Growing a Beautiful Lawn More Sustainably
How to “Green” Your Lawn Service
The following techniques and recommendations will help either the do-it-yourselfer or
your lawn service maintain a healthy lawn in a way that reduces greenhouse gases and
decreases water usage and reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. When working
with a lawn care service let them know in advance what your expectations are in the use
of chemicals and equipment. Depending on the health of your lawn, some amendments
may not be needed as frequently as your lawn service provides. Over-application of
fertilizers and pesticides can be detrimental to the environment, your pets and family, as
well as a waste of money. Don’t be shy about asking whether a treatment is really
? Ask your lawn service if they can use electric or alternative fuels (propane or
biodiesel) equipment. Some companies will use your electric mower in lieu of
their own equipment.
? Wilmette bans the use of gas-powered leaf blowers from May 15 to October 1.
Remind your lawn service of the ban. Ask them to use electric blowers (much
quieter than gas) or better yet, a broom or rake.
? Ask your lawn service to cut with a mulching mower. Instead of collecting
clippings, a mulching mower deposits finely chopped clippings on your lawn,
recycling nutrients back into the lawn and reducing the need for additional
feeding (and leaf collection).
? Ask your lawn service to add excess clippings to your compost pile. In spring and
fall, when grass grows faster, there may be too much to leave on the lawn.
Collect the clippings and compost them.
? Cut your grass a little higher in dry weather to withstand drought. Be sure your
lawn service does not cut the lawn shorter than 3 inches, and ask them to skip a
week if it has been very dry with little growth in your lawn. Ask them to decrease
mowing frequency in the fall, after grass growth has slowed.
Lawn Improvements & Amendments
? Feeding is not an annual necessity. If your lawn is healthy, feeding only
encourages more grass growth and more mowing. If needed apply organic
fertilizers in early spring.
? Treatment for grubs is not necessary if they are not a problem. If they are present,
ask your lawn service to use organic remedies.
? De-thatch with a rake in early fall and reseed bare patches.
? Aerating is best performed in early fall once every 3 years on healthy lawns. Top
dressing should be done after aeration. Fine leaf mold or garden compost mixed
with loam and sand make a good mix for the clay soils found in our area.
? Hand-pull weeds. Mowing grass too short makes your lawn more susceptible to
Leaf Collection and Mulching
Wilmette budgets more than $200,000 annually to collect, transport, and dispose of
leaves, when they can instead be used to recycle nutrients back into your yard.
? Leaves make excellent insulation for over-wintering your garden and add
nutrients back into the beds. Ask your lawn service to place the leaves over your
flowerbeds and around cold-sensitive plants and bushes.
? You can reduce the volume of leaf waste to 1/10 by shredding the leaves with a
mulching mower. Ask your lawn service rake the leaves into a less maintained
area of your yard and mow over them. The remaining leaf mulch can be
composted or used as winter mulch.
? Ground wood mulch can be obtained for free from the Village of Wilmette Public
Works yard. If you have new construction and need mulch to protect trees or new
landscape projects, ask your contractor to use the free mulch and save money.
Composted kitchen and yard waste make excellent fertilizers for both your lawn and
gardens, and reduces your need for commercial fertilizers. Ask your lawn service if they
can build a compost bin, and have them deposit all lawn and garden waste into it.