A Guide to Eco-Friendly Lawn Care

Lawn in front of house

In a world where every blade of grass counts, your lawn care routine can have some serious consequences on the environment. Fear not, though, for you hold the power to mitigate these environmental impacts and champion a greener cause through the practice of eco-friendly lawn care.

By adopting the right strategies, your lawn can flourish while also supporting the environment. Avoiding hazardous pesticides, properly maintaining the lawn, and utilizing resources sparingly are all part of green lawn care. Let’s dive into eco-friendly lawn care tips below. 

13 Ways to Practice Eco-Friendly Lawn Care

1. Test Your Soil

Knowledge is a powerful tool when it comes to taking care of your lawn while being eco-conscious. Testing your soil is a crucial step because it helps you understand exactly how much fertilizer your lawn requires. Many people often guess and end up over-fertilizing their lawns, which can harm local water systems due to toxic runoff.

By getting a soil test, you can determine its quality and make informed decisions about pH control, fertilization, and compaction reduction. It’s recommended to test your soil every three years to ensure your lawn gets the right treatment.

Pro Tip: For the most precise and detailed results, consider sending a soil sample to your local Cooperative Extension for laboratory testing.

2. Switch to Organic Fertilizer

Choosing organic fertilizers that are made from organic matter, such as plant or animal matter, is also a good way to practice green lawn care.

Finding a sustainable slow-release fertilizer is a great option because it provides important minerals and nutrients over time rather than all at once. Synthetic, fast-release fertilizers full of nitrogen can destroy valuable biodiversity in your soil. While it helps the grass, it hurts the soil quality. 

Map of the United States showing cool-season grass, warm-season grass, and transition zones.
Infographic by Juan Rodriguez

If your lawn is healthy and established, it likely only needs fertilizer once a year. You should fertilize the lawn in the fall if you have cool-season grass. Fertilize warm-season grasses in the summer.

3. Reduce Pesticides

Pesticides can come in handy, especially when you’re dealing with a severe infestation. But chemicals won’t resolve the underlying issue that caused the infestation in the first place. As a result, the pest is likely to return, leading to more pesticide use. This isn’t ideal for eco-friendly lawn care, especially when you’re using synthetic pesticides. 

Consider taking an Integrated Pest Management approach to reduce pests instead. In this practice, pesticide use is reserved as a last resort, only targets specific pests, and utilizes pesticides in the safest way possible. Instead of going straight to the chemicals, try these tactics first to reduce the use of pesticides: 

  • Alter habitats that pests prefer by removing shelter, food, and water sources. 
  • Water, fertilize, and aerate the lawn properly to limit pests and fungus. 
  • Plant grass seed species in the yard that are resistant to specific pests and diseases. 

4. Use Organic Lawn Products

It’s very tempting to pick the cheapest and most promising chemical from the shelf. But when you’re treating your lawn, you should think twice before choosing something that’s suspiciously flashy. Synthetic lawn treatments aren’t biodegradable and pollute the environment over time. 

Inorganic lawn treatments can run off into bodies of water from rainfall and drainage, killing sensitive aquatic life and contaminating water sources. Choosing organic lawn care products, such as fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, and acaricides, will have less impact on the environment while still promoting a healthy lawn.

Note: Depending on which products you buy, organic doesn’t always mean safest. You should do your research on a product and find out if any of the natural chemicals in it are safe for your yard, your family, and the environment. 

Keep in mind that some organic products provide nutrients to all plants on your lawn — including weeds. When using specific organic products, make sure to monitor the growth of weeds, too.   

5. Mow Correctly

One third rule illustration
Infographic by Juan Rodriguez

Whether you mow too low or not enough, you could be leaving your yard vulnerable to pests and diseases. Adopting a healthy and proper mowing routine will help curb the need for harmful pesticides and herbicides. Here are some useful mowing tips to help you cultivate a healthy and eco-friendly lawn: 

  • Mow no more than one-third of the leaf blade at a time. For example, if your grass is three inches tall, don’t mow more than one inch during a single mow. 
  • Avoid cutting too low.
  • Make sure your mower blades are sharp so that the grass is cleanly cut. 
  • Mow down to your grass type’s recommended mowing height

6. Overseed Yearly

When your lawn is growing thick and lush, you’re less likely to reach for the chemicals that damage the environment. Overseeding keeps the lawn healthy by supplementing your grass’ growth with new seeds. You should overseed your warm-season grass in the springtime and cool-season grass in the fall.

7. Recycle Grass Clippings

Bagging your grass clippings might improve your lawn’s appearance, but it’s not an eco-friendly approach. Why? Because bagging grass clippings takes up landfill space and removes valuable nutrients from the environment. 

When you keep grass clippings on the lawn, the clippings will decompose and return nutrients to the soil. However, long grass clippings can smother your lawn and provide shelter for lawn-destroying pests. If your grass clippings are longer than one inch, put them to good use in your compost pile or spread them as mulch in the garden. 

Note: Bagging your grass clippings will be necessary if the turfgrass has a fungal disease. 

8. Water Properly

Watering the lawn properly can greatly help the environment. Currently, many people don’t have access to clean water, so it’s important to conserve what you can. With rising temperatures and increasing droughts, developing the right watering routine will positively impact the environment. 

Here are a couple of simple steps to take to water the lawn properly: 

  • Water at the right time: It’s best to water early in the morning (before 10 a.m., ideally before 8 a.m.) so there’s less water evaporation from the burning sun. 
  • Use a rotary sprinkler system: Traditional plastic sprinkler systems are less efficient at distributing the water around your lawn. Rotary systems will save water and ensure your lawn is more saturated. 
  • Keep track of the weather: Don’t water the lawn before a large storm. Keep in mind it’s okay to go without watering for short periods of time during droughts.
  • Water your lawn two to three times a week, or around 1 inch of water per week, depending on your soil type.

Pro Tip: Invest in a rain barrel so you can collect the rainwater from the gutter to reuse. You can also set up watering cans during storms to collect rainwater for trees and shrubs. 

9. Switch to a Clover Lawn

Choosing a clover lawn over a traditional grass lawn not only benefits you and your budget but also contributes to the ecosystem. Planting a clover lawn is an excellent way to keep your lawn self-sufficient in these distinct ways:

  • Clover lawns can fertilize themselves. Clover captures nitrogen in the atmosphere and enriches it in the soil, limiting the need for harmful nitrogen-based lawn treatments. 
  • Clover lawns limit diseases and weeds. Clover acts as its own herbicide by forming clumps that crowd out competing weeds.
  • Clover lawns tolerate dry conditions. They require less water than turfgrass once they’re established. 
  • Clover lawns are havens for pollinators. Bees, wasps, and other pollinators might pack a sting, but they also act as a natural method of pest control for other lawn-destroying critters.

10. Plant Native Species

native plant roots

Adding native plants to the lawn is a smart way to practice eco-friendly lawn care. Not only do native plants look pretty and attract elegant butterflies and hummingbirds, but they also have many benefits: 

  • Native plants are low-maintenance because they thrive with little intervention from you. That means less watering and fertilizing, too. 
  • They promote biodiversity and create natural habitats for native animals. 
  • Native plants control erosion due to their deep root systems stabilizing the soil. 

11. Add Habitat Gardens

Introducing habitat gardens to your lawn is a fantastic way to boost its eco-friendliness and attract beneficial insects. These spaces are specially designed to nurture and entice essential creatures, with pollinators such as butterflies and bees being the most common visitors.

By creating a habitat garden, you’re not only contributing positively to the environment but also ensuring the health and vibrancy of your plants. 

12. Compost

composting illustration
Infographic by Juan Rodriguez

It’s slimy and smelly and… good for the lawn? Composting is a great way to add natural soil amendments to your lawn and reduce food waste in your home. It can be added to soil to increase fertility, add moisture, and enhance the overall structure of the soil. 

Here are some items you can throw into the compost bin:  

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Coffee grounds 
  • Degradable coffee filters 
  • Nutshells
  • Eggshells 
  • Shredded cardboard 
  • Grass clippings
  • Loose leaves
  • Pet hair and fur
  • Old houseplants 

Remember: Never compost grass or yard trimmings that have been treated with chemicals or toxic lawn fertilizers. 

13. Keep a Clean Lawn

Maintaining a clean and tidy lawn goes beyond just picking up trash — it’s a vital step in promoting both the health of your lawn and minimizing harm to the environment. To ensure your lawn stays clean, consider the following tips:

  • Water the area where your dog has peed.
  • Clean up any spills of lawn chemicals and treatments. 
  • Sanitize your lawn tools to limit disease. 
  • Keep your mower clean.
  • Clean up loose debris. 
  • Trim your trees and shrubs regularly. 

Why Practice Eco-Friendly Lawn Care?

Better for the Environment

An eco-friendly lawn care routine protects the surrounding environment. By adopting conscious and conservative treatments and strategies, you can improve your lawn’s health while also remaining mindful of the environment.

A healthy and eco-friendly lawn:

  • Improves the quality of oxygen
  • Reduces carbon dioxide 
  • Creates a cooling effect
  • Prevents toxic runoff from fertilizers 
  • Creates shelters and habitats for animals
  • Improves water and energy conservation in the home

Better for You and Your Family

With the proper use of fertilizers and pesticides, the lawn is less likely to make living beings sick — that includes you, your family, and your pets. A lawn treated with environmentally-friendly strategies is less toxic and safer for all. The use of harmful pesticides and chemicals can lead to pesticide poisoning, which is often underdiagnosed. 

Pros and Cons of Eco-Friendly Lawn Care

While it seems like there are no downsides to practicing eco-friendly lawn care, it’s important to consider all aspects of this beneficial lawn care method. 

✓ Increases the longevity of your lawn✗ Organic lawn care products can be expensive 
✓ Benefits the environment or reduces the overall negative effects of standard lawn care✗ Takes more effort and energy to perform maintenance tasks regularly
✓ Provides a holistic and longer-term solution to common lawn problems✗ Organic treatments may take longer to show results compared to synthetic chemicals
✓ Increases habitat space for endangered species like bees✗ Eco-friendly methods may be less effective at controlling stubborn weeds and pests
✓ Establishes deeper root systems through eco-friendly practices✗ If you choose to practice IPM for pest problems, you’ll need to research it thoroughly 

FAQ About Eco-Friendly Lawn Care

What is the Best Eco-Friendly Way to Control Weeds?

The most effective eco-friendly approach to control weeds, such as dandelion and crabgrass, starts with maintaining a healthy and dense lawn. A robust lawn can naturally outcompete weeds, reducing their chances of taking root. 

However, if a few persistent weeds manage to sprout, here are some eco-conscious tips for weed control:

  • Corn gluten meal: Spread corn gluten meal at a rate of 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. This natural product inhibits weed seed germination while providing organic nutrients to your lawn.
  • Vinegar solution: Create a solution by mixing vinegar, dish soap, and water, and spray it directly onto the weeds. This eco-friendly vinegar weed killer can help eliminate individual weeds.
  • Hand pulling: Use a weeder tool to hand-pull weeds. It’s a simple yet effective method to remove weeds without chemicals.
  • Sunlight blocking: For more stubborn weeds, cover them with a garbage bag to block sunlight. Leave the bag in place for several weeks, and this lack of light will weaken and eventually kill the weeds, naturally.

What is the Best Natural Grub Killer?

When dealing with lawn grubs, the larval stage of various beetle species, there are several effective natural methods that can help keep your lawn grub-free:

  • Neem oil: When mixed with water, neem oil can be a potent natural grub killer. It works by disrupting the life cycle of grubs and deterring their feeding. Apply the neem oil mixture to your lawn according to the product’s instructions for optimal results.
  • Natural enemies: Encourage natural predators in your garden, like parasitic wasps and ground beetles. These tiny creatures are natural enemies of grubs and can help control their population by going after their eggs or adults.
  • Beneficial nematodes: Beneficial nematodes are microscopic roundworms that can be applied to your lawn. They seek out and infect grubs, releasing bacteria that ultimately kill the grubs. Beneficial nematodes are safe for the environment and beneficial for pest control.
  • Milky spore disease: Milky spore disease is a natural soil-borne bacterium that specifically targets Japanese beetle grubs. When applied to your lawn, it multiplies and can provide long-term control of Japanese beetle grubs.

Is There an Environmentally Friendly Lawn Fertilizer?

Yes, there are environmentally friendly lawn fertilizers, and they come in the form of organic fertilizers. Organic lawn fertilizers are typically made from natural ingredients like compost, manure, bone meal, fish emulsion, and seaweed. 

These fertilizers release nutrients gradually over time, ensuring your lawn gets a consistent supply without causing harmful runoff into waterways. They also promote soil health by encouraging earthworm populations and supporting normal microbial activity. 

However, organic fertilizers’ nutrient content is typically lower, so they will require the application of more pounds of product to deliver the same amount of nutrients compared to synthetic fertilizers.

When to Hire a Professional

Starting your journey into eco-friendly lawn care can be a bit overwhelming, given the various options available. You’ll need to research the best practices and implement them, all while considering the unique needs of your lawn, such as dealing with pests or improving soil quality. It may require some dedicated effort on your part.

However, a well-maintained and healthy lawn typically demands fewer herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers than a neglected one. So if you’re seeking expert guidance and assistance in ensuring your lawn’s eco-friendliness, consider connecting with a local lawn care professional.

By teaming up with a professional who specializes in organic lawn care near you, homeowners can achieve a lush, eco-friendly lawn while benefiting from their expertise and tailored solutions.

Main Image Credit: Wonderlane / Flickr / CC0 1.0

Sandy Choephel

Sandy Choephel

Sandy works as a growth writer at LawnStarter. She has been a freelance writer for several years and has expertise in content creation, social media, and ghostwriting. On top of being a professional writer, she is a full-time musician and multi-instrumentalist.