Healthy Lawns 101

Your Land is Organic. Shouldn't You Be Treating it Organically?

Healthy Lawns 101

Turf, by design, is unnatural as far as ecosystems go, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have options for managing it ecologically and responsibly.

Professionals who take their responsibility for the environment seriously have many new tools at their disposal that allow them to strike a balance between the desire to see perfectly manicured turf grass and the environmental concerns of maintaining and feeding the un-natural system that turf presents. In undisturbed nature, healthy soil is a metropolis teeming with a diverse ecosystem of beneficial microorganisms in symbiosis with plant roots. These same beneficial microbes are also responsible for feeding turf grasses and it’s vital to remember that turf don’t exist independently of the surroundings to which it belongs but is a part of the local ecology. Consequently, all of the choices we make in managing our turf areas can have significant impact not only on the “look” of the turf but also on the surrounding environment.

Healthy Lawns 101

The heart and soul of a true organic approach to turfgrass maintenance is the establishment and ongoing support of your soil’s beneficial microbe population.

Although many of the newer products may be unfamiliar to some managers, a consensus is growing in the industry. Biostimulants like microbial inoculants, kelp extract, rock dust minerals, beneficial nematodes, and earthworm castings, are all being incorporated into turf and golf course maintenance programs and their effectiveness is becoming well documented. Recent polls of golf course managers revealed findings of improved turf grass establishment, deeper root growth, overall fertilizer reduction, as well as drought, nematode and disease resistance to be the result of using cultural practices that concentrated on establishing and maintaining highly biologically active soil.

Of course, there are challenges inherent in every system and ecological turf management is no exception. The main challenge is in establishing a balance between a common, acceptable aesthetic and responsible stewardship of the land in our care which isn’t always easy to do. Despite the challenges, the availability of new and innovative bio-organic products along and knowledge of sensible cultural practices that focus on soil microbe health make this a good time to consider converting to ecological methods of turf soil maintenance. Whatever methods or products you choose, in the end our best allies in striking the right balance for our specific location will be a deep connection to the ground in our care and keeping abreast of the latest and best practices available in biological turf management.

-Omar Thomas
BCWC Organics, NOFA-AOLCP

Healthy Lawns 101