Mowing season is well underway. So is weed season.
While "weed and feed" and other weed killers may offer some short-term convenience, many ingredients in these products can harm people, pets and wildlife, and pollute the waterways we all rely on. Plus, they're often overkill: They work by broadcasting chemicals all over your lawn and yard – even where you aren't having any problems. In fact, relying too much on fertilizers and pesticides may be a symptom of an underlying problem, and can make things worse.
Why take the chance? For most folks, creating a healthy, pesticide-free lawn is surprisingly easy when you follow these simple steps.
Catch the grass on the first mow of the season (and use the clippings in your compost pile or as mulch). Then, as you mow throughout the season, mow high and let the clippings lie.
Clippings act as free fertilizer, so you not only save the trouble of raking and bagging, you save money on fertilizers. Because the clippings are 75 to 85 percent water, they quickly decompose. And by using less fertilizer you reduce potential pollution runoff into our waterways.
Check out detailed directions on mulch mowing
In the fall, after mowing, sprinkle a little new grass seed over the whole lawn – apply 25-50 percent of the recommended rate for new lawns listed on the grass seed label. An all-purpose mix or a shade mix for the Willamette Valley are good choices, depending on how much sun your lawn gets. De-thatching before you seed can help the new grass take root and crowd out your weeds.
Then tuck it all in with a thin (1/2-inch) blanket of compost if your soil is compacted or needs an extra boost. Avoid using home compost on your lawn since it is likely to have some weed seeds.
If your lawn looks pale or sparse, apply some slow-release fertilizer (you can find organic ones at your local nursery) when you over-seed.
If you want green grass in the summer, water deeply but infrequently, about an inch a week, in the early morning. Place any inch-deep container, such as a tuna can, in the middle of your lawn and turn on the sprinkler. When it's full, you're done. Note how long this takes and use that time for future waterings during similar weather.
Watering low and slow helps conserve water use. Learn more watering tips for the whole yard.
Consider this: Your lawn doesn't need to be entirely weed-free. If you feel the need to weed, do it by hand using any weeding tool you like. A hori hori knife or dandelion tool makes short work of deep-rooted weeds. Get weeds out by the root and then overseed the spot so grass wins the fight. If you do use an herbicide, spot spraying is always better than broadcast application.
Watch the video to learn more
Take the healthy lawn and garden pledge
Pledge to reduce or eliminate pesticides like "weed and feed" in your yard and receive a free yard sign and in honor of your commitment. The yard sign lets your neighbors know that your yard is healthy and safe.
Take the pledge