I am not really one to play “keep up with the Joneses,” an American expression about having to have the things or appearances that what you have is better than the neighbors. My partner, however, is a bit more competitive in that regard. Our neighbor across the street from us is retired, and he spends hours and hours tending to his lawn and gardens. His home has a nice curb appeal. But then again, so do we. And we spend less than a quarter of the time on our yard than he does.
One of the best ways to have a nice curb appeal is that if you have a lawn, to ensure it is weed-free, lush and green. All the chemical companies promote their products that “eliminate” weeds and fertilize the grass… to the detriment of introducing chemicals that wash into the ecosystem when it rains. Where I live, eventually these chemicals enter the streams that lead to the Chesapeake Bay, which is suffering the consequences of this pollution.
I do not portray myself to be an environmental hound, but then again, if I can play my part to reduce the pollution in our environment and save money at the same time, it’s all good.
All of our lawn “fertilizer” is natural from our compost. Each time we mow the lawn, rake leaves, or collect any vegetative debris, we throw the clippings, leaves, and debris on the compost pile. Every now and then, I add some bacteria specifically made for compost piles. The bacteria hasten the action of the decomposition process that forms rich compost. If it doesn’t rain in a week, I will sprinkle some water on the pile, as decomposition only happens in a moist environment for the bacteria to work. I might take a pitchfork to the pile every now and then to mix it up. But otherwise, I just let nature take its course.
Each year, we produce about 3 to 5 cubic yards of rich compost. When I am ready to “fertilize” the lawn, I scoop out compost from the bottom of the pile and fill a wheelbarrow full of it. I roll it up to the lawn, and hand my partner a shovel. Then I break out my “secret compost applicator.” You heard it here, first, folks. Just build a 2′ x 2′ rectangle from wood, and staple a 1/4″ mesh screen across it. My partner will place a couple shovel-fulls of compost on the screen, and then I walk across the grass while shaking it. The compost falls through the screen and works its way to the top of the soil. In just a few days, this “natural fertilizer” chokes out any weeds and makes the lawn turn green as green can be. Great thing about this practice, too, is that it can be done any time of the year. The “fertilizer” doesn’t burn out the grass from exposure to harsh chemicals. It also builds up the layer of top soil.
What’s really amusing to me is that we do truly have the greenest lawn in the neighborhood and I don’t use any chemicals at all. “Across the street” is always sprinkling some bag of something-or-other on his lawn, ultimately adding to the Bay’s pollution. My lawn just loves year-old well-decomposed compost. And that appeals not only to my “green-and-natural” side, but my cheap side as well. I save a lot of money by not buying chemicals.
Additionally, we use the compost to put in planters and pots in which we grow flowers that hang from our decks, and vegetables that we grow in container gardens. We get the juciest, biggest tomatoes, squash, peppers, and other veggies. (After all, their ancestors once decomposed are being “returned” to them.)
It may take a bit more effort to get the compost going, and more of an effort to dig it up and spread it across the lawn. Sure, hiring a service to apply chemicals or put a bag of chemicals in a lawn spreader and spread it across the lawn is easier. But the negative consequences of such actions are not worth the cost to the environment, and our household budget.
Go green: compost and apply it… you’ll have the neighbors “green” with envy.