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 naturally while also supporting the environment. Avoiding hazardous pesticides, properly maintaining the lawn, and utilizing resources sparingly are all part of green lawn care. You’ll find everything in this guide to eco-friendly lawn care.

15 Ways to Practice Eco-Friendly Lawn Care

Wondering how to take care of the environment and still maintain a beautiful, green lawn? Here are 15 steps to make your lawn eco-friendly.

1. Test Your Soil

person testing the soil quality
Photo Credit: HeikeKampe / Canva Pro / License

Knowledge is a powerful tool when it comes to eco-conscious lawn care practices. Testing your soil is a crucial step because it helps you understand exactly how much fertilizer your lawn requires. 

Many homeowners often guess and end up over-fertilizing their lawns, which pollutes the local water systems due to toxic runoff.

By getting a soil test, you can determine its quality and make informed decisions about: 

  • pH control: In alkaline soil, lowering pH improves nutrient absorption, reducing the amount of fertilizer needed.
  • Fertilizer type and amount: The soil test tells you what nutrients are lacking and how much fertilizer you need to correct the deficit.
  • Soil amendments: Sometimes, the soil texture is the problem, not the nutrients, and you need to add organic matter before putting in more chemical fertilizers.

Testing your soil every three years is recommended to ensure your lawn gets the right treatment. You can try a DIY test kit or send a soil sample to your local Cooperative Extension for lab testing to get more precise and detailed results.

2. Fertilize the Eco-Friendly Way

Lawn fertilization tool
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Is lawn fertilizer bad for the environment? Not always. Good quality slow-release fertilizers help the plants with minimum damage to soil and microbiome if used properly. To keep your fertilizer applications on the safe side, follow these rules:

  • Only use a phosphorus fertilizer if the soil test shows a deficit. Phosphorus leaching from overfertilized soil is the main cause of algae blooms and water pollution.
  • Choose slow-release nitrogen fertilizers. They spread slower into the soil, giving the grass time to absorb the nutrients and reducing nitrogen pollution.
  • Apply fertilizers only during the active growing season. For warm-season grasses, the right time to fertilize is spring. Fertilize cool-season grasses in the fall.
  • Avoid spilling fertilizer on driveways and walkways. If it happens, clean it to prevent the chemicals from getting into the sewage and storm drains. A broadcast spreader with a side deflector helps keep the chemicals on the lawn.
  • Know your grass. Not all turf types are as hungry for nutrients. Know your grass type and limit the fertilizer applications to the recommended rate. 
  • Create a buffer zone to protect the water from chemical spilling. A buffer zone is a chemical-free area at least 10 feet wide between your lawn and a body of water (lake, river, stream) or storm drain.

Pro tip: Don’t overdo it! If your lawn is healthy and established, it likely only needs fertilizer once a year

3. 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. Some popular eco-green fertilizers to choose for your natural lawn are:

  • Compost
  • Worm castings
  • Aged manure
  • Bone meal
  • Blood meal
  • Seaweed

Sustainable slow-release fertilizers provide important minerals and nutrients over time rather than all at once, reducing the risk of leaching. Natural fertilizers also support the soil’s microbiome, sustaining a healthy soil with strong plants.

4. Reduce Pesticides

Worker spraying pesticide on green lawn
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Pesticides can come in handy, especially when dealing with a severe infestation. However, treating the lawn with 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. The best way to green up your lawn is to tackle an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to reduce pests instead. 

In IPM 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. 
  • Bet on good cultural practices. Water, fertilize, and aerate the lawn properly to limit pests and fungus. Aeration helps roots grow stronger and access nutrients more easily.
  • Plant grass seed species that are resistant to specific pests and diseases. 
  • Consider biological control. Biological pesticides contain microorganisms, like bacteria and beneficial nematodes, that can take care of the pests without harming the environment. 
  • Go for mechanical pest control. It’s a non-chemical lawn care tactic using products like traps, fences, netting, hand picking, diatomaceous earth, eggshells, etc. 

5. Mow Correctly

One third rule illustration
Infographic by Juan Rodriguez

Whether you mow too low or not low 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. It’s also an easy step toward an eco-lawn care routine.

Here are some useful mowing tips to help you cultivate a healthy and eco-friendly mowed grass: 

  • Mow no more than one-third of the grass blade height at a time. For example, if your grass is 3 inches tall, don’t mow more than 1 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
  • Avoid mowing the grass while wet. It increases the risk of fungal infection and thus the need for chemical fungicides we’re trying to avoid.

6. Overseed Yearly

Grass seed falling from hand
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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. 

Thick grass is also a natural shield against annoying weeds, reducing the use of polluting herbicides. Look at it as an essential lawn management step that can save you money in the long term and also help you protect the environment.

You should overseed once a year. Overseed warm-season grass in the springtime. The best time to overseed cool-season grasses is in the fall.

7. Recycle Grass Clippings

Fresh grass clippings in garbage bag
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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. They make for an excellent eco-friendly nitrogen-rich fertilizer. 

However, long grass clippings can smother your lawn and provide shelter for lawn-destroying pests. If your grass clippings are longer than 1 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

hose spraying water on lawn
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According to the World Health Organisation, one in three people globally cannot access safe drinking water. Water is precious, and is important to conserve what you can. With rising temperatures and increasing droughts across the U.S., 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 water for short periods of time during droughts.
  • Use a moisture meter to test soil humidity and avoid overwatering.
  • Water your lawn one to three times a week, or around 1 inch of water per week, depending on your soil type and weather.
  • Irrigate deeply, aiming to moisten the topsoil about 6 to 8 inches deep. 
  • Consider drip irrigation for your yard’s flower beds, shrubs, and trees. Drip irrigation can save up to 60% water compared to regular sprinkler systems.

Invest in a rain barrel to collect the rainwater from the gutters. Rain barrels are easy to install under the downspouts and help you save lots of tap water. You can collect 6 gallons of water per square foot of roof for every inch of rainfall.

You can also set up watering cans during storms to collect rainwater for trees and shrubs. 

9. Switch to a Clover Lawn

Lawn of clover leaves
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One of the popular environmentally friendly practices is to downsize the turfgrass area by replacing some or the entire lawn with clover. 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.

Clover is not the only eco-friendly grass alternative. You can also plant creeping sedum, periwinkle, and a variety of other groundcovers.

10. Plant Native Species

native plant roots

Adding native plants to your 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. 

Use the National Wildlife Federation native plant finder to identify the best options for your eco-friendly yard. 

11. Add Habitat Gardens

Butterfly in a pollinator garden
Photo Credit: PxHere

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.

Habitat gardening means providing shelter, food, and water for beneficial insects and wildlife. This translates into colorful, fragrant flowers and shrubs, fruit-bearing trees, a pond, or a small waterfall. It’s a gorgeous addition to any yard and an amazing opportunity for kids to learn the beauty of nature and how to protect the environment.

Some of the most popular types of habitat gardens you can turn your lawn into are:

  • Butterfly gardens
  • Meadow gardens
  • Water gardens
  • Wildlife gardens
  • Pollinator gardens

12. Compost

composting illustration
Infographic by Juan Rodriguez

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 treated with chemicals or toxic lawn fertilizers. 

13. Keep a Clean Lawn

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

  • Water the area where your dog has peed. Dog pee is high in nitrogen compounds and can burn the grass if not diluted on time.
  • Clean up any spills of lawn chemicals and treatments. 
  • Sanitize your lawn tools to limit disease. Keep your lawn mower clean.
  • Clean up loose debris. 
  • Trim your trees and shrubs regularly. 

14. Use Organic Lawn Treatments

Photo Credit: ChrisSteer / Canva Pro / License

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. Some products, like citric acid and baking soda, can harm the grass if applied incorrectly. 

15. Change to Eco-Friendly Lawn Equipment

man replacing lawn mower battery
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Gas-powered lawn mowers are heavy polluters, emitting in one hour of use as much toxic waste as a car driving for 350 miles. Gasoline-powered leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, and chainsaws are also worth replacing if you’re aiming for clean air around your property.

Less noisy and with no toxic emissions, electrical lawn equipment is the eco-friendly way to do lawn care. Powerful enough to handle small and medium-sized lawns, they’re your next step in supporting a toxin-free neighborhood. 

If buying new lawn tools is not in your plans, hire a lawn care company that offers eco-mowing services to trim the grass for you.

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 and looks while remaining mindful of the environment.

A healthy and eco-friendly lawn:

  • Reduces carbon dioxide and improves air quality 
  • Creates a cooling effect 
  • Limits water pollution by preventing toxic runoff and leaching of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides 
  • Preserves soil quality and supports soil microbiome
  • Creates habitats for insects and animals
  • Improves water and energy conservation in the home

A Safer Lawn for You and Your Family

Prolonged exposure to lawn chemicals can lead to neurological diseases, birth defects, and several types of cancer. 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 products is less toxic and safer for everybody. 

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 and 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, is maintaining a healthy and dense lawn that can naturally outcompete weeds. However, if a few persistent weeds manage to sprout, here are some eco-green 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: Milky spore 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.

Start Your Eco-Friendly Lawn Today!

Starting your journey into eco-friendly lawn care can be overwhelming, but it’s worth it, and you’ve got help! Anytime you feel stuck, get on the Lawnstarter website or app. LawnStarter can connect you with the best eco-friendly lawn care company to support you in this amazing project. 

Benefit from our pros’ experience and talent and start turning your lawn into a green, healthy paradise today!

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.