I’ve been playing a lot of golf lately and it’s amazing how manicured some courses are. It’s also amazing how overrun others can be, considering the cost of your average round of golf! So it makes sense that the perfect person to dispense lawn care advice is the groundskeeper (really they’re called Greenskeepers) of your local golf course. He, or she, is the person in charge of making sure the course is up to par.
We don’t have a huge lawn in front of our house, which makes it even more egregious if it’s not properly maintained! For a while we’ve been battling weeds and one of the things I really hate buying are those toxic-looking weed killers. I feel like pouring that stuff on my lawn negates all the recycling we do… so in addition to lawn care tips, I scoured the web for some good suggestions for green ways to kill weeds. One thing I stumbled upon was a secret lawn “tonic” from a former golf course greenskeeper.
General Lawn Care
Water in the morning. First, it’s better to water in the morning when the temperature is cooler because less of the water evaporates. It’s also better because you want to wash away all the dew. Most lawn disease are caused by critters in the dew.
Water for long periods of time infrequently. This trains the grass to dig its roots deeper in search of water. By watering for an hour, rather than 15 minutes, the water will soak into the soil and the lawn will grow lusher. A lusher lawn, with taller blades of grass, will force out weeds, which will try to find easy bare spots to monopolize. Beware of overwatering, as it can lead to disease.
When seeding, pre-soak the seeds. Spin Martin, groundskeeper at the University of Tulsa, recommends putting the seed into a pantyhose stocking and soak it in water for 24 hours. Remove, let the water drain, and repeat two more times. After the third day, the seeds should start to germinate and prevent irregular growth. He says seeds given this head start will start to grow in 7 days, instead of 14-21.
When mowing, use a sharp blade. Seth Armstrong, groundskeeper at Simplepayday, says that ‘…dull blades will tear rather than cut the grass.’ Tearing will leave the grass vulnerable to disease, which is a bad thing, so make sure your mower blades are sharp. Also, leave the clippings on the lawn, it’ll replenish some of the nitrogen your grass will need.
Aerate. You might need to wear those silly shoes but aerating your lawn helps clear the way for nutrients, air, and water to help them reach the root zone of your grass.
Green Weed Killers
Russell Demotsis is the horticulturist at Mirimichi, a green golf course in Millington, TN owned by Justin Timberlake. He weeds by hand or uses Milorganite, which is a mixture of things you probably don’t want to know about. Weeding by hand is the greenest of solutions but depending on how much lawn, or how many weeds you have, it may not be an efficient way of dealing with the issue.
Here are a few green ways to deal with weeds:
- Boiling water. Boiling water kills the weeds, and any nearby growth, so it’s best to be very targeted in your use of boiling water. It’s really good for driveways, where you won’t have much growth, and can be supplemented with salt. This is a bit like a scorched earth approach so use in a very targeted manner.
- Lemon juice, vinegar. Lemon juice and vinegar increase the acidity of the ground, which makes it inhospitable to weeds. Vinegar is usually more expensive than lemon juice but you might have one or the other on hand. It’s best to do this on a dry day because it will easily get washed away.
- Corn Gluten Meal. This has long been known as a natural weed killer and works well on weeds that spread by seed. Corn gluten meal and corn meal are two different things. Corn gluten meal is effective because it stops root growth, which means it’ll stop any seed from growing, including grass seedlings. It also has some nitrogen in it so it will help feed your lawn as well. This page by the City of Ottawa has more information.
Secret Lawn Tonic for Killing Weeds
As promised, here is a fantastic recipe from Tim Heffron (he calls it a lawn tonic, I called it secret because I didn’t know it until I found it!):
- 1 can of regular beer (no light beer)
- 1 can of regular soda (any kind-no diet soda)
- 1/2 cup of liquid soap (do NOT use anti-bacterial dishwashing liquid)
- 1/2 cup of liquid ammonia
- 1/2 cup of mouthwash (any brand)
- Pour into 10-gallon hose-end sprayer (other sizes will work too)
The secret and awesome part about this is that chances are you have all of this stuff at home (maybe not the sprayer or the beer/soda if you don’t drink it). I haven’t used it yet but if a former golf course groundskeeper says it’s legit, I’ll believe him… though I’m wondering where the gin comes in.
Do you have any good lawn care tips or weed killing suggestions?