If you have patchy, dead, brown or mud spots in your yard, you are likely suffering from acute ain’t-got-a-party-in-your-yard syndrome. Millions of households suffer from it and your grass isn’t really the problem. Likewise, another sign is if you have lots of moss growing in your lawn. You have low quality soil, and low quality soil ain’t got no party going on in it.
The health of plants is really an expression of the health of your dirt. If you got bad dirt, you’re going to have bad grass. The only way to have “good looking” grass in bad dirt is to cake toxic, man-made chemicals on it. Chemicals linked to birth defects, developmental defects, cancer and lots of other nasty, nasty health issues. Instead, you have to transform your dirt in a healthy way, and that means taking a more sustainable approach to your yard.
Strong Biology, Strong Grass
What leads to ain’t-got-a-party-in-your-yard syndrome? For one, you probably don’t have the best grass mix in your lawn. Two, the soil quality is likely in the gutter because you’re probably not addressing the issue correctly. Strong biology equals healthy soil. Chemicals kill biology. You aren’t fixing anything with fertilizers and pesticides. You’re making it worse.
Our yards are highly manipulated landscapes. They need management, so you can’t disregard your yard either by don’t nothing to it. Indifference kills biology too. You can’t expect your yard to “just do its thing, and be gorgeous”. Just like kids or a job or a marriage, you have to have an active roll in your yard for it to spring eternal. The great thing about grass and lawns is it takes far, far, far less time and effort than raising a child, keeping passion in a marriage or climbing the career latter.
First, if you have any artificial, synthetic or chemical-based treatments being put on your grass, stop. Just stop. Stop, stop, stop. It’s not just bad for your yard. It’s bad for your kids, your neighbor’s kids, their neighbor’s kids, the oceans, your pets, the rivers, the air and every & any living thing that comes within 10 miles of it. Just stop. It’s bad, bad, bad. Remember, chemicals kill biology. You are biology.
Second, the right grass for your yard and the right food for your soil is all you really need. The underground superhighway of biological complexity is the engine that will enflame your yard to brilliance. Everything you do to have awesome grass should be to enliven that superhighway.
So, how does one find the right grass? The dirt always has the answer. The best choice in grass is the grass that enriches your soil. Why, because the quality of your grass is an expression of the quality of your soil. This is not the typical approach to good-looking lawns. Most folks think it has to do with shade amounts, water availability, slope of yard and things like that. These concerns are grass-centric looking at individual grass species. For example, in the South Orange/Maplewood area two grass types rein supreme: tall fescue and bluegrass. Tall fescue is used in shadier yards and bluegrass is used for sunnier yards. Sometimes people buy a blend of both of them, pu the grass on their yard and still have average to below average results.
Poly, not Mono
The choice is part of the bigger problem. If you are planting only one or two species of grass in your yard, you are creating a monoculture that can’t respond to a variety of conditions and issues that will come up. Also, the soil isn’t being stimulated enough to foster the explosion of life you need underground to support the most awesomest lawn you can have. If you are suffering from ain’t-got-a-party-in-your-yard syndrome, the cure is to get that party started right, right?
I use a special blend of grass that has lots and lots of different grass species in it, like 10 to 20 different species. The blend also has a root structure that penetrates deep, deep, deep into the dark reaches of the ground. The deep roots aerate the soil and create a multitude of niches for life to gather, grow and party! And that’s really what you are looking for….you want a party in your yard…or at least under it.
With the right blend, the other considerations like shade, water availability and slope are secondary. A polyculture can adapt and respond to all the different conditions without breaking a sweat. But more importantly, a polyculture is addressing the health of your soil first, and expressing the new quality of your soil second. As the deeper root system develops, the grass flourishes because it’s enhancing the biology in your soil. Every time it rains, the roots fill with water like a reservoir providing water to grass for drier times. They also pipe it deeper into the soil where new niches form and more biodiversity is creating causing even more healthy soil. These makes the grass grows thicker helping it to out perform annuals (commonly known as weeds) from growing.
In the ecological march to mature ecosystems, annuals (stage 3 ecology) play a vital role in bridging stage 2 ecologies to stage 4 ecologies (if you are interested in the stages of ecosystems, I have a blog about it here). The problem with the majority of yards is that they are perpetually blocking the landscape from maturing from a stage 3 to a stage 4 by essentially poisoning the land with chemicals or completely disregarding it. The right seed mix stimulates that transformation by making the soil healthier. The other part of keeping the party going is to routinely feed it.
Feed Your Soul...Soil
Your dirt needs good healthy food to support that party you are creating underground. I use organic mushroom compost soil to feed yards, and I feed my yard twice a yard with it…sometimes three or four times a yard if a really wanna get that party started right, right? Anyway…
I don’t have a huge yard. A few 25lb bags of the stuff will do the trick. I hand spread it…which means, I open the bag, grab a handful and throw it around my yard. I don’t aerate. If you are aerating your yard that’s really means you have the wrong grass. The right blend will aerate your yard for you.
Of course, it is a process. If you have a cracked out yard from years of neglect or chemicals, it’s going to take some time to get things moving in the right direction. Once your yard is getting busy in the dirt, it’s really easy to maintain. A few lbs of grass seed and a few bags of compost twice a year is all you need.
The only drawback to this is you have to seed your yard before May 15 or after Sept 15 for the best results. It really is extremely time sensitive. If you don’t seed within those time periods, you won’t get good results.