Whacking Weeds and Pests
We're not gonna lie to you. Making the transition to organic lawn care might mean dealing with some weeds-at least for the first year or two as your soil and grass gain enough strength to control them naturally. One thing you can do to prevent weeds is spread corn gluten meal-an organic weed preventative-on your lawn in the spring. Just don't do it when you're overseeding, since it prevents germination of all seeds, including grass. While corn gluten meal works only 65 percent as well as chemical herbicides, it can still significantly reduce weed infestations.

If a few isolated weeds show up, pull them by hand or try an organic weed killer, such as Nature's Avenger, a spray containing citrus oil, which dehydrates weeds down to the roots. Some gardeners swear by vinegar to do the same.

Weeds can be helpful indicators of specific problems with your soil, however. Got crabgrass? It can point to soil compaction, since it usually appears in highly trafficked areas, such as along driveways or walkways. Instead of zapping it with pesticides, get to the root of the problem by aerating the area where it's growing. "You can kill the messenger all day long," says Turkey, "but it doesn't change the message that something is wrong with your soil." And not all weeds are out to destroy your lawn; some can even help it. Clover, for example, is a common broadleaf weed that works as a natural fertilizer factory, transforming nitrogen in the air into a digestible form for your soil. Some organic-lawn-care experts actually recommend adding a pound of clover seed for every 1000 square feet of lawn.

Insects and fungal diseases can also point to lawn problems. Chinch bugs are attracted to dry, drought-stressed lawns; and watering at night, especially in warm weather, can encourage fungal diseases like dollar spot or brown patch, since turf stays moist for longer.

There are organic solutions in the battle of the bugs, too. For example, beneficial nematodes can take care of grub worms, which chew through grass roots. These spray-on microscopic organisms target-and devour-grubs and grubs only, never harming beneficial organisms, though the timing of their application is critical.
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