4. Cut High
Mowing cool-season grass 3 inches high is just as effective as using herbicides to suppress crabgrass, if not more so, according to research from the University of Maryland. Set your mower blade to its highest level. Just be sure to keep it sharp—dull blades leave ragged edges on the grass blades, which allows rapid evaporation of water and makes the grass more susceptible to infection. Mow often, because you never want to cut off more than one-third of the grass blades at a time.
5. Leave the Clippings
Instead of bagging up grass clippings and sending them to the landfill, invest in a mulching blade for your mower and leave the clippings on your lawn. As they decompose, they add valuable organic matter to the soil and about 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet each season, which means you have to spend less time and money on fertilizing. Contrary to popular belief, letting the clippings decompose on your lawn does not cause a buildup of thatch (a layer on top of the soil that blocks water and nutrients from reaching the grass’s roots). Rather, thatch is caused by overfertilizing. See also: How to Mow.
6. Feed Responsibly
Organic fertilizers come from natural plant, animal, and mineral sources. Once these products are applied to the lawn, soil microorganisms break down the nutrients into a form that plants can take up. Organic fertilizers release nutrients slowly as plants need them, but you still need to follow the directions on the label to avoid overfeeding (yes, you can overdo organic fertilizers, too). In general, apply a low dose in early fall and in midspring.
These steps are simple, and they demand (over time) less work than conventional lawn care. But isn’t any effort worth the peace of mind you get from safeguarding your family and the environment?