Start by aerating your lawn in mid-September. Then, spread some lime and new seed, apply a fresh layer of compost, and wait. Starting in the fall will allow the individual fescue plants to develop deep roots through the late fall and early winter, crowding out the competition (weeds) as spring nears.
2. How often should I water my lawn to remain eco-friendly?
Talking about water needs for individual lawns can be tricky, as every yard is different and their needs are diverse. For most yards, watering twice a week for thirty minutes is adequate. However, it is very important to observe your yard and pay attention to the different micro-climates throughout. Some areas may bake in the sun, while others only receive a couple hours of sun. Adjust your watering habits based on your observations, and change your schedule often based on any forecasted rain. Frequent, shallow watering will create a weak, water dependent plant. I advise limiting your watering days, but increasing the watering time to allow the water to penetrate deeper into the soil. This will encourage each turf plant to develop deep roots.
3. Any lawn tips that will help me save water?
A healthy fescue plant consists of 75 to 85 percent water. Recycling or mulching your grass clippings back into the turf is a great place to start when you're trying to limit water consumption. Additionally, maintaining your fescue between 4" and 5" will keep the ground temperatures lower. Lower temperatures protect the fescue's root system and keep the soil from drying out too quickly.
4. What should I feed my lawn to be environmentally sound and/or organic?
Traditional fertilizers focus on macro-nutrients and their capability to feed our lawns. While important, macro-nutrients should be a supplement, and not the foundation for your lawn. Set your focus on developing healthy soil first by introducing beneficial microbes. Applying a layer of compost will introduce trillions of microbes, and also feed the turf's macro and micro nutrients. When applied correctly, it may be the only fertilizer you need for the year.
5. Why is testing my soil important?
Getting your soil tested is like going to the doctor for a physical. Results help establish a baseline and inform us of the soil's current condition. A basic soil test will tell you the pH and macro-nutrient content of the soil. More complex tests include micro-nutrient content, acidity, type of soil, organic matter percentage, buffer index, and much more. I would recommend after a year of working on your yard, get another test done. It'll tell you if you're head in the right direction.
6. What are some eco-friendly fertilizers I should be using?
There is no one brand I can point to and say: "Use that one!" Knowing what is right for your lawn goes back to performing a soil test. Plenty of lawns in the Tidewater area have a pH imbalance and are micro-nutrient deficient. Compost and lime are almost always the best place to start when it comes to fertilizing. It's also important to read fertilizer labels and understand the origin of the ingredients. Look for ones that use vermiculture, fish, crops, or other nutrient sources found in nature.
7. What tips would you give me for an environmentally safe lawn?
Balancing the pH is often overlooked, but it's a great place to start. Microbes are living organisms; healthy lawns have trillions of them. These microbes thrive in balanced, pH neutral soil. In acidic or alkaline soil they often struggle, leaving many nutrients in the soil unused or just left to flush through into our ground water. Since Virginia soil is often fairly acidic, apply some lime or calcium to start the process of balancing the soil's pH.
8. What is the best way to kill weeds naturally?
Pull them out by hand. I'm only half joking. The Tidewater area is considered a transitional growing zone, which seemingly makes no one variety of grass grow really well here. Developing a strong turf by balancing pH and good composting is a great start to keeping your yard weed-free, but the use of some synthetic weed-killers along the way is almost inevitable. I would keep some on hand, but use them sparingly and don't blanket apply them to your yard if you can help it.