One of the first places a switch to “green” can be made, and where it will have the biggest impact, is on the lawn. But to groom a chemically fattened lawn into a sleek earth-friendly sward takes patience—organic methods work more slowly than chemical. And it also takes energy, because the first step is to give the lawn a good, stiff raking to remove as much “thatch” as possible. Thatch is the build-up of old grass clippings and detritus that forms as a dense mat around the base of each grass plant, smothering the roots, preventing the soil from warming, absorbing nutrients and water. Mechanical removal, by rotary de-thatching mowers or good ol’ muscle power (one hour’s raking can burn several hundred calories) is the traditional, nontoxic method, but there are water-on or dry-application concoctions that make use of biotics—friendly enzymes and bacteria that will digest the thatch, turning it into valuable humus and enriching the soil. BZT Dethatcher from United-Tech, Inc. of Tulsa, Oklahoma, is one such preparation (918/610-5205 or united-tech.com).
Once dethatched, the lawn can be treated with compost tea, which is simply made by steeping a sack (or bag) of well-rotted compost or manure in water; 1 pound of compost to 5 gallons of water is usually sufficient. Also, there are numerous on-line sources of organic compost teabags, and tea concentrate; Soilsoup is an easy-to-use concentrate available from some garden centers and through mail order (877/711-7687 or soilsoup.com). This should be done several times over the season.
Next, top-dress the lawn with clean topsoil, over-seed with a good, basic lawn seed mix suited to your climate zone. Water more, but less often to drive the roots deeper as they look for moisture. Set the lawn mower blades higher, so that there’s some green leaf to feed the roots. And don’t worry about clover and other weeds unless they become rampant (when they can be dispatched by dosing with distilled vinegar).