Growing Health: Lawns perfect for playing on


Extract from book: ESSENTIAL ORGANICS the legacy of Irmela Reichardt

A perfectly groomed, lush, green lawn sets the tone of a garden, and most gardeners are prepared to spend a lot of money on fertiliser, herbicides and water to achieve this.

It is however possible to have a lovely green organic lawn without an expensive maintenance program, and most important is that we should all enjoy the pleasures of a healthy lawn and garden so that we, our kids, friends, pets and the natural garden life can frolic and flourish without the risk of contamination of toxic lawn care chemicals.

The green carpet in your garden is formed by 100’s & 100’s of little plants, growing close together and all competing for the same nutrients in the soil.

Soil Health and Fertility is the Key to Success

  • Your initial mind-shift is to think of lawn as a living creature.
  • Realize that lawn is a very heavy feeder.
  • Create a living Soil to provide the lawn plants with a wide range of nutrients.
  • Allow their root system to grow deep into a rich soil.
  • Ensure dense leaf growth to, shade the soil surface and roots, to reduce loss of moisture, prevent germination of weed seeds, and soil erosion.

Some Lawn Types

Buffalo:  An indigenous grass which grows easily. Tolerates shade, salt water spray and will grow in sandy soil. It does not require frequent cutting, is water-wise, but does not tolerate frost and is dormant in winter.
Kikuyu:  A popular grass as it is a fast grower, stays green in winter in frost free areas, requires little attention besides good soil conditioning. Can be very invasive in high rainfall areas.
Common Couch (Kweek):  A popular lawn grass, is a fine bladed indigenous grass, which is hardy and takes wear. It needs to grow in full sun, and easily grown in most soil types. It is brown and dormant in winter. It can become invasive.
Florida, Skaapplaas & Royal Cape:  These are varieties of couch grass indigenous to parts of the country.  They are fine bladed, drought tolerant and some are frost tolerant. Often used on bowling greens.
Swazi:  Indigenous, coarse leaf blade.  Grows well in poor soil, requires little maintenance. It will brown off in dry summer months, but recovers quickly with rain.  It is sensitive to frost and dormant through winter.

Converting an Established Lawn to Organic

Step1:  If the soil under lawn is compacted or contains building debris, dig up the worst parts to refresh the soil to replant.
Step2: If the lawn is not in bad condition, aerate soil with a garden fork for a small area, or lawn aerating roller for extensive areas.
Step3: If the lawn is weed ridden, remove the weeds by hand, perhaps arrange a “family bonding, or crowd weeding party!” Try to avoid the use of herbicide by adjusting the soil’s pH level by sprinkling 1 cup (250ml) per m2 of Agricultural Lime as weeds grow best in acid or compacted soils.
Step4:  If a thick layer of dry ‘thatch’ has built up, remove it by raking it gently without creating bare patches. Place thatch on your compost heap or use as a thin mulch on planted beds.
Step5:  Adjust the pH of acidic soil often caused by using synthetic chemical fertilizers, by dusting soil with Agricultural Lime 30ml per m2 and repeat the application after 3 months if necessary.
Step6:  Improve the Soil Structure by applying a top-dressing as follows:
FOR HEAVY CLAY OR SANDY SOILS:  Per m2 mix 2 parts of well matured compost & 1 part clean river sand & 100g organic granular 2:3:2(16) fertilizer, OR 250ml Earthworm Castings & 100g organic granular 2:3:2(16) fertiliser.
Step7:  Water well and continue to water regularly, at least twice a week in Spring & Summer, but preferably in the early morning or late afternoon to save on water. Ensure that leaves dry off before nightfall to prevent fungal disease developing.
Step8:  Fertilize with an organic granular 5:1:5(16) fertilizer every 4 to 5 months at 100g per m2 to maintain a stunning green and healthy lawn, good enough to play on!

Tips to Try:  Create an indigenous low maintenance lawn for biodiversity and a “FREE SPIRITED & NATURAL FEEL” by sowing indigenous annual flower and natural grass seeds into an existing lawn that needs a revamp!

The Gardener