Practical Approach to Organic Turf
Peter Newcombe

Taking care of your lawn organically doesn’t have to be confusing. We break down what a practical approach to organic turf care looks like.

1. Take a Soil Sample

Use the soil sample supplies provided by PJC to take a sample of your client’s soil and mail it to the testing lab.

2. Address Soil Chemistry

Adjust PH and CA:MG – Turf grass and the soil biology necessary to support growth do best when soil pH is 6.5 – 7.0. Correct pH and Ca:Mg imbalances by applying lime or gypsum. Product, rate, and frequency are determined by soil test results. 

3. Apply PJC ProHealthy Turf Fertilizers

Apply an all-natural organic fertilizer every 7-10 weeks. Organic fertilizers feed the soil biology that in turn feed the plant.  Use products that contain water insoluble nitrogen and low or no phosphorus.

4. Improve soil structure

Apply soil amendments according to soil test results. Improve Organic Matter and Cation Exchange Capacity using humates, biochar & compost, products.  Calcium helps break up clay soils. Create & soil depth by top dressing with loam/compost mix.

5. Mow right (3-3.5”)

…the most important cultural practice!!!

Mow high (3.5 inches) to encourage deep roots and shade the soil. Cut no more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time. Avoid mowing wet grass.  Sharpen mower blades after every 8 hours to prevent tearing grass blades—damaged grass blades lose moisture and are susceptible to disease. Deeper roots also slough off throughout the season, similar to your skin, with the added benefit of contributing to the organic matter levels in the soil.

6. Return grass clippings

Grass clippings add organic matter and are a natural fertilizer (adding an additional 1lb of nitrogen in a season).  Bag clippings, if practical, when weed seeds and flowers are present  (ie. crabgrass, dandelions) to mitigate further spread of seeds.

7. Water

Deep, infrequently (1-2x/week), and in the morning. 3/4 – 1 inch of water a week (1-2x/week).  Water newly seeded areas and during extreme heat water more frequently for shorter periods.  Note that over watering leads to compaction and disease.

8. Core aerate

In the fall, aerate to relieve soil compaction. Aerate when grass is actively growing to allow grass roots to spread and improve air circulation in the root zone. 

9. Overseed

Overseed in the spring and fall to create a dense stand of grass to crowd out weeds. In the spring, seed slice thin lawns, top dress with a loam/compost mix, and overseed trouble spots.  Broadcast grass seed when aerating in the Fall. Water to establish.

10. Scout for weeds and pests

Weeds are an indication of underlying soil conditions. Low pH, low calcium, over watering & improper mowing contribute to weed pressure. Work at creating the environment grass requires to grow (steps 1-9) and in 3-5 years weeds diminish.  In the meantime, manually pull weeds and reseed bare areas, treat grubs with hB nematodes, grub gone or cedar-based products.  

Cultural practices are crucial, so we keep our practical approach to organic turf care simple.