Sound Lawncare

The American dream house usually includes the American dream lawn. A healthy lawn not only makes your home more attractive and valuable, it can also have important environmental benefits. When coupled with trees, shrubs, and groundcover, your lawn helps prevent erosion and acts as a filter for rainwater from roofs, downspouts, and driveways. A healthy lawn also benefits the soil by adding organic matter to improve soil structure and infiltration. Local streams and ultimately Puget Sound benefit from the reduced runoff and increased filtering capacity provided by our lawns and landscaping.

Our lawns can be a source of delight or a cause for despair. We often set ourselves up for failure by trying to maintain uniform, dense, close-cropped and geometrically edged lawns. These expectations make us easy victims of advertisements promoting lawn care chemicals or lawn service companies which rely on regular applications of chemicals. Such indiscriminate use of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides can pollute our waters. The following tips will help you have a “healthy” lawn; one which is attractive, healthy and environmentally sound.

Environmentally Sound Lawncare The premise of environmentally sound lawncare is that a vigorous stand of grass will out-compete most weeds and be able to withstand damage from fungus and insects. Sound lawncare begins by selecting appropriate lawn types for your area and applying the correct horticultural practices to maintain health. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system accepts the presence of “pests” as a natural part of the plant/animal ecosystem and does not seek to eliminate them. The Washington Toxics Coalition outlined the typical IPM lawn care cycle shown on this page.

An IPM approach to lawn maintenance begins with an understanding of the physical conditions a lawn requires to thrive. The lawn area must receive adequate light and the soil must drain. Test your soil before planting a new lawn or before seeding or fertilizing an established lawn. Call your local WSU Cooperative Extension agent for assistance, or purchase a soil test kit at your local garden store. The soil test will tell you if your soil needs fertilizer and/or lime.

The pH (acidity/alkalinity) of the soil should fall within a range of 6.0 to 7.0 (slightly acidic). Puget Sound soils are usually too acidic. Limestone is added to lower the acidity. The soil must contain adequate nutrients. If tests show low nutrient levels, the correct amount and type of fertilizer should be added. Finally, a source of water is needed to maintain adequate moisture levels.

For new lawns or reseeding, the selection of the proper grass seed or sod is important. In the Puget Sound basin, varieties of perennial rye grass and turf-type, fine-leaf fescues are the choice. Seeding a new lawn is initially less expensive than sod, but takes longer to grow and may require weed control measures. September is the best time to seed. The next best time, though a poor second choice, is March. Sodding provides immediate erosion control and can be used at least a month sooner than a seeded area. Purchase sod fresh, avoid the stacks sitting in the sun in front of your garden center. Detailed information on varieties and installation may be found in the WSU Cooperative Extension publications listed in the resource box at the end of this chapter.

The IPM Lawncare Cycle

1. Learn the pests in your area.

2. Establish threshold levels for these pests.

3. Monitor the pests to determine levels and potential problems.

4. Maintain a healthy lawn by following prescribed maintenance practices.

5. If pest problems appear to be approaching the threshold, adjust maintenance practices to improve lawn health.

6. If adjustment of maintenance practices is not effective, use the least toxic biological or chemical control.

7. Evaluate and record all treatments.

8. Review records and current WSU Cooperative Extension literature to fine-tune maintenance practices.


Lawn Maintenance