Salt Lake City

Sustainability

Contact SLCgreen (801) 535-6470 | slcgreen@slcgov.com

Lawn Care

Lawn Care

Traditional turf lawns are the norm even in the arid, desert climate of Utah. Such lawns are not sustainable in practice. Maintaining a traditional lawn puts a significant amount of stress on the grass and creates a dependence on constant watering, fertilizer, and pesticide use. Reducing the amount of fertilizer and pesticides we apply, though it might seem contradictory, actually, improves soil and plant health.

 

Quick and Easy Lawn Tips​

During this year’s growing season we will be posting tips and tricks on when and how to prep your lawn and garden without the harmful use of pesticides and fertilizers. Follow us on social media and check the hashtag #PesticideFreeSLC to stay in the loop.

  • Improve your soil’s health to help facilitate healthy lawns and reduce weed growth.

  • Add ¼ inch compost in early Spring and early Fall

  • Mix liquid molasses with water and apply to grass. This feeds the healthy microbes in your soil, which makes your turf and plants healthier.

  • Fertilize naturally by leaving grass clippings on lawn and mulching with leaves

  • Aerate your lawn to avoid compaction.

  • Mow lawn to about 3-4 inches high.

  • Don’t overwater your lawn and avoid watering during the heat of the day.

  • Give your lawn 1 inch of water a week in May and September and 1.5 inches a week in the summer.

  • Incorporate native plants into your landscape.

  • Native plants are adapted to local conditions and aren’t easily out-competed by unwanted plants.

  • Use natural pesticides. Neem oil or peppermint oil are great alternatives to chemical pesticides.

  • Declutter yard and home to discourage pests.

  • Remove standing water & open food sources.

 

Mimic a Natural Ecosystem

Mimic a Natural Ecosystem

The best way to create a pesticide and fertilizer free lawn is to create a yard that mimics a natural ecosystem. This is done by allowing organic materials, such as grass clippings, leaves, and other dead plants, to remain on the lawn or in the garden. This material suppresses disease, decreases thatch (which prevents healthy grass from growing), and discourages the growth of crabgrass. Most importantly, however, as these plant materials decay they naturally add nutrients back into the soil. As this cycle continues, the soil does not require much, if any, additional fertilizer. If your yard doesn’t have much organic matter, or if you find that you do need extra fertilizer, add ¼ inch of compost in early Spring and Fall.

Encourage White Clover

Encourage White Clover

healthy lawn with white clover

White clover is extremely beneficial to a lawn’s health but is, unfortunately, often unwanted. White clover has a leguminous root system which supplies nitrogen to the soil, an essential element for plant growth. Additionally, it is easily managed, and will not overcrowd desired grass. White clover is drought resistant and will maintain a green color even during times of water shortage when traditional grass wilts and loses color. There are also no serious pests that are attracted to white clover, meaning no additional pests will be attracted to a lawn that includes some white clover.

Choose a Site-Adapted Grass

Choose a Site-Adapted Grass

To reduce the amount of maintenance a lawn requires, it is important to select a type of grass that is well suited to the environment. In northern and central Utah’s climate, cool season grasses are most appropriate.

A few recommended species of grass include:

  • Fine Fescue

    • Shade tolerant

    • Slow growth, low fertilizer needs

    • Drought tolerant

  • Tall Fescue

    • Shade tolerant

    • Deep rooting that requires less irrigation

  • Kentucky Bluegrass

    • Recovers quickly from frequent use (ideal for heavily used yards)

    • Requires full sun to partial shade

  • Buffalo Grass  (most suitable cultivars: Bison, Bowie, Cody, Plains, and Topgun)

    • Tolerates moderate foot traffic

    • Only needs occasional mowing; never mow below 3 inches

    • Fertilizer needs are minimal: one pound of N per 1000 square feet in late May/early June, and one pound of N per 1000 square feet in late July

    • Requires 1-2 inches of rain or irrigation every 2-4 weeks in summer to stay green and discourage weed growth

Set Proper Mower Height

Set Proper Mower Height

Your mower should be kept at its highest setting—preferably 3-4 inches. Keeping grass at this height will reduce weeds by allowing grass to block sunlight, preventing it from reaching weed seeds on the soil surface.

Weed Prevention

Weed Prevention

An effective way to maintain your lawn is simply to keep weed growth under control. Some ways to do this are

  • Hand pull weed seedlings early—remove before they flower and produce seed

  • Mow infrequently

  • Keep grass long (between 3-4 inches)

  • Decrease soil compaction

    • Aerate if your lawn is compacted

  • Water sparingly

    • Only water about 1 inch per week (including rainfall)

  • Carefully manage fertilizer application

It is important to accept that there will be some undesired species mixed in with your grass. An increased number of species, however, indicates higher biodiversity, which is beneficial for overall environmental and human health.

Reduce overall lawn space

There are many lawn alternatives to traditional turf grass. Therefore, it is easy to justify reducing the amount of lawn space in your yard. Determine how much lawn you really need—this will depend on your personal use of the yard, including whether or not you have children or pets that utilize the grassy space. Wherever possible, minimize the amount of turf grass in your yard.

Find an Alternative to Grass

Find an Alternative to Grass

If you don’t want to replace your lawn with garden beds, and prefer a low-maintenance ground cover, there are many alternatives to suit your style.

  • Creeping thyme

    • Supports frequent foot traffic

    • Should be kept moist, but not wet

    • Tolerates sun to light shade

  • Roman Chamomile

    • Support normal foot traffic once established

  • Moss

    • Withstands moderate foot traffic

    • Requires moisture and shady areas

  • White clover

    • Drought resistant once established

    •  Nitrogen fixing

    •  Stays relatively short (4-8 inches)

    •  Not suitable for repeat high traffic areas (dogs, children, lots of walking, etc.)

    • Can be mixed with high traffic grass

 

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