The mere thought of reviving a weed-stricken yard and unkempt garden might have you reaching for the phone to call in a landscaping company. The problem is, many services are costly, and worse yet, use toxic yard chemicals that could sicken you and your guests. Luckily, you can personally give your landscape a major facelift using our expert organic lawn care tips without sinking too much time, money, or effort into your outdoor cleanup project.
Try these simple organic lawn care and garden tips when you need a quick and easy outdoor upgrade.
1. Try a snazzy cut.
Instead of cutting in straight lines, cut your lawn at angles for that that golf course or baseball field look. For a square or rectangular lawn, start in one corner and cut across the middle of the lawn to the other corner. "Corner-to-corner is the first pass you want to make, then keep every pass with the lawn mower parallel to that corner-to-corner," explains Mark Smallwood, executive director of the Rodale Institute, an organic research farm in Pennsylvania.
You can also use a stryper apparatus (a rolling device you hook up to your mower that helps create a striped pattern on your lawn) for a similar effect—that's what golf courses and baseball field landscapers use.
2. Mow wisely.
Even if you don't opt for a golf course–like cut, there are steps you can take to quickly create a more inviting lawn. Smallwood recommends raising your lawnmower deck to at least 3 inches, which is usually as high as most residential lawnmowers go. "This height will eliminate a lot of broadleaf weeds," he says. Mowing your grass too low could turn your green grass brownish and eliminate taller grass's weed-suppressing shade.
3. Apply a quick, chemical-free lawn feeding.
If you're tempted to coat your lawn with chemical fertilizers to give your grass a boost before guests arrive, don't. For nontoxic lawn nourishment, broadcast one-eighth to one-quarter of an inch of high-quality compost over your lawn using a shovel. Compost nourishes beneficial soil microbes and doesn't contain harsh salts the way many chemical fertilizers do, and you could see some improvement in just a few days.
4. Burn out weeds safely.
Instead of reaching for Roundup or other harmful synthetic pesticides to kill weeds creeping up through sidewalk or driveway cracks, try using BurnOut, an organic weed killer made of food-grade vinegar and clove oil. Just be sure to spray it directly on weeds on a warm, sunny day for the best effect.
You can also use BurnOut to quickly and organically kill weeds in the yard; however, it will temporarily leave a brown spot, and you'll need to reseed the area to shade out new weed growth. (You might want to save that project for after your guests leave.) Smallwood recommends reseeding with Pearl's Premium grass seed. It thrives without chemicals, and once established, you don't ever have to water it.