Steele: A way to green up your grass

In between March winds and April showers, the air is still and the sun shines, drawing us joyfully out into our gardens.

Often the first gardening task is to get that winter brown lawn to green up fast.

This year, I invite you to skip the chemical fertilizer and try a soil-building mulch.

Spread a layer of organic matter one-half to one-inch deep over your lawn.

Within less than a month it will have disappeared into the soil and your lawn will be a vibrant green and be ready to mow.

I’ve seen success with a variety of materials such as well-rotted manure from a local farmer, Classic Compost from Dean at the Farmer’s Market, Glengrow from the City landfill and Nature’s Gold.

Whatever you use, it must be well-rotted and free of weed seeds.

This approach saves time and money.

A single application is enough to slowly and naturally feed your lawn throughout the growing season.

Over the years I’ve heard many complaints from people about having to mow their lawns too often.

When asked if they recently applied a chemical fertilizer, inevitably the answer is yes. What a make-work project.

And the water meter is spinning faster because more water is needed to support the fertilizer-induced burst of growth.

Such fertilizers are high in salts, creating a chemical imbalance in the soil, which destroys essential soil micro-organisms, and leads to a dependency on regular applications of chemical fertilizers.

That creates more work and more expense.

They can also leach into ground water and end up contaminating drinking water.

On the other hand, a mulch of organic matter adds a full spectrum of nutrients to the soil. As it breaks down, it builds up the soil.

If your lawn is on compacted or poor ground, aerate it before applying the mulch.

The mulch will fill the holes and help improve the soil even faster.

For poor lawns, mulching again in the fall will help. Organic matter helps retain soil moisture, making your lawn more drought tolerant.

Twenty-four per cent of all water used in the Okanagan Valley goes to irrigate domestic landscapes. Much of this is used to keep lawns green.

To learn more about how to reduce water use and maintenance time in your yard, I invite you to attend one of my two night xeriscape classes.

Start dates are April 6, April 20, and May 4.

Check the website or call me for more information and to register.

Watch for early blooming xeriscape plants—spring bulbs, forsythia, and the white bloom of wild Saskatoon bushes—on hillsides around the Okanagan.

Gwen Steele is executive-director of the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association. Learn more about Gardening with Nature and plants for the Okanagan on the website at



We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Community Events, February 2017

Add an Event