Organic Lawn Care: How to Grow a Beautiful Lawn Naturally

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Once upon a time, a well-meaning landscaper offered to do some work for our yard. He suggested spraying the yard with glyphosate to “get rid of all the unsightly dandelions and weeds (*ahem* like plantain) to grow a beautiful lawn.

The poor guy didn’t quite understand why I was so adamant that there would never be glyphosate sprayed in our yard under any circumstances. He insisted that “it really is non-toxic and completely safe as soon as it dries.”

I also had to explain to him that we actually like those so-called “weeds” in our yard and that we use them in various ways. Our definition of a “good lawn” was different than his!

Is It Possible to Grow a Beautiful Lawn Naturally?

In many places, an attractive and “good” lawn means one free of weeds with a lush carpet of uniform green grass. In fact, Americans are so obsessed with attractive lawns it is now a multi-billion dollar industry.

We spend money to kill the plants that are already growing and then plant or sod with grass. We replace the natural ground coverings like clover, plantain, and dandelion (which are great for pollinators) with flowerless grass for the sake of looks.

I definitely understand why, and in many neighborhoods with HOAs, these are requirements. The good news is that there are many ways to maintain an attractive lawn without the need for harsh chemicals.

Making this switch can actually help save money. It will also improve growth for pollinators and reduce chemical use and exposure. It will also create a safer lawn for children and pets to play on!

The Problem With Lawn Chemicals

Many people assume that lawn chemicals are completely harmless, but that isn’t the case. Consider this:

Our love affair with lawns comes with a cost. Each year U.S. homeowners apply more than 3 million tons of synthetic lawn fertilizers and 70 million pounds of lawn pesticides and herbicides. These chemicals pose serious hazards to our children, our pets and wildlife of all kinds. To make matters worse, it’s estimated that 65 percent of these chemicals find their way into our lakes, rivers and underground aquifers. (

The US Wildlife Federation also reports these environmental effects of our lawn care practices:

  • The average lawn gets up to 10x as much chemical pesticide and herbicide use as commercial farmland! This means that the grass your children are running on barefoot probably contains more chemicals than commercially sprayed wheat, corn, and soybean crops. (Obviously, this isn’t great for pets either!)
  • When these chemicals are used as much as 90% of the earthworm population in a lawn is killed. This is very detrimental for the soil over time.
  • Lawn equipment like mowers and weedeaters (or weedwackers, depending on where you’re from), emit much more waste into the air than cars and trucks.
  • 25-60% of residential water usage (depending on location) goes to watering lawns. With droughts in many areas, this is a substantial water burden.

Natural and Organic Lawn Care Basics

Making the switch to natural lawn care may be one of the easies and cheapest switches you can make. It is certainly an easier process than things like improving the water in your home or even overhauling your meals with meal planning (though I recommend those too!).

Starting in the spring, use these basic steps to create a more natural lawn:

Improve the Soil

Many beautiful lawns are really just nice looking on the surface. One problem with irrigation is it affects the quality of the root system. (Fun fact: This podcast explains how irrigation lowers the quality of grapes grown for wine.)

Most lawns are used to being fed and watered from above by irrigation and fertilizer. They don’t have a deep root system and so drought or other problems easily affect them.

When it comes to growing anything, including a lawn, it is good to start from the bottom up. Improving soil first will give your grass a foundation for long-term growth. It will also make the grass more hardy and reduce the need for watering and chemicals.

Soil testing helps you know what is needed for your lawn. Free or inexpensive soil testing is available in many county extension offices or local garden shops. Find one in your area to get a soil test.

If you don’t want to soil test, just use a shovel to remove a 6-inch deep section of soil and grass. Healthy soil should be dark and crumble easily and grass should have a strong root system. An accumulation of dead matter at the base of grass (called thatch) also may indicate poor soil quality. In healthy grass, thatch rarely occurs since the active microorganisms in good soil break it down.

Good soil for grass also has a pH that is slightly acidic and just under 7.

Steps for Better Lawn Soil

  • First, aerate in the spring if needed to improve soil texture.
  • Then, fertilize once per year with compost. This is called topdressing and is done by adding up to an inch of compost or topsoil and raking into the grass.
  • Finally, add pH adjusters if needed to get the pH in optimal range.

Choose Good Grass

Ask a local 4-H office or lawn care expert what grasses are native to the area. Choose one that is hardy and doesn’t need a lot of extra water.

Also consider sun and shade requirements, how much traffic your lawn gets and how much rain your area gets when choosing a grass. The University of Georgia- College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences suggests these as the max times to wait between waterings for different types of grass:

12 – 21 days: Bahia grass, Buffalo gass, Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass, Centipede grass
8 – 12 days: Carpet grass, Fine fescue, Kikuyu grass, Seashore paspalum, Tall fescue, Zoysia
5 – 7 days: Ryegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Bentgrass

These times are a good measure of a grass that grows well in your area and a helpful metric in selecting a grass.

You may not love to hear this, but growing a single plant (like one type of grass) over a large area is unnatural. This increases the chance of disease and nutrient demand.

Add a crop like white clover to grass to improve the nitrogen content of the soil and keep a thick, lush lawn. If you have the ability, converting part of your lawn to a wildflower growth area for local flowers is a great way to improve soil and make pollinators happy.

Steps for Choosing Good Grass for a Lawn

  • First, make sure soil is ready.
  • Find out which varieties of grass grow best in your area.
  • Choose a grass that matches your yard conditions (shade/sun, etc.) and that won’t require much watering.
  • Finally, overseed in the fall. Overseeding is spreading 3-4 pounds of grass seed per 1000 feet of lawn. Cut grass to about 2-2.5 inches before seeding for optimal growth.

Mow the Right Way

Most of us over-mow our yards. Why all that extra work for no good reason?

We think that shorter is better, but it isn’t! It is much better to mow often but not as short. Cutting grass below 2 inches can stress the plant and expose the roots. This also causes over-drying and can deplete soil resources more quickly.

Steps to Mow the Right Way:

  • Don’t mow shorter than 3 inches.
  • Mow more often and don’t cut more than 1/3 of the leaf off at a time.
  • Don’t mow when it is too hot or too dry.
  • Keep mower blade sharp and set at the highest setting.
  • If you have a small lawn, consider using a reel mower (we like this one) and get some exercise in the process!

Water Carefully

Lawn watering accounts for over half of residential water usage in the summer. Using the steps above will reduce the amount of water needed and create a stronger lawn.

It is also important to water consistently, but not too often. Letting the soil dry out between waterings forces grass to grow deeper roots to find water. When you do water, water deeply.

About an inch a week — and remember, this includes rainfall — should keep a lawn healthy and green.

Steps to Water Grass for a Good Lawn:

  • Water less frequently but more deeply.
  • Choose grass that is more drought-tolerant.
  • Most lawns need about 1 inch per week.
  • If it rains more than 1 inch per week, there is no need to water.

Fertilize Naturally

There is really no need for expensive chemical fertilizers. Natural fertilizers like compost work just as well!

Natural solutions also nourish the soil over time, not just feed the grass from the top. This creates a stronger lawn over time.

Top dressing is one way to do this. Scatter 1/2 inch compost or natural fertilizer over the grass and rake in. Alternately, broadcast natural fertilizer after aerating or before watering.

Add the necessary nutrients determined by soil testing. Your lawn will improve dramatically if your grass is in need of certain nutrients or a different pH.

Steps to Fertilize Naturally:

  • Broadcast a natural fertilizer in the fall or spring.
  • Topdress with 1/2 inch of compost or natural fertilizer and rake into the grass.
  • Use a seaweed extract as additional fertilizer.
  • Focus on soil quality over time instead of a quick fix.

Stop Weeds Without Harmful Chemicals

This is the hardest part to do naturally, but you can do it!

Did you know that weeds can be an indication that lawn health isn’t optimal? Improve the soil and you will already be a long way toward reducing weed growth. Many herbicides are harmful to humans and animals too! Studies show chemicals in conventional lawn care contribute to thyroid problems and even non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Glyphosate is a whole other story, and definitely does not belong on a lawn where kids and pets play.

The organic lawn care solution: leaving grass longer also helps control weed population by leaving a larger surface area for grass to photosynthesize.

Steps to Reduce Weeds Naturally:

  • Many weeds are actually herbs with many benefits. Don’t remove them at all!
  • Leave grass longer so it will resist weeds naturally.
  • Add a second plant to your lawn like white clover to compete with weeds and replenish soil.
  • Avoid harmful herbicides and use natural methods instead.

Grow a Garden Instead!

Feel really brave?

Ditch the lawn completely and grow a garden instead!

You can grow vegetables, herbs and fruits in your front yard and make it look beautiful too! Incorporate vegetables and herbs into an existing garden bed for an easy transition.


Go all out and turn your entire front yard into a flourishing vegetable garden. Urban front-yard vegetable gardens are becoming very popular. They are a great alternative to a mono crop like grass and you get food too!

Plus, gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes!

Many HOAs don’t allow edible gardens in front yards, but you can work edible plants into your landscape. If you have an urban vegetable garden in your front yard, please share how you did it in the comments!

Check out this list of tips for adding edible plants to your yard.

Growing a Beautiful Lawn Naturally: Bottom Line

You can grow a healthy, beautiful lawn without harmful chemicals!

Choose a native grass for your area. Add a complimentary plant like white clover or even wildflowers! Water when needed consistently but not as often. Fertilize naturally and add compost to improve soil.

The environment, your pets, and the bees will thank you!

Do you use organic lawn care? What sustainable methods have you found for growing a beautiful lawn? Tell me about it below!

How to grow a good lawn naturally and organically

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


34 responses to “Organic Lawn Care: How to Grow a Beautiful Lawn Naturally”

  1. Margaret Avatar

    I have noticed that after 2 years of having 2 guinea pigs ‘mowing’ our lawn it is thicker and better despite a reduction in rainfall!

  2. Moira Avatar

    My husband and I recently bought a home and we’re excited to get started working on our lawn. I appreciate your advice that if we leave the grass just a bit longer, that it will resist weeds naturally. This is great news, because I’d love to find a natural way to fight off the weeds.

  3. Amsey Avatar

    I first started a vegetable garden in my front lawn about 10 years ago. What happened was that it was very poor soil with lots of grubs. One day I found clusters of sod rolled up. The roots were so shallow that the skunks came in and had a feast. I took the tiller through with the intent of reseeding but the soil was so poor I started by hauling lots of mushroom manure and compost. I tilled it for 2 or 3 years to keep the weeds down while still adding more compost. By that time I decided to plant some vegetables. Eventually I built some raised beds. I had this garden for about 6 years until I moved out.

  4. Sai Bharath Avatar
    Sai Bharath

    Good informative post. The natural steps are really helpful to create and maintain the lawn. And thanks for the advice of using natural fertilizer instead of chemical fertilizers as it tends to degrades the quality of soil. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Cindy Avatar

    Regarding the Bermuda grass, it is very hardy. When you have a dry spot (or several) in the middle of your Bermuda grass lawn, the spot usually needs water (even if it is a doggy PP spot). So, instead of watering the green part, only water it a little but water well the dry spot. That way the Bermuda grass will send shoots and roots to the dry spot/s. To get rid of a grass creeper in a flower bed, be sure to get ALL of the shoots and roots. Putting down a decorative, deep barrier helps. Concerning grasslessness beneath trees, just remember that trees require food and sun and sometimes less surface than grass and flowers. Surf the net and look for shade plants that work with your tree/s and climate. There are drought tolerant shade tree plants, for example. Some trees, when overwatered, do not need to put down their long deep roots. Then, when there is a big windstorm, such as has happened in Arroyo Park on highway 2, on the way to Pasadena California, from Los Angeles, those great big, deep root(less) trees just blow over. I have seen them. Internet access is a wonderful resource for plants specific to your needs.

  6. Jessica Avatar

    It bothers me so much when I see those “perfect” lawns in my neighborhood, especially when the lawn care trucks come every other week and spray them with toxic chemicals. You can smell it in the air. It’s disgusting. Thankfully I never see any children or pets running around on them or I’d have to stop and make a PSA.
    We have bermuda and it gets into EVERYTHING except where we actually want it to grow. We have large shade trees with many exposed roots in the part of our front yard closest to the house and I’m having a hard time getting anything to grow underneath them. Even if a plant prefers shade (and I do love hostas), there’s no way my husband could dig a hole big enough for it around all the roots! I would love to rip out all the bermuda in the front half of our yard (all 15 x 60 feet of it) and plant a cottage garden (I have a plan, but no money or time to make it happen). Your idea about planting wildflowers is awesome and I hadn’t thought about that! We usually only mow the lawn to cut down the weeds, not so much the grass. Maybe if we get some wildflowers mixed in there it won’t look as bad.
    I’m ready to go outside and start fixing my lawn today! Or as soon as the weather gets below 80. Thanks for the post!

  7. Terry Avatar

    I LOVE front yard vegetable gardens! We have an amazing place near us called Old World Wisconsin. They relocated entire houses from all over Wisconsin that were settlement homes of immigrants of different European countries. It’s a living history museum. They have small villages representing each country. The guides dress in the fashion of the real person who lived in each home. They give you a tour of that home as if they were that person and explain their situation in life. Fascinating, the simple but hard lives they lived. I love this place. Go there with your children if you ever get the chance! They will learn much. It’s fascinating to tour it. Anyway, One home has a beautiful front yard vegetable garden, apparently a common practice of that country. It always impressed me that it was practical yet beautiful. I live where this wouldn’t be possible, I wish I did.

  8. Johnna Avatar


    I have a backyard chicken. Is the sea kelp safe for animal consumption, does anyone know?

    Thank you,

  9. Cindy Avatar

    About a garden…. Our dad made a 1-acre garden. Each year he would plow rows of potatoes with tractor at end of potato season – then we would gather them. To the best of my recollection, we never made any pesticides in the garden. We kids would go out and pick off the bugs and caterpillars after school. The plants that had the most were potatoes and tomatoes, corn and cabbage. We had everything veggie that a kid could want. We dried seeds and planted them the following year (Texas had seasons, unlike So. Calif.). Squash produces if you continue to pick them. If you want juicy watermelons, make big holes, bury a well watered bale of hay for every 2 or so intended vines (assuming you have a dry summer climate), Unless you are interested in canning, an acre garden is too big. Planning is a great idea. The Farmer’s Almanac is a great resource.

  10. Amy Avatar

    This article came at the perfect time so I very excited to read it. Unfortunately we live in a “community” with bylaws on how to maintain your lawns. We are not allowed weeds of any kind. So even white clover is out. Any other ideas that are more just greenery that doesn’t bloom? Thanks

  11. Lesley Avatar

    This was a great post!

    In our neighbourhood their are at least 5 front yard gardens that I’ve seen. We have a large garden in the back.

    Thus far I have simple embraced our weedy lawn (after all weeds are beautiful in their own way), using the dandelions greens for smoothies. I will certainly start trying some of the suggestions in this article.

  12. sharon Avatar

    I like chick magic or symphony brand name products that are just chicken poop in granualized form so I can put it on my lawn as fertilizer 3-4 tmes a year. This step avoids the 1/2 inch fertilizer. I’ve never done this before but seems like more work to spread evenly. These brands of chicken poop spread easily in granuals and do great things for the lawn!

  13. Shalimar Avatar

    Needing advice for the pasture! The farm is not our main income and we have no other help. Both of us have outside jobs. Hubby has always sprayed weeds so cows and horses could get to grass. Ive tried to get him to look into other options but he refuses. He grew up on land and apparently has always done this. I know I need to educate on types of weeds, but any experience out there for large acreage (pasture is about 25 acres, other is about 12) and little time??

    1. Karen Scribner Avatar
      Karen Scribner

      Cows eat forbes, not just grass. Once you identify the things that grow, you can selectively remove toxic plants or the ones that make milk taste funny.

  14. Indigo Avatar

    Thank you for suggesting that people grow a garden if they can. Lawn grass is the biggest crop in America and that is a waste of resources. Let’s make using our water and building healthy soil to make healthy yummy veggies the new “beautiful” and the new norm! I live in a town that looks down upon edible landscaping and food forests, a lot of my permaculture friends are helping me change the norm to make veggie gardens the new and desirable form of curb appeal.

  15. Suzanne Avatar

    I never understood the need to use chemicals. My lawn actually looks better than my neighbors who use chemicals. I also use vinegar on those weeds that grow between cracks in the pavement. Works great, and I’m assuming it does less damage than weed spray.

  16. Nicole Avatar

    Hi Katie, I agree with all the comments above this is some of the best information on natural lawn care out there. I’m struggling with a very poor looking lawn and a lot of it. Moved in 6 months ago, builder hydro seeded but we opted out of irrigation now we have red sorrel, many weeds and crab grass. The rest of the grass is dry and patchy. It’s the heat of summer and we have no idea what to do. I don’t want to add chemicals to get rid of crab. How exactly do I compost? Can I add this over the existing crab grass? I need to educate myself before I am ambushed by my father and husband who want to give up and start poring chemicals all over the lawn. On a lighter note I’m trying my hand at planting a wild flower garden on a side embankment that we have in the fall.
    Any advice that you or fellow readers have would be most helpfull

  17. Sheila Rumsey Avatar
    Sheila Rumsey

    We keep chickens that I free range at least part time, so I dont put anything on my grass. Our soil is very poor, but I have seen a slow improvement with mulching the clippings back in and keeping the grass a little on the long side. The chicken poo helps too! I planted zoysia grass, which seems less invasive than Bermuda or St Augustine and has required far less maintenance Overall. It is tolerant of most conditions and greens up quickly after it gets watered, even if I let it get really dry. It stays pretty short, so I don’t have to mow very often. And it is thick, so weeds don’t tend to be an issue! Love all your tips, Katie!

    1. Cindy Avatar

      Shiela, we kept chickens when living on about 80 acres of pecan trees and pasture land. We kept them in a hen house with roosts and nesting area at night to protect from animals like foxes and dogs. They had a huge yard for daytime use. Besides what they could scratch up to eat, we fed them chicken feed and small pieces of oyster shells. Shirts and dresses were made from the chicken feed sacks. We always had fresh eggs. Times have changed lol.

      Katie, there was an inquiry about what to do about weeds in 25 acres of pasture for horses and cattle. You don’t need a lawn for cattle and horses. And you will probably need hay. Alfalfa, oats, vetch and Johnson grass is what we used to raise on about a 22 acre field. We harvested and dried our own seeds for replanting, then bailed the hay. (unlikely today since MONSANTO I have read owns about 90% of the patents on seeds, and their grains (ugh!) are designed to require purchase from them each season for planting). If you have milk cows, you might want to pull out the milkweeds they make milk bitter – but then you’d be destroying the plant that monarch butterflies use in their chrysalis transformational metamorphosis (the stage between caterpillar and butterfly). Loco weed makes cattle act weird. Perhaps, instead of limiting weeds, you might consider having a few goats – they make milk too, and eat just about anything green. Sheep crop the grass too short so it dies but the kids like them. Also, when cattle eat wet grass, it can cause cattle to bloat. This is when a vet or an experienced rancher should be called. I have seen this. Perhaps consider talking with a large animal vet or people at an agricultural college for really useful information.

    1. jake Avatar

      Thankfully I live in the country and have a (small) registered USDA farm. I have a whole garden area covered in plantain, and my neighbors thought I was crazy “planting” dandelion and clover, when ALL of the other properties along my 1.5 mile long road have centipede lawns (some as big as 11 acres). BUT, being an apiarist, farmer, and “survivalist”, my property is to feed me, my farm animals, and my bees, not for some city nitwit to approve of! My lawn areas are only mowed if the animals are unable to keep it eaten, and the clippings are dried (on old trampolines) and saved for future feedings.
      One neighbor at the end of the road has about 9 acres of bahia and bermuda mix. When it gets too high she mows and rakes it and used to pile it in a back corner to dispose of it. Now she calls me, I come and pick it up (usually a 16×7 ft trailer load- three or four big round bales worth), and I dry it for winter feed. You can’t beat FREE!

  18. Cindy Avatar

    Wellness Mama: This is the finest article on natural lawn that I have ever read. Thank you so much. I intend to refer this article to my sister, for their lawn. And they have a beautiful doggie who regularly waters and fertilizes their lawn (of course, their doggie fertilizer is cleaned up and removed). That is why they do not eat the dandelions in their yard. I am sure that she would welcome your comments or any helpful suggestions.

  19. Elizabeth Avatar

    Great post!! Thank you for the simple, inexpensive tips for naturally improving my lawn!

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