Lawn and Lawn Alternatives

Photo: grass clippings.

Photo credit: Joseph Heckman

A healthy lawn can be a beautiful asset to a home landscape and, when properly managed, can help reduce soil erosion and stormwater runoff. In an organic program, the goal for lawns is to reduce their size to what is absolutely necessary. Large lawns require a great deal of energy and resources to be maintained. Where a lawn is maintained, low maintenance turf grass varieties should be chosen that are adapted to the particular site conditions and intended use. Lawns should be mowed to maintain a height of 3 inches which helps to stimulate root growth and shade out unwanted weeds. 

In addition, organic management considers lawn irrigation a nonessential use of water and should be kept to a minimum. Irrigation should be natural rainfall only except during initial turf establishment. The organic philosophy strives for a healthy lawn that is capable of going dormant to survive drought.

Grass clippings should be left on the lawn in order to cycle nutrients back into the soil. Incorporating nitrogen-fixing legumes such as white clover into a lawn is also beneficial for decreasing fertilizer applications. Nitrogen that is produced naturally through the use of clover is much less likely to leach from the soil then synthetic fertilizers.

Lastly, an organic land care program should include assessing a site for where lawn areas are not necessary and lawn alternatives should be considered. These include no-mow zones, native grass and wildflower meadows, and low-maintenance perennial beds.

Photo: grass clippings.

  1. Rutgers
  2. Executive Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  3. School of Environmental and Biological Sciences