A Guide to Eco-Friendly Lawn Care

Lawn in front of house

You might not know it at first, but a lawn care routine can have some serious consequences on the environment and the local ecosystem. Sometimes using toxic chemicals to fertilize or control pests go beyond what they were designed for, such as killing beneficial plants and organisms. But you can help minimize these environmental impacts by practicing eco-friendly lawn care. 

With the right measures, your lawn can look beautiful while also supporting the environment. Avoiding hazardous pesticides, properly maintaining the lawn, and utilizing resources sparingly are all part of eco-friendly lawn care. Let’s dive into the specifics below. 

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. 

13 Ways to Practice Eco-Friendly Lawn Care 

Soil Testing

Knowledge is power, and in this case, better for the environment. When you test your soil, you know how much fertilizer it actually needs. It’s all too common for people to play a guessing game and over-fertilize their lawns. This puts local water systems in danger due to toxic rainwater runoff from the lawn. 

Testing your soil is a great way to determine what your lawn needs. When you know your soil quality, you can start applying the right treatments in pH control, fertilization, and compaction reduction. 

Test your soil every three years. For the most accurate and detailed results, send a soil sample to your local cooperative extension for laboratory testing. 

Switch to Organic Fertilizer 

Choosing organic fertilizers that are made from organic compounds, such as plant or animal matter, is also a good way to practice eco-friendly 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. 

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.

Reduce Pesticides

Pest control on lawns
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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 and lead 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 species in the yard that are resistant to specific pests and diseases. 

Use Organic Lawn Products Instead

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 them 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.   

Mow Correctly 

mowing lawn with the help of mower
Photo Credit: Pixabay

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


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 in the fall. 

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 may be necessary if the turfgrass has a fungal disease. 

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 according to 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. 

Switch to a Clover Lawn 

If your yard is made from low-maintenance and highly resistant clover, it’s better for you, your wallet, and the ecosystem. Planting clover is an excellent way to keep your lawn self-sufficient in these distinct ways:

Clover lawns can fertilize themselves. Clover regulates 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 and fertilizer.

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.

Plant Native Species 

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. 

Add Habitat Gardens

Habitat gardens are spaces to cultivate and attract beneficial organisms to the lawn. The most common organisms are pollinators like butterflies and bees. Not only is it good for the environment, but pollinators will help your lawn plants stay healthy and vibrant. 


Photo Credit: Rawpixel

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. 

Keep a Clean Lawn 

This one might seem apparent but keeping a clean lawn is more than picking up trash. It helps your lawn thrive but, more importantly, minimizes damage to the surrounding environment. Some ways to ensure your lawn is clean include: 

  • Clean up pet waste quickly
  • 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 

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 lawnOrganic lawn care products can be expensive 
Benefits the environment or reduces the overall negative effects of standard lawn careTakes more effort and energy to perform maintenance tasks regularly
Provides a holistic and longer-term solution to common lawn problemsOrganic amendments might promote the growth of weeds
Increases habitat space for endangered species like beesIf you’re composting, the odor can be difficult to deal with
Establishes deeper root systems through eco-friendly practicesIf you choose to practice IPM for pest problems, you’ll need to research it thoroughly 

When to Hire a Professional

With so many different options in eco-friendly lawn care, it can feel overwhelming to begin. You’ll have to start researching the best ways to care for your lawn and then put it into practice. Every lawn is different too. Depending on the current issues you face, be it pests or poor soil quality, it’ll take a little concerted effort. 

And remember: a healthy, well-maintained lawn typically requires fewer herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers than a poorly maintained lawn. Connect with a local lawn care professional who can maintain your lawn’s health with mowing, trimming, and aeration services. 

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.