Mental Health Week – Lawn Care 101 Recap

Blog Contributor: Elenore Breslow

Mental Health Week is a Canadian tradition with communities, schools and workplaces rallying to celebrate, protect and promote mental health. Brock University organized several virtual events from May 3 – 7, 2021 to promote activities and techniques to add to their well-being toolkit.  

Spending time outdoors is a great way to take care of our bodies and our minds. One of the best and simple ways to connect with nature is to care for it. On May 6, John Dick (Manager, Grounds Services) provided a wonderful webinar on lawn care techniques to keep your lawn healthy and green(ish). He shared insights on how to change our attitude to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly when caring for our lawns.  

“Your lawn is the largest part of your ecosystem. Looking at it with diversity in mind is best for the environment by utilizing sustainable practices,” said John Dick.  

Things to Remember for Eco-Friendly Lawn Care 

  • Plant for diversity to help maintain a healthier environment. A biodiverse lawn offers built-in pest control and promotes beneficial insects and birds that take care of pests.  
  • Promote bee and insect friendly environment. Leave some of the weeds alone, like the dandelions. This bee-friendly weed will bring in pollinators and help your flowers grow beautifully.  
  • Less is sometimes more. Your lawn may do better than you think by reducing fertilizer, pesticides, water, and labor. It will also be more cost-effective to maintain!  
Walker Complex with several dandelions.
Welch Hall with many yellow flowers blooming. It is important to remember that weeds help flowers grow – the dandelions at the Walker Complex supported the growth of the yellow flowers at Welch Hall.

Lawn Care Techniques   

1) Seeding 

Seeding is an extremely important part of the lawn care process and knowing what type of seed to plant will help reduce the need for more resources to maintain your space. Canada No. 1 Lawn Mixture is a great grass seed for growing a new lawn or repairing an existing one. This is a general mix that has Kentucky Bluegrass, Red Fescue, and Perennial Ryegrass. With the various growing conditions on your lawn this mix will help your grass grow well in sunny and shaded, and drought-tolerant areas.  

Cool Fact: Brock uses 2-3 different cultivars of Perennial Ryegrass across campus!  

2) Fertilizing 

Fertilizing is another essential part to help care for your lawn to encourage it to grow green and healthy. You should put fertilizer down at times that most benefit the turf and not the weeds – so timing is key. If you are going to fertilize only once a year the best time to do so is late fall. This is when the air temperature has dropped but the soil temperature is still warm. When you add fertilizer later in the year, the plant absorbs it in its roots, and it helps grow healthy grass the following spring.  

Fertilizer is made-up of three key nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Grass requires a higher concentration of nitrogen compared to a vegetable garden, so make sure to check the concentration before you buy fertilizer! 

Did you know: Grounds Services limits the use of phosphorous when fertilizing to decrease run-off into our water system.  

3) Mowing 

The longer the better. Grass needs enough leaf area to photosynthesize and grow well, and longer grass helps reduce unwanted weeds. If your grass is kept 3 inches or more, it will help keep it in a healthier state in the long-run and will require less water and fertilizer to maintain. Remember to keep the clippings on your lawn – they have lots of nutrients in them to help your grass continue to grow. 

Mowing every other week instead of every week can help increase bee populations in and around your lawn. 

4) Watering 

Watering is another important aspect of taking care of a healthy lawn. Most lawns only need 1 inch of water per week, so be sure not to overwater. You can purchase a rain gauge or even use a tuna can, to track how much water your lawn receives. As a rule of thumb, once the tuna can is filled your lawn had enough water for the week.  

To conserve water during the hot summer months in July and August, opt for not watering your lawn and allow your grass to go dormant as it would naturally. Your grass will grow back after the dry season, and you will have saved lots of water!  

5) Aerating  

Aerating is a great practice for compacted areas of your lawn. If you notice people tend to walk in certain parts of your lawn compared to others, you should consider aerating that area. One of the simplest ways is to use a garden fork and breakup the soil, which allows the soil to loosen up. This will help the roots grow deeply and produce strong, healthy grass.  

6) Weeds 

Many weeds like dandelions, white clovers, and violets are beneficial for the bees, insects, and butterflies – so please leave some of your weeds alone. And remember when caring for your lawn that a weed is just a plant in the wrong place. However, there are some weeds like the Creeping Charlie that may choke out lawns and other plants. If you choose to remove perennial weeds, it is important to get the entire root out – if not it could triple when it grows back. 

There are lots of edible weeds that have many health benefits, like narrow and broadleaf plantains. If you remove some of your weeds, check online to see if what parts of it are edible.  

A big thank you to John Dick who shared all this valuable information about sustainable lawn care. We should all try to look at lawns in a different way than we have in the past and appreciate the weeds and the imperfect aspects of our outdoor environment. 

Check out our Sustainability at Brock webpage, if you want to learn more about how John Dick and his team work hard to keep our campus grounds beautiful while being sustainable as possible.