The Organic Lawn Care Manual

By Paul Tukey

Published by Storey Press, 2007

One of the most valuable books for homeowners to hit the market recently is The Organic Lawn Care Manual, by Paul Tukey.  Tukey is the editor of the regional gardening magazine “People, Places, Plants,” which has a focus on gardens in the northeast, and sustainable/organic techniques.  The Organic Lawn Care Manual is a useful book for homeowners maintaining lawns, even if they are not, or do not want to, use completely organic methods.  Other lawn care books give useful information for maintaining lawns, but do not delve as far into the biological “happenings” under the lawn, which greatly impact lawn health.  Understanding the information in this book, even if you care for your lawn with conventional methods, will help you have a greener, healthier lawn in the long run.

This Book Gives Big Bang for the Buck

List price for the paperback version of The Organic Lawn Care Manual is $19.95.  It is worth every penny.  You’ll find yourself pulling this book off the shelves time after time to reference it for a variety of tasks.  Here are the main topics covered:

  • Evaluating your lawn care needs
  • Parts of the grass plant
  • Overview of major and minor nutrients needed by grass
  • Soil 101: structure, components, how to improve your soil
  • Grass species: profile, care needs, regional distribution
  • How to install a new lawn
  • How to renovate a lawn
  • Using compost and natural fertilizer on the lawn
  • Lawn care calendar
  • Watering do’s and don’ts, equipment overviews and water saving tips
  • Lawn weed identification and control
  • Lawn insect identification and control
  • Lawn mower and maintenance equipment overviews
  • Alternative plantings in lieu of a lawn

Each section is fully illustrated with diagrams and full-color pictures.  Some of the information is presented in tabular form, for easy reference.  Virtually every aspect of lawn care is given a thorough treatment.
[polldaddy poll=2186225]
Organic vs. Conventional Lawn Care

Certainly, in the short run, it might be easier to manage a lawn using synthetic chemicals and broad-based applications.  In the long run, however, it is less expensive and much more environmentally friendly to manage the lawn with organic methods.  As the book details, even replacing some of your synthetic inputs like fertilizer and weed killer with organic alternatives like compost, compost tea, and corn gluten (as a pre-emergence herbicide), make a difference.  Now, more than ever, organic lawn care alternatives are available in mainstream garden centers, and online.

As is frequently mentioned in the book, using good maintenance techniques is beneficial to the lawn, regardless of whether you maintain with organic or conventional methods.  The healthier the lawn, the less time and money you need to spend caring for it.  Simple techniques like watering properly, maintaining sharp mower blades, mowing at the correct height, and planting the right grass type for your area go a long way toward reducing costs.  Because most of us learned to take care of the lawn in the traditional “Mow, blow and go” fashion (mow the lawn, edge with a trimmer, blow the stray grass off the sidewalk, and call it a day), the information in the book will be new-and might even dispel some common lawn care myths that are holding back your lawn from optimum health.

Lawn Care Myths-Busted

There isn’t a specific myth busting section in the book; however, from reading and digesting the information contained within, you’ll find yourself thinking a little bit differently about these topics:

Myth: If you maintain the lawn organically, it will be full of weeds.

Busted!  If you transition from conventional lawn care to organic lawn care, it will take a bit of time to clear the lawn of weeds, and you may still have to pull a dandelion or two, but following the techniques and using organic pre-emergence treatments like corn gluten will help you grow a lush, green lawn without harmful chemicals in a short time.

Myth:  There are no organic weed killers.

Busted!  There are a number of ways to kill weeds without using glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup).  Solarization, boiling water, vinegar and corn gluten pre-emergence all help remove or prevent weeds.  Additionally, by giving your lawn good care, you will prevent many of the problems that cause weed invasions.

Myth: There are no good electric or motor-free lawn mowers.

Busted!  Every year there are more and more options for gasoline-free mowers.  Fiskars will be releasing a new reel mower, called the Momentum mower, in late 2009 or early 2010.  It is almost easier to push than a regular self-propelled gas mower.  (That’s not in the book! We got to try it out at the Garden Writers Conference recently.)

Myth:  You can’t overseed in the winter if you have an organic lawn.

Busted!  You can overseed warm-season turf, and still maintain your chemical-free lawn.  In fact, competition from annual ryegrass (the preferred overseeding grass), will keep some weed problems at bay.  Additionally, because rye is a legume, it fixes nitrogen in the soil, converting it to a form available to the grass.

Success Stories

One of the best things about The Organic Lawn Care Manual is that it includes success stories from businesses, homeowners, public gardens, and municipal spaces that have transitioned from conventional to organic lawn care.  There are pictures, testimonials, tips and hints from real people who have actually enacted the techniques presented in this book.  Inclusion of this information does two things:  it proves to skeptics that this type of lawn care can be done, and it incorporates information from someone other than the author, and from people living in different climate zones.  Lawn care in California is not the same as lawn care in Kentucky.

If you only Buy one Lawn Care Manual

Buy The Organic Lawn Care Manual.  It is a fantastic reference and resource for professionals and homeowners, alike.  Covering virtually every topic necessary to give your lawn the best possible care, it is one “gardening tool” you won’t want to be without.