What does your lawn say about you?

A slit-seeder is used to overseed an existing lawn to fill in bare or thin areas preventing weeds from growing in.

Our yards and gardens are reflections of our personalities, lifestyles and beliefs. When I drive through different communities, both local and far away, I find it interesting to note how lawns are cared for and the role they play in people’s lives. Locally, I’ve either worked on or visited thousands of lawns over the last 20 years and I’ve seen the range from neglected pastures to manicured trophies.

It‘s funny how the importance of a healthy, functional lawn became a greater priority to me once we put up a swing set for my son. I suppose it’s only natural that as we go through life stages our lawns shift in accordance with these priorities.

When I get called out to visit homeowners about their lawns, it’s not surprising anymore when I hear they don’t mind the weeds. Growing up in Cleveland Heights and working for many of my neighbors, I learned at an early age that an unwelcome ‘weed’ in one person’s garden is welcome in another. A weed can be defined simply as a plant out of place.

Weeds or other pests are not necessarily unhealthy for the lawn. The problem comes when weeds or pests take over in greater quantity than is acceptable for the homeowner. The lawn can become unsightly in their opinion or, even worse, potentially unhealthy for the turf because the weeds compete for the same available water and nutrients.

Those of us with lawns can almost all agree that we want a healthy lawn. Disagreement may come in the form of how to go about creating a healthy lawn and whether or not some amount of pesticides will be used.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies focus on long-term prevention of pests by building a healthy ecosystem, using methods that are least harmful to the environment. Pesticides are applied in such a way as to pose the least possible hazard by targeting the selected pest, and are only used as a last resort when other controls are inadequate.

Achieving a healthy lawn is more about the overall management strategy than about controlling pests. Often pesticides are thought of as a silver bullet to make a lawn healthy, when in fact they only remove the pest that is most likely present because the lawn was not healthy to begin with.

A healthy lawn comes from a blend of activities and this spring is the ideal time to get your lawn into the desired shape to meet the needs of your lifestyle.  Get started with a spring clean-up so the lawn can dry out and breathe. Healthy soil is the building block for your lawn.

Adding and replacing organic material, like you do in your gardens with compost, is vitally important. Aerating will help to alleviate compaction and get air into the soil, helping roots grow deeper and making for a more robust and drought-tolerant lawn. Proper watering, fertilizing and mowing all play important roles. Spot seed thin and bare areas to prevent weeds from taking over.

It can be challenging to keep up with the needs of our lawns. Like many things in life, waiting only makes it worse. Get out early this spring and focus on the building blocks of a healthy lawn.

Douglas Freer is a Cleveland Heights native and the owner of Lawn Lad, Inc., which provides residential landscape services in the Heights area. Call 216-371-1935 or visit www.lawnlad.com

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Volume 3, Issue 4, Posted 12:57 PM, 03.24.2010