Organic Lawn Renovation

by TISHA FARRIS of Central Oregon Lawn Center

In our last article we discussed aerating and thatching one’s lawn to relieve compaction and increase air, water, and nutrient intake to the soil. We recommend doing this combo once in the spring and once in the fall. Alas, there is more to the story if you want a full and vibrantly green lawn in the Central Oregon region. The first ingredient to the recipe for a healthy lawn is patience and the second is vigilance.

The key components to organic lawn treatment are: the equipment, the products / amendments, and, the grass seed if you are re-seeding or over-seeding this season. You can pick up your weed killer, fertilizer and grass seed at our store when you come in to rent your aerator, dethatcher, various spreaders, and/or hand tools.

When considering which products or amendments to buy, first take stock of your current weed population or if they have not yet emerged, consider how much of your lawn was made up of weeds back in the fall. If you wish to apply pre-emergent weed killers, you need to beat the weeds to the punch. If the weeds have already started to sprout, we have plenty of organic and non-chemical based weed killer sprays available from which to choose. We recommend taking care of your weed situation before doing the full renovation treatment, listed hereafter in order to eliminate the competition and make room for your grass seed to flourish. After looking over your weed population attack plan, we recommend obtaining an organic fertilizer and applying it once the temperature is approximately at an average of 55 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Finally, consider whether you want to overseed your lawn to fill in patches where either the mature grasses have begun to thin out, or you simply have dead spots from Fido that you want to repair. The mix of species you will want to get will be determined by the amount of sun/shade the area receives over an average day, the level of activity the area endures, the specific esthetic you are hoping to accomplish and the amount of maintenance you prefer to perform throughout the growing seasons.

The final consideration before performing a lawn renovation is your watering system. After the last freeze event, it is safe to turn on your irrigation, set your irrigation system clock, and begin watering your lawn. If you hired someone to blow out your sprinkler system last fall, I recommend contacting them (or us) to start your sprinklers back up this spring. Check that your clock is set to appropriate watering rates / times for these spring months, remembering to change the rates as we move into summer and back to lower rates again in the fall. If you are not sure how to set your clock or want a consult on what rates are appropriate for the spring season in Central Oregon, contact us at 541-241-7715 or message us on Facebook.

The Following Steps are How to Perform a Lawn Renovation:

1. Mow your grass if needed. If you are doing this process first thing in the spring, you may be able to skip this step. However, if you choose to repeat the renovation process later in the summer or the beginning of fall, you will want your grass blades no more than four inches tall before you start the rest of the regiment.

2. Dethatch your lawn to remove the dead grass from previous seasons. This layer of dead grass build-up prevents water, air and any amendments you put down from reaching the soil and thus the grass roots. If you are dispersing grass seed to fill in the gaps in your lawn this season and do not first remove the thatch layer, those seeds will try to germinate in the thatch layer and be starved of necessities much faster, and in the end not survive at all.

3. Aerate. An aerator punches out plugs of your soil in regularly spaced increments providing room for the soil to move and loosen. Plugs of grass and soil will then be left behind as you push the aerator along. We recommend going over the lawn once more with the dethatcher on a lite setting to break up the aerated cores and spread the dirt more evenly. This has an added benefit of giving your new seed, if you choose to put any down, some fresh soil in which to germinate.\

4. Apply your fertilizer of choice. Fertilizer is meant to add necessary nutrients to the plant during its’ growth series. For example, nitrogen needs to be in the soil as the plant cannot obtain nitrogen from the air and nitrogen aids in many processes including photosynthesis. Nitrogen is considered the most popular ingredient in most lawn fertilizers and in some, it may be the only ingredient. This is because nitrogen aids in shoot growth and thus makes our lawns look more green and full. Grass starts growing roots before it sprouts blades, this means applying a fertilizer with a significant amount of phosphorus and potassium is important. We have in stock an organic Spring / Summer fertilizer we recommend which has a 8 – 4 – 5 value for its Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium content. Your lawn will stay a lush, more vibrant green color and for longer if you use organic fertilizers vs chemically derived compounds, so keep that in mind when you are picking your fertilizer of choice.

5. Apply your seed mixture at the appropriate rate. Whether you are trying to fill in the spaces between your grass blades or you want to redo an entire swath, your application rates will vary, as will your ideal mix of species. We can help you determine both.

For a printable checklist of this information along with an estimated Central Oregon timeline associated with each step, please visit our website at or our store’s Facebook page.

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