Go ‘green’ with eco-friendly lawn care

Ah, it's just so lush! It doesn't have to be toxic though.
Ah, it’s just so lush! It doesn’t have to be toxic though.

Keeping your lawn full, lush and green is one of the most dramatic ways to spruce up your property. And thanks to new fertilizers that are better for the environment, homeowners can now keep their lawn care “green” as well.

“The big industry players have eliminated phosphorous from their lawn fertilizers, except for starter and organic products,” says Charlotte Kidd, owner of In the Garden, a Flourtown, Pa., company that focuses on garden design, care and workshops. “Grass, once it’s established, doesn’t need a lot of phosphorous, so you don’t need to add it anyway.”

The nutrient that fluctuates in soil is nitrogen, which is plentiful in grass clippings. Kidd recommends letting them decompose in place after mowing. “If you put down a little compost or top dress your lawn lightly with humus [in the spring], that should be sufficient,” she says.

Don’t add any nutrients until you find out what kind of soil you already have. “Start with a soil test,” Kidd says. The results will include the soil pH as well. If you’ve added lime as a matter of habit, it’s possible the pH level is normal now and you don’t need to add it anymore.

“It’s important to have a healthy lawn to prevent erosion,” Kidd says, “so you want to keep your soil healthy” — but you probably don’t need chemical fertilizers for that.

Test your soil
The Extension office of Penn State’s agricultural school provides low-cost soil testing. The $10 fee covers a kit with instructions and report forms, a sample bag and a mailer. After you take the samples and mail them to University Park, the lab there will analyze the amounts of various nutrients in your soil. Their report will include those numbers, plus research-based recommendations for what additives, if any, you need to get the garden you want.

The Philadelphia office is at Two Penn Center Plaza, Suite 200; their phone number is 215-471-2200. They’re open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Click here to visit them online.

Put down that hose
Should you water your lawn during rain-free periods? Probably not. Usually grass doesn’t die, it just goes dormant when it’s not getting enough water, according to Kidd: “A healthy lawn will come through a drought just fine.”

If you are going to water, she recommends watering your trees, shrubs and perennials. “They’d be a lot more expensive to replace than a little grass.”

Leave the dandelions alone
“A healthy lawn will not a have a lot of weeds,” Kidd says. And if it does have clover, that’s good — clover fixes the nitrogen, keeping the nutrient available in the soil. Got dandelions? “Eat the young greens, then dig them out,” she says. “But is this the battle you want to fight? Would you rather spend your weekend digging out dandelions or doing something fun?”

Avoid glowing in the dark
Phosphorous is one of the main culprits in nutrient loading, where fertilizer runoff causes excess algae growth in rivers and bays. These unbalanced ecosystems become dead zones that can’t support fish, shellfish and water birds, and can sometimes lead to massive fish kills. Reducing phosphorous can help return water to a safe state for swimming and fishing.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 22,…

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K and NYC Family Health Walk-a-thon and Pakistan Day Parade and Fair will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend. Plan…

International

U.N. nuclear inquiry on Iran seen making slow…

The U.N. nuclear watchdog appears to have made only limited progress so far in getting Iran to answer questions about its suspected atomic bomb research, diplomatic sources said on Friday,…

National

Violence-weary Missouri town sees second night of calm

By Nick Carey and Carey GillamFERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - The violence-weary town of Ferguson, Missouri, saw a second straight evening of relative calm on Thursday…

National

Journalist James Foley's parents, after call with pope,…

The parents of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Iraq, on Friday called for prayer and support to free the remaining captives held by Islamic…

Television

Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.

Music

Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm

Movies

Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.

Movies

Michael Chiklis on his football past and 'When…

Michael Chiklis remembers playing football in high school and how that prepped him to play a coach in "When the Game Stands Tall."

NFL

3 things we learned about the Giants in…

The Giants claimed the Snoopy trophy in a battle of MetLife Stadium tenants Friday night. But more importantly, the offense finally showed some life in…

NFL

3 things we learned about the Jets in…

The Jets lost the Snoopy Bowl, 35-24, to the Giants, losing the trophy and local bragging rights.

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…