if you are in a hurry.

The garden is a little easier since you don't have plants growing there already. Spread any manure in any texture mixed with any bedding (straw, sawdust, whatever) and till or dig it in. It will help. there is nothing better than organic matter to improve the texture of soil. Use hay or grass clipping (from someone else's lawn, someone foolish enough to throw away this good stuff) as a mulch in the garden. You will have worms before you know it. If there aren't any next year, find an organic garden in the area and see if they will give you bucketful of their soil which will begin your worm farm.

Have fun and don't work too hard.
Mort Mather

Organic lawns may take a little longer to become the radiant green lawn on the block, but once you're there, it's easier and less expensive to maintain because it's healthier!   Like growing anything else organically, if you begin with healthy soil, you will have healthy plants.  This certainly applies to grass, which depends upon a healthy root structure.

Most of the six billion dollars spent by Americans annually on their lawn care is on chemicals.  Fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides make up the bulk of lawn care purchases.  We create weak, dependent lawns with shallow roots, weeds that compete and win, dead soil with no worms or tilth, and poisoned run-off into our water supplies, lakes, ponds, and oceans.  The fact that nearly every lawn in America is a chemical one gives reason to worry about the effect on the vast water sheds that are being taken over by suburbia.

This is insanity!  As even many golf courses are beginning to understand, less is better when it comes to chemicals and grass.  Following this logic, it seems none is best!  I've seen people kill worms (spray fertilizer and weed killer) and send their kids out to roll around in the freshly sprayed grass less than an hour later.   Meanwhile, the grass roots absorb the artificial stimulates (like eating speed), which gives them no reason to grow deeper to look for the natural fertilizer the worms and micro-organisms (which were just killed) would have produced.  Shallow root systems lead to weak plants that are easily damaged by drought, pests, and diseases.   Beneficial nematodes, which are also destroyed by the chemicals, destroy many of the pest larvae that lives in the soil.  As the pests get out of balance, with no beneficial organisms to attack them, people spray more pesticides, further increasing the problems.   The ridiculous cycle goes on and on.

It may be a little more work to get started, but once your soil is healthy, your lawn will thrive.  The grass roots will grow deep, where natural fertilizers await in the aerated soil which absorbs and holds water better, with less run-off.  Beneficial insects, nematodes, and soil organisms have a chance to thrive and live off the few pests that attempt to survive in the thriving, organic eco-system.  Worms take dead material (like the mulched grass clippings you leave behind as natural fertilizer) deep into the soil, leaving castings (time-released fertilizer), and thousands of tiny tunnels that make the soil very sponge-like.  Eventually, you'll find yourself watering less, and spending less!  And you'll have a vibrant, thriving lawn, with a lot more time and money to enjoy it with!

Scott Supak

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