I fortuitously stumbled across The Organic Lawn Care Manual at the bookstore while searching for a long, captivating book to force upon my preteen son to read during his holiday break. Mission accomplished. With my new lawn bible in one hand and a weighty kid’s tome in the other, I walked home all geared up for gardening (and parenting).

The Organic Lawn Care Manual

Learn how to completely care for your lawn organically. (Your family, pets, turf and environment will thank you for it!)

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Storey Publishing

Organic lawn

Because it’s sustainable, your beautiful organic lawn will withstand drought and disease well.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Paul Tukey

Paul Tukey

Once Paul Tukey switched to organic lawn care, he never looked back!

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Storey Publishing

I can’t speak for my son’s book, but I can tell you that mine’s great! The author, Paul Tukey, a lawn-care professional, publisher of the gardening magazine People, Places and Plants and executive producer of an HGTV show of the same name, enthusiastically presents straightforward, practical how-to methods for safe and effective lawn care.

Paul had been the owner of a lawn-care company in New England for many years before he decided to stop using pesticides on his customers’ lawns. After a spring of regularly spreading weed and feed, he began suffering from nosebleeds and shortness of breath at the end of each workday. According to Paul, once he stopped applying the lawn chemicals, his health problems went away. “We are seeing only the tip of the iceberg,” says Dr. Michael Surgan, the leading environmentalist for the New York State attorney general’s office. “In the coming years, many years, many more lawn-care products that are currently on the market will be proved to be dangerous.”

No matter your reasons for going organic with your lawn, Paul’s beautiful book will walk you through every step – from evaluating your turf, grass anatomy and soil structure to changing your lawn’s diet and dealing with weeds and thugs to watering, mowing and maintenance. The book is filled with clear and concise charts, stunning photography and a plethora of useful gardening tips and essentials to keep your lawn looking far better than the Joneses…and without polluting the entire zip code.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, 67 million pounds of pesticides are applied to roughly 30 million acres of lawns in the country each year, and homeowners use 40-60 percent of their summer water allotment on their lawns. Turfgrass is the No. 1 most water-intensive crop in the US. In fact, the average lawn is doused with 10,000 gallons of water each year – not rainfall. Is a plot of tedious turf really worth all the fanfare? (Just in case you’re considering taking out all or part of your thirsty, self-absorbed lawn and replacing it with native or drought-tolerant plants that can withstand some foot traffic, there’s a chapter in this book dedicated to alternative groundcovers.)

Being the compost queen that I am, I’ve always fertilized my lawn by sprinkling compost on it come spring and fall. In the chapter Changing Your Lawn’s Diet, I was thrilled to learn I was doing the right thing! Applying compost builds soil structure and adds soil life. Grass needs organic matter to thrive. Paul’s grandmother used compost tea in her yard religiously. He suggests spraying compost tea several times a year on lawns and explains how to make your own backyard batch for your grass to drink at seasonal tea parties.

With research based on solid science that’s supported by the work of soil biologists, plant breeders, educators, engineers and leading turf professionals, Paul builds a strong case for environmentally friendly lawn care. Not only are natural lawns better for the environment because they use less water, they require fewer fossil fuels and fertilizer. Dr. David Pimentel, of Cornell University, estimates that it takes about 33,000 cubic feet of natural gas to create 1 ton of nitrogen, enough for about 150 of those 40-pound bags of 32-10-18 fertilizer. (That’s enough natural gas to heat the average American home for a half a year!)

What’s more, organic lawns are just healthier for children and pets. As Nell Newman, president of Newman’s Own Organics, writes in the foreword to the book, “As credible scientists make direct links between higher rates of childhood cancers and increased use of lawn pesticides, I hope that every state develops laws at least as restrictive as those in Connecticut where it is illegal to apply pesticides near schools and day care centers.”

Paul (who claims he’s still addicted to mowing, the straight-line patterns of turf and the scent of freshly cut grass) is utterly certain you can have a beautiful lawn without a synthetic chemical program. Lastly, for you sports enthusiasts, the book devotes a chapter to which kind of turf is best suited for playing croquet, wiffle ball, badminton, bocce and disc gulf.

And you thought organic gardeners were too serious…