Sustainable, zero-emission, organic, native plant focused lawn care is key for pollution reduction. The average lawn tended with gasoline gear emits 4-5 tons of carbon pollution per year, or the equivalent of an extra that car on the road per home – not good for severe weather and climate change! Gas-based lawn care is about 10% of our national greenhouse gas emissions problem.
MowGreen’s LawnCare is Carbon Neutral!
Avoiding chemical pesticides and invasive plant encroachment is also vital to the survival of our species, as most scientists have observed that the food web is damaged and threatened.
Green LawnCare Checklist:
1. Mowing – Reel mowing is the greenest way, but solar-charged battery-powered rotary mowers have some advantages. We do both according to best practices and your preferences, but usually electric these days.
MowGreen invented a double and triple reel mower push gang kit (Reel2Reel(tm)) which allows a single person to mow an acre in two hours. It’s a great exercise system too, with tool-less design, easy to switch between single, double and triple reel mowing. Kits are manufactured in Bridgeport, CT and can be purchased from MowGreen
Our battery-powered electric mulching mowers are charged from Solar or 100% renewable energy. We have units that can run all day on a battery with a single charge and can mow an acre in under an hour. Some units have solar charging canopies to re-charge while mowing!
Mowing the grass at longer lengths than most, (3 to 4 inches), has been shown to reduce weeds dramatically while maintaining greener, healthier grass that sinks more carbon too. And, regular mowing weekly rather than waiting long periods is healthier because a smaller percentage of the blade is cut each time, creating healthier roots. Studies have shown that for every quarter inch below 4 inches of grass length cut, the chance of weed encroachment goes up a couple percent! Chances at 4 inches = 11%, while 3 inches = 23%!
Whereas our mowing is carbon neutral, because we charge with solar or other 100% renewable energy, what about the vehicles we haul them with? We buy carbon credits to balance out any gas we use in our vehicles, making us one of the only carbon-neutral, or carbon-balanced companies around.
We offer a variety of high-quality grass seed. One interesting type is Pearl’s Premium grass seed (see below under Overseeding), which is rated as one of the slowest growing, deepest rooted varieties, and requires less mowing, water and fertilizer. It is a mix of mostly native fescues. It is also evergreen, so it tends to look good even in the off-season. We use it less often however, because we haven’t experienced an appreciable difference between it and our lower-priced certified weed seed free mix which is mostly native fescues (mixed with some Kentucky Bluegrass and Perrenial Rye) too.
2. Trimming – Battery-powered string trimmers are clean and serene, and efficient.
3. Light Edging – Some electric trimmers swivel to become light-duty edgers to give lawns a great finished look.
4. Sweep up – Electric battery-powered blowers are often as powerful as gas blowers, but clean and quiet! We make piles with blowers but don’t try to move them with blowers! Tarps are a better bet. Rakes are still cool too! We recently acquired a fleet of tow-behind lawn sweepers that allow for zero-emission, quiet and thorough cleanup of lawns with much less blowing as well!
Most MowGreen clients get the basic four services listed above plus some or all of the following:
5. Soil Tests & Enhancement – we do soil samples and get them lab analyzed with recommended PH and fertilizer reports. The average report calls for some added N-P-K fertilizer in Spring and Fall and some lime for PH adjustment and soil biology restoration. A lab in New Haven, the New Haven Agricultural station will accept soil samples and analyze and report on them for different types of plants. Other metrics include the level of organic matter, soil type, magnesium and calcium levels. We offer organic soil enhancement which brings dead soil back to life and we also adjust the soil to meet ideal grass (and other plants) growing conditions. One interesting product (Quantum) introduces probiotics for the soil and some refer to it as a “liquid aerator”. Organic lawn care pros and farmers swear by it. An organic guideline sheet can be found here.
6. Spring Cleanup – Historically its been requested for late March or early April, in two phases, but depends on the weather. We recommend a light superficial blowing and rake over for turf to prepare for spring seed patching in early spring. The reason aggressive raking in the Spring is discouraged is to avoid disturbing and surfacing summer weed seeds which may give them a better start. Core aeration in Spring is a bad idea for the same reason. We don’t recommend clearing beds until May or when soil temps average 50 degrees for 5 days, to minimize killing insects and reptiles. Its best if ornamental plants can be left with leaves, stalks and deadheads through the winter and into spring for this reason.
7. Pre-emergent Weed Control – Corn gluten meal can be effective but must be managed with proper timing and moisture conditions. It suppresses new weeds from getting established for 4 to 5 weeks from application. We suggest using it in Spring and Fall. It works by drying the surface, shunting new seed root production along with a protein-type reaction that suppresses broadleaf weeds especially. When done for a few seasons in a row, it is reputed (some university studies) to be 80% effective for weed control. A corn gluten meal is available which suppresses weeds and delivers slow-release nitrogen and potassium as a “10-0-2” fertilizer, providing double value. Only 3-5 lbs per 1000 s.f. are necessary for what we use. Studies show that results vary widely, but as a fertilizer used with grass seed, it also prevents weeds by helping grass stay healthy and lush, crowding out weeds better.
8. Fertilizing – Corn gluten meal is not only a weed suppressor but a nitrogen fertilizer (N) and potassium (K). When combined for weed control and including some grass and leaf mulch mowing, leaving clippings on the lawn, you may not need much fertilizing beyond it. Additional fertilizer is often recommended to help boost overseeding and overall turf success. Some fertilizing is often suggested by our soil sample reports. We use only organic fertilizers, either sprayable or spreadable, with zero-emission battery powered sprayers, hand pump units and walk behind or tow-behind spreaders. We suggest a spray of Neptunes Harvest 2-0-2, Quantum Growth/Total (Probiotics!) and Vitazyme (pre-biotic) a few times per season to augment corn gluten meal which is also recommended two or three times per season.
9. Overseeding – Keeping grass dominant is great weed control. Tenets have suggested grass seed patching/overseeding 3 weeks before, or 4-5 weeks after corn gluten meal is applied in Spring or Fall. Interestingly, our corn gluten meal supplier claims that it can be applied during grass seeding because it doesn’t detract from grass seed rooting. The assertion is that grass seed roots aren’t impacted like weed seeds which have “hairs” that get impacted. So we have been using it more liberally with seeding.
For grass seeding, we usually use a mix of grade A weed-free certified tall fescues with some Kentucky Bluegrass and Perrenial Rye added (and some Dense Shade mix where appropriate). The tall fescues are low maintenance, while the mix of all three types makes for a resilient combination. Rye germinates faster and boosts seeding success. In the Fall, aeration, raking and de-thatching before the seeding make sense for seed contact with soil for better germination. We often apply a thin layer of compost and or straw when we overseed to help keep grass seed in place and retain moisture. Whereas compost top dressing is rich in nutrients for better starts and soil composition while guaranteeing vital soil contact for germination, most compost also has weed seeds in it. With this in mind, we tend to do more core aerating and power raking in the fall for overseeding, tapering down the use of compost unless the soil is really bad and low on the organic matter metric from soil reports.
10. Compost top dressing or compost tea – This is also suggested to add when overseeding to help the seed get a quick start and to create and maintain healthy soil biology. Compost may introduce weed seeds unless it is prepared perfectly and covered until used, while compost tea is difficult to get right also. Rather than compost tea, we prefer a predictable lab mix of beneficial microbes that you get from Quantum Growth spray. We can compost top dress automatically with a large compost spreader that we pull with our electric mower for fast, efficient, zero-emission and quiet compost top dressing.
11. Aeration – Cutting out plugs of soil to improve drainage and provide air to roots helps them stay healthiest. Especially in high-traffic packed down areas, this can make a difference. We have stilt-like dual-core cutters that can be a great workout and to reach tight spaces that are hard to access with an aeration machine. For larger lawns, we do electric aeration! Aeration can be done any time of year, but not suggested for the heat of summer months, nor the Spring because of summer weed seed issues. Therefore core aeration is best for fall.
12. Liming – If you are in New England and haven’t limed lately, your PH may be acidic and more hospitable for weeds than grass. Many tests show that lime is needed for good grass-growing soil. Most often, we use high calcium humic acid-enhanced lime which we spread quickly and which is affordable. It helps restore PH and the soil’s biology for nutrient up-take. Sometimes we’ll use dolomitic (higher in magnesium) lime rather than calcitic lime, if soil tests show that calcium is adequate, but magnesium is sub-par. With our acid rain, lime is something likely needed to be added often (but only if soil tests call for it). Soil for grass should have a PH rating above 6. The tolerable range is from 6 to 7.2 and the target is about 6.6. A single bag of humic acid-enhanced calcitic lime can maintain PH for about 8,000 s.f.) of lawn and can be spread in a half-hour or less. One bag per 4,000 s.f. raises the PH around a half a point (like from 6.0 to 6.5). This is one of the most important and affordable steps in lawn maintenance (it’s a no-brainer, about $50, shipped, delivered and applied).
13. Weed Control – We believe in allowing plant diversity in lawns because it’s healthier and more interesting/colorful. Many “lawn weeds” are edible and nutritious. However, we do help maintain grass in the majority where desired. We are also promoting lawn reduction and native ground cover alternatives to grass where possible. Certain turf weeds are invasive and non-native, like Indian Mock Strawberry and Creeping Charlie. They are difficult to remove by hand, and by organic, or synthetic methods. For these plants, we suggest a zero-tolerance and full efforts to eliminate fully. If not done while infestations are modest, the cost and complexity of eradication goes up exponentially as they weave their way into the lawn and take over.
A mix of pulling weeds, spraying with organic weed killers, or grinding certain ones down with a trimmer before they produce seeds for annuals are good methods. Removing weed seeds by hand or with a grass-catching bag mower to keep them off the lawn is a good practice also for annuals (like with crabgrass, an annual weed, if you get the seeds, it won’t come back). We like Finalsan best as an organic non-selective weed killer because it is not as acidic as others and seems to last a bit longer before some weeds bounce back. We sometimes use 20% vinegar too, but less and less often. We used to use a D-limonene-based product (Avenger) mixed with vinegar, but it wasn’t as effective as Finalsan. Extreme care must be exercised with all treatment concentrates, but vinegar can damage skin, eyes, and lungs if handled improperly. Even 5% white vinegar can work, but it needs sunlight to be reliable. Non-selective means it will kill grass too. Non-selective herbicides are useful for gravel and walkway cracks that may be hard to hand weed or weed whack, or even in garden beds where weeds are spaced away from ornamentals.
Selective organic weed killers exist that kill broadleaf weeds but not grass! We like Fiesta. It is an Iron Chelate and greens up the grass a bit while also killing broadleaf weeds. IMS bounces back from a surface kill with Fiesta, as well as most other herbicides. Repeat applications (as with most herbicides) are often suggested for maximal efficacy.
A product called Tenacity (Mesotrione) is reputed to be a synthetic herbicide that many organic lawn care practitioners make exceptions for under heavy weed pressure, or just to kick off organic programs for faster results. It is a systemic selective pre and post-emergent herbicide that doesn’t impact mammalian systems. Some people claim it is not toxic because it inhibits continued growth of the plant leading to eventual death. Interesting. We have used the product in some situations with mixed results, though more positive than negative.
14. Hard Edging – We do hard edging around gardens with manual shovel-like edgers, aided by electric edgers. Light edging is easy with electric trimmers that have swivel heads.
15. Mulching – We use locally supplied mulches and have prepared many a mulch bed. It’s worth noting that leaves are a natural mulch for beds, so for mulch, many consider skipping the bed leaves removal, and the bark mulch! In fall, we can often leave some whole leaves on beds and also mulch mow leaves and blow the excess onto the beds. We encourage leaving leaves and dead plants in beds for the winter and not clearing out until May, or not at all. The more leaves you have for mulch, the less you need mulch! And if you like the aesthetics of mulch, why not just use less and topcoat the leaves which are just as good? CT NOFA (Connecticut Northeast Organic Farmers Association) standards and CT DEEP (Connecticut Department of Energy & Environment) training warns not to use more than a 3 inch layer of mulch. When using whole leaves for mulch, its important to note that they reduce in size 16 to 1 over time, or when shredded (mulch mown). Does that mean a 48 inch whole leaf layer will eventually become the 3 inch mulch layer we seek? I am not so sure about that, but it does mean we can probably tolerate piling them high and it does explain why the same leaf pile doesn’t really seem to grow that fast no matter how many leaves we pile on!
16. Compost Areas – Compost corrals, pits, containers, and piles on-premise are great. We will help set up composting for you if interested. Your towns are hoping you will compost yard debris on your property to avoid the cost of hauling it all away and concentrating it at a facility. The best way to deal with yard and food waste is to turn it into fertilizer on-site!
17. Fall Cleanup – MowGreen uses solar or other renewable-charged, quiet, battery-powered electric blowers as powerful as loud, smelly gas-blowers now, and we are competitive for cleanup services. We like rakes and tarps too. Blowers are good for making piles, not moving them (we often tow tarps of debris with 9×9 drawstring tarps and zero-emission mowers on large properties). Making an area on your property to pile the debris can save a lot of time and effort and make rich compost which can be used later for fertilizer. Also, consider using whole leaves as natural mulch in your beds rather than removing them and replacing with wood mulch. We advocate blowing some whole leaves onto beds from lawns, and we usually mulch mow them which can dramatically reduce the bulk and feed the soil, making fall cleanup a lot more productive and less costly. We discuss leaves management in more detail here:
18. Lawn Reduction/Native Plants/Gardening – We would love to help you reduce your lawn and replace some of it with native plants. Less lawn mowing, more food growing! We are always improving in-house expertise on invasives identification and removal, landscape design for natives, gardens, ornamental plants and meadow care. We also partner with specialists in these areas and there are many great options. MowGreen reduced the lawn at our first HQ with raised bed vegetable and herb gardens as well as wild raspberry and blueberry patches. Our evolution as a business leans toward gardening. We all aspire to be experts at installing and maintaining native plants to help restore balance to the food web and to re-wild private properties to support pollinators and more.
19. Hedging – We have quiet solar/green power-charged battery hedgers consistent with our mission and your sanity.
20. Pruning & Sawing – We do pruning required with some manual loppers and saws and also quiet solar/green power charged battery chain saws. Easy on the ears and lungs!
21. Organic Tick, Mosquito and Grub Control – Ticks can be controlled on your property with organic methods to protect your family and pets from Lyme disease. We use Tickkillz which is a mix of cedar oil and other plant derivatives that kill ticks, mosquitos & fleas and repels them too. MosquitoBarrier is also a good repellant to add for extra Mosquito reduction. For grub control, we use GrubGone (BTG) only if necessary. Other methods to reduce ticks should be considered. Japanese barberry increases tick counts, so getting rid of that helps. A border around the property of wood chips keeps them from crawling in. Opossums are great tick eaters, so welcome them if you see them (usually at night).
Other – We aspire to educate and offer safe healthy methods for other lawn and land care, and other projects like installing or removing plants, stone walls, rain barrels, rain gardens, mini-meadows are welcome. If you need something say something : ). We can recommend specialists for jobs beyond our scope (like high gutters or tall dangerous tree work – but we are okay with the simpler jobs). Our knowledge-base and repertoire of treatments improves continuously. We have organic treatments for Chinch bugs and Sod Web worms for example, and use horticultural oil to help keep down wooly adelgids.
We have organic trained and experienced staff. Our methods, equipment, treatments and results improve every year, which has helped us sustain double-digit growth rates most years since 2006, averaging 30% compound annual growth since 2013.
We’d be happy to tailor a program personalized to your property to help you estimate and control any services desired.
MowGreen is a social entrepreneurship, so we all win together. Visit MowGreen.com, email or call us for an easy switch allowing you to avoid tons of carbon and other pollution at your place. A simple MowGreen brochure is here, so you can share it with others (please : )!
Dan QuiMowte, Man of LaMowGreen