Pesticides, Health and Lawn Care
Tune up your mower and sharpen the blades on
a regular basis. Sharp blades make a clean cut
Feeding your lawn and garden. which helps prevent lawn disease. Never cut off
more than one third of the grass blade when you
A common question about lawn care is how to mow.
feed it. Nitrogen is needed by grass, but
fertilizers that are too high in nitrogen encourage
leaf growth rather than root growth. This can
make your lawn more susceptible to pests and
disease. High-nitrogen fertilizers as well as
pesticides also increase the amount of water your
Grass can make its own food through sunlight
and by drawing up nutrients through its roots, but
to do this the soil must be high in organic matter. 3. Leave grass clippings on the lawn.
Grass clippings contribute up to one-third the
Help your lawn make its own food by following nitrogen needed by your lawn. In a healthy lawn
these basic lawn care tips: grass clippings break down in a matter of days.
1. Spread compost to improve the soil.
Grass clippings do not cause thatch. Thatch is
Compost is the best way to add organic matter to a build-up of dead roots and stems in the turf that
your soil. Organic matter encourages can be caused by too much fertilizer and
earthworms and other beneficial soil organisms. pesticide use.
Spread about 1/4 inch (the width of your little If the grass has grown too long before you mow,
finger) of compost on your lawn every spring rake up clippings to prevent the lawn from being
and fall. As an added bonus compost can be smothered. Clippings can be composted and
made in your own backyard for free out of the spread back on the lawn later.
Compost and lawn clippings are the best (and
fruit and vegetable peelings and cores, cheapest), ways to feed your lawn.
egg shells, coffee filters and grounds, tea
bags, leaves, straw, leaves, dead plants
(not including seeds), and cow, horse or 4. Water deep and less often.
sheep manure. Time how long it takes to fill a container with
Do not add any meat, dairy, oil, or pet wastes. one inch of water. Use this as your once-a-week
lawn watering guide when there is no rainfall.
Only newly seeded and newly sodded lawns
need to be watered more often.
A healthy, established lawn might go dormant
and sometimes turn brown during hot, dry
periods. This is normal and it will revive and turn
green again once it rains and the weather
Established, healthy lawns may not need to be
watered at all provided they are not cut
during a drought!
Compost can also be purchased. For more 5. Over-Seed to keep grass thick.
information on composters and composting,
check the gardening section of your local library A thick lawn helps prevent weed seeds from
or contact the City of Guelph Wet/Dry plant: germinating. Buy good quality grass seed.
767-0598. Look for Canada #1 on the package.
Red fescues, perennial rye and Kentucky Blue
2. Mow high to encourage deep roots! are the most common mixtures. Seed types
Since grass plants make their own food through should be listed as a percent of the total package,
their leaf blades, it is important not mow your i.e.: Kentucky Blue: 30%; perennial rye: 15%,
lawn too short. Lawns that are cut too short also etc. Planted alone, Kentucky Blue grass requires
develop shallow roots, which means they dry out regular fertilizing and lots of water to stay
faster leaving the lawn more open to weed healthy. It is also favoured by grubs, so do not
invasion and insect infestation. grow this type by itself.
Increase your cutting height to about 3”. You Over-seeding is best done in the cooler
will probably need to mow more often when the weather of the spring and fall. Seed bare patches
weather is cool in the spring and fall and less and areas where the grass is thin. Loosen the soil
often in the heat of summer. with a rake, spread a light layer of compost or
Avoid mowing during a drought. This can topsoil, then scatter the seed and press in. Keep
seriously damage your lawn! the area watered until the grass is established.
Alternatives to lawns
Some parts of your yard may be better suited to
plants other than lawn grasses. There are a wide
variety of low maintenance plants available that
make excellent ground covers, many of which
are shade tolerant. Native plants thrive in poor
soils and also attract colourful butterflies to your
yard. These plants require less water and very
little maintenance once established.
Imagine - no mowing!
Other landscape IDEAS....
♦ Shrub and vine borders for shade and
♦ Ground covers and herb gardens.
♦ Ponds and bog gardens, which also attract
What to do with fall leaves. frogs and toads to your yard.
♦ Woodland gardens.
Fall leaves are a great source of food for your ♦ Prairie gardens - drought-resistant native
lawn and garden. As much as possible, design grasses and flowering plants.
your yard so that leaves can simply stay stay ♦ Bird and butterfly gardens.
where they fall. For example, instead of growing
grass under trees, which would be smothered by
a thick layer of leaves, grow a shade tolerant
ground cover, which can use the fallen leaves as
Decaying leaves provide important nutrients to
trees and shrubs. Don’t rake them up! Let them
lie where they fall. If wind is a problem, add
leaves to your composter. If you have more
leaves than you composter can handle, set up a
temporary composter. A light layer of leaves on
the lawn can simply be mowed along with the
grass. You can also rake leaves into hedges and For more information check the following
perennial beds. Use them as a protective mulch resources:
around tender perennials or spread them out, The University of Guelph Arboretum - courses
chop them up with your lawn mower and use on natural gardening. Ask for the seasonal
them for compost. program guide: 824-4120 Ext.4110.
In the spring, dead grass and leaves raked off The annual Arboretum Plant Sale in September
your lawn may also be composted! If needed, a features a wide variety of trees, shrubs and
temporary composter can be made by using a perennials, including native plants.
circle of chicken wire around four stakes and
held shut with clothes pegs. Spring yard waste Join the Guelph Boulevard Club and be part of
such as leaves, plants, grass can be added to a growing number of gardeners who are creating
make compost. landscapes that don’t rely on pesticides,
You can also rake lawn debris around hedges, fertilizers and large amounts of water!
perennials and trees to provide organic matter. To learn more check the following web site:
For more information on composting yard waste
check the Composting Council of Canada web
site: www.compost.org This information was produced by the Guelph
Environment Network, in partnership with the
City of Guelph.