Organic Lawn Treatment

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Lawn Aeration

If your organic lawn isn’t looking its best and water is having trouble penetrating the soil, it’s probably a good idea to do some aeration. Aeration is basically the process of pulling approximately 1”x2” cores of soil out of your lawn and it is a key step proper organic lawn treatment. Aeration is beneficial to your organic lawn because it reduces turf compaction, reduces thatch buildups, and improves the soil penetration for both water and nutrients. It is also a necessary step before topdressing (adding topsoil to an existing lawn) your lawn.

An organic lawn requires aeration when the soil becomes compacted and the grass roots only reach one to two inches into the soil. A lawn that has heavy “thatch” (thatch is the layer of alive and dead grass between the green grass leaves up top and the dirt down below) is also an indication of compacted soil. Lawns that are rich in clay should be aerated more than sandy lawns but either way, aerating about once a year is a good idea. Once the lawn soil is aerated, your organic lawn will be much healthier, greener, and lush.

Lawn Core Aeration Equipment

Lawn Core Aeration Equipment

There are loads of local lawn service companies that will be more than happy to aerate your lawn for a fee but it’s usually a lot more economical to aerate the lawn yourself. Most large box stores have gas powered motors for rent but these aren’t cheap either and they can get to be well over 300 lbs. I used a hand held manual aerator (Fiskars Coring Aerator) which I found on sale at a local garden supply outlet. It took me a few evenings of leisurely aerating and drinking beer but it saved me some serious cash.

Regardless of the method chosen, the aeration will always be more effective when nice sized cores are removed. When a simple spike aerator is used, the holes tend to close up a lot faster requiring more frequent aeration. Removing cores from the lawn allows longer access to more space and nutrients for the roots.

Before you start the aeration on your organic lawn, be sure to water your lawn thoroughly for a few days. This is especially important for the hand held manual aerator, unless you want a serious workout over the next week or two.

Manual Lawn Core Aerator

Small Cheap Manual Lawn Core Aerator

After aeration is complete, you’ll probably want to water a bit more for encouragement as well as apply some organic fertilizer along with compost or peat moss to complete your organic lawn treatment.

Lawn Soil pH Test

One thing that most organic lawn services and lawn consultants do is test the pH of your soil to determine whether it requires some additive other than basic lawn fertilizing. Ideally you would get your soil tested professionally which would be much more accurate and it would also give you an idea of what lawn nutrients your soil may need for a healthy lawn treatment.

If you’re seeing a lot of weeds and your having trouble keeping the lawn green, you may have soil that is either acidic or alkali. Most grasses seem to grow best if the pH of the soil is between 6.5 and 7.0. If your soil is below 6.5 then it is acidic. it’s probably ok as long as it’s above 6.0, otherwise the soil should have lime added it. Soil that is above 7.0 is to alkaline and should have gardener’s sulfur added to it. Most gardener’s supply stores have both lime and sulfur. Soil that is exactly 7.0 is classified as neutral but most grasses like a slightly acidic soil (between 6.5 and 7.0).

I searched around for a ph test kit in a number of gardener supply stores but when I asked for a soil ph testing kit they gave me an odd look and one girl actually referred to me as “being geeky”. I eventually gave up on finding a commercial kit and started looking into other alternatives.

There seem to be two popular methods of obtaining the pH of your lawn soil. Neither of them are notably accurate, but it’s not an exact science so we don’t need extreme accuracy just to get the information that you need for the appropriate organic lawn treatment. Try not to do this shortly after a rain or within two weeks of applying green lawn fertilizer.

1. Red Cabbage pH Soil Test
After boiling chopped up red cabbage, it is possible to use the strained juice to discover the relative pH value of your soil. Red cabbage juice has a neutral pH value and it changes color depending on the pH value of the soil. Acids tend to turn it pink, and bases (alkaline) turn it blue or green. Ideally you want to see a violet color for good soil.

When I tried this out, the result was slightly green and barely noticeable.

Some more specific instructions can be found here and here:
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2. Vinegar and Baking Soda Test
Another way to roughly estimate the pH level of your soil is to use baking soda and vinegar and add it to a very small soil sample. If you mix a soil sample with distilled water and add some baking soda to the mix, soil that is acidic will fizz. With the vinegar test, if the mixture of lawn soil and vinegar fizzes then your soil is fairly alkaline.

Good soil will not fizz at all and that’s what my lawn soil did when I tested it.

Here are some more specific instructions for using vinegar and baking soda to test the pH of your organic lawn and make sure your soil is good:
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