These grasses are easier to maintain than varieties like bluegrass. In addition, use sow clover (such as White Dutch clover), a legume that takes nitrogen out of the air and puts it into the soil. If your lawn has even 5 percent clover, it can provide half of the lawn's nitrogen.
After mowing, leave grass clippings on the lawn. This will add nitrogen to the soil. Wait until the grass blades are 3 to 3.5 inches before mowing-this discourages weeds and helps conserve water. In the fall, instead of raking the leaves, chop them up with the mower and leave them there. Fall leaves fertilize your lawn better than anything in that comes in a bag.
Do not use pesticides, as they have been found in New Jersey's waterways and are linked to cancer, birth defects, reproductive effects, liver/kidney damage, neurotoxicity, and disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system. The most common pests (grubs, sod webworms, chinch bugs) can be controlled with applications of beneficial nematodes. Milky spore powder is an effective control for Japanese beetle grubs and just one application can last for many years. Fungal diseases can be successfully treated with several light applications of compost or liquid compost "tea". You can also plant native shrubs and anything to attract birds - "nature's insect control".
Dig out weeds or you can use an organic corn-gluten product that kills weed seeds (including crabgrass) and seedlings. Many people enjoy eating dandelions in their salads!
In many Northeast cities, 50 percent of the drinking water goes to lawns and landscapes. Over 75 percent of our rivers are flow stressed because of water withdrawals for these residential uses. General rules of thumb: If less than 1 inch of rain falls per week, water deeply and infrequently-this encourages deep root growth; water only between midnight and 8 am; reduce the area of your lawn by planting perennial gardens, meadows or woodlands-choose drought tolerant species when planting; add compost and organic matter to soil to improve water retention; cover bare soil with mulch or compost or plantings to reduce evaporation; collect water in rain barrels for outside watering use during dry spells.
Invasive plants grow quickly and spread easily and often reduce the biodiversity of whole ecosystems. Learn more at the National Invasive Species Information Center, www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov.
Native plants are site adapted and usually require little to no watering, fertilizing or pesticides. Visit Rutgers Cooperative Extension for more info.
An organic lawn can take up to three years to fully establish. For a list of IPM landscapers, visit Rutgers Cooperative Extension for more info.