04/14/13 2:00pm
04/14/2013 2:00 PM
Organic lawn care on North Fork

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Master gardener Nancy Gilbert cuts back last year’s leaves on a Hellebore in bloom in her yard in Jamesport. Witch Hazel and Snowdrops are very early blooming plants next to the Hellebores.

To the editor:

Carrie Miller’s recent article on lawn care was excellent, but readers may have gotten the impression that “organic” lawns require more time and money. I disagree.

The most important tips I got from experts at Cornell take no time, require no products and cost nothing (they actually save money):

1. Raise the mower. Cutting grass to a minimum height of 3” yields a healthier lawn.

2. Mulch the clippings. Paying to have cuttings removed costs more in labor and more in fuel and creates a waste problem. Most important, it removes nutrients from the property. Steps 1 and 2 significantly reduce the need for fertilizer, whether organic or regular.

3. Water less. One or two deep watering sessions per week builds deeper roots and a stronger lawn than running sprinklers for short periods every day or two.

Many pros agree that these are the best first steps toward a natural, sustainable lawn. I’ve found the results have been striking in terms of lawn quality and maintenance costs. The one caveat is that some landscapers view mulching as a nuisance, as they need to change blades and habits. If more customers request mulching, it will become routine.

As for the comment that “there’s no organic thing to spray” on a dandelion, Burn-Out Weed Killer is very effective; it’s a convenient spray bottle and the main ingredients are citric acid and clove oil. There are plenty of similar options.

Larry Simms, South Jamesport

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