If the soil food web is in good shape, the beneficial bacteria, insects, and earthworms will consume thatch and keep the soil open. But conditions are sometimes less than ideal due to inherent soil conditions, such as heavy clay, compaction due to heavy use, or regrettable lapses of good practice. That's when it's prudent to step in and fix the situation.
Working with an organic lawn care company
Caring for one's own lawn is a basic duty of modern homeownership. But there are certainly reasons to hire someone to mow, fertilize, weed, renovate, and otherwise nurture your lawn for you. Take laziness, for example; it's one of my favorite motives for paying people. Or busyness, distaste for the activities of lawn care, physical inability to do the work, or excessive income. For whatever reason, hiring a lawn service can be a load off your shoulders.
Be sure you choose a lawn care company that has a genuine commitment to the sustainable way. Some services sneak the chemicals in when you're not looking or use the same equipment for chemical and organic lawn care, resulting in contamination. Others don't really understand the principles behind organic lawn management and don't deliver good results. The sustainable approach has been around long enough, and enough training is available, so there's no excuse for poor performance.
Ask questions about the approach the lawn care company is proposing, and use the information in this chapter to see whether its program conforms to accepted sustainable practices. Get specifics about the materials the service will be using and the strategies it recommends for your particular situation. Get a detailed written management plan and a fixed price as well as the usual references and written contract.
No gardening service, organic or otherwise, can keep things perfect all the time; nature just has too many variables. But be sure to maintain open communication with the workers to be sure that you understand what they're up to and that you'll be aware of any problems that come up.
Renovate in late summer, and do so only if thatch is at least 72 inch thick. Here's how.
1. Remove the thatch.
Use a power lawn rake (a machine that combs thatch out of the lawn) or a special hand renovating rake if you're doing a small area.
Use about 20 cubic feet of mulch per 1,000 square feet of lawn area.
It may be cheaper to hire a lawn company to aerate and renovate for you. (Check out the nearby sidebar, "Working with an organic lawn care company," to be sure you're working with a reputable and sustainable company.)
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