Frugal Living 

Green Lawn Care Tips and a Secret Lawn Tonic Recipe from a Golf Course Groundskeeper

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A Very Nice LawnI’ve been playing a lot of golf lately and it’s amazing how manicured some courses are. It’s also amazing how overrun others can be, considering the cost of your average round of golf! So it makes sense that the perfect person to dispense lawn care advice is the groundskeeper (really they’re called Greenskeepers) of your local golf course. He, or she, is the person in charge of making sure the course is up to par. 🙂

We don’t have a huge lawn in front of our house, which makes it even more egregious if it’s not properly maintained! For a while we’ve been battling weeds and one of the things I really hate buying are those toxic-looking weed killers. I feel like pouring that stuff on my lawn negates all the recycling we do… so in addition to lawn care tips, I scoured the web for some good suggestions for green ways to kill weeds. One thing I stumbled upon was a secret lawn “tonic” from a former golf course greenskeeper.

General Lawn Care

The key to winning the war on weeds it to keep a nice healthy lawn in the first place. This collection of tips comes from a variety of sources including ShelterPop, Grinning Planet, and others.

Water in the morning. First, it’s better to water in the morning when the temperature is cooler because less of the water evaporates. It’s also better because you want to wash away all the dew. Most lawn disease are caused by critters in the dew.

Water for long periods of time infrequently. This trains the grass to dig its roots deeper in search of water. By watering for an hour, rather than 15 minutes, the water will soak into the soil and the lawn will grow lusher. A lusher lawn, with taller blades of grass, will force out weeds, which will try to find easy bare spots to monopolize. Beware of overwatering, as it can lead to disease.

When seeding, presoak the seeds. Spin Martin, groundskeeper at the University of Tulsa, recommends putting the seed into a pantyhose stocking and soak it in water for 24 hours. Remove, let the water drain, and repeat two more times. After the third day, the seeds should start to germinate and prevent irregular growth. He says seeds given this head start will start to grow in 7 days, instead of 14-21.

When mowing, use a sharp blade. Dull blades will tear, instead of than cut, the grass and don’t cut it too short. Tearing will leave the grass vulnerable to disease, which is a bad thing, so make sure your mower blades are sharp. Also, leave the clippings on the lawn, it’ll replenish some of the nitrogen your grass will need.

Aerate. You might need to wear those silly shoes but aerating your lawn helps clear the way for nutrients, air, and water to help them reach the root zone of your grass.

Green Weed Killers

Russell Demotsis is the horticulturist at Mirimichi, a green golf course in Millington, TN owned by Justin Timberlake. He weeds by hand or uses Milorganite, which is a mixture of things you probably don’t want to know about. Weeding by hand is the greenest of solutions but depending on how much lawn, or how many weeds you have, it may not be an efficient way of dealing with the issue.

Here are a few green ways to deal with weeds:

  • Boiling water. Boiling water kills the weeds, and any nearby growth, so it’s best to be very targeted in your use of boiling water. It’s really good for driveways, where you won’t have much growth, and can be supplemented with salt. This is a bit like a scorched earth approach so use in a very targeted manner.
  • Lemon juice, vinegar. Lemon juice and vinegar increase the acidity of the ground, which makes it inhospitable to weeds. Vinegar is usually more expensive than lemon juice but you might have one or the other on hand. It’s best to do this on a dry day because it will easily get washed away.
  • Corn Gluten Meal. This has long been known as a natural weed killer and works well on weeds that spread by seed. Corn gluten meal and corn meal are two different things. Corn gluten meal is effective because it stops root growth, which means it’ll stop any seed from growing, including grass seedlings. It also has some nitrogen in it so it will help feed your lawn as well. This page by the City of Ottawa and this one at Iowa State’s Dept. of Horticulture has more information.

Secret Lawn Tonic for Killing Weeds

As promised, here is a fantastic recipe from Tim Heffron (he calls it a lawn tonic, I called it secret because I didn’t know it until I found it!):

  • 1 can of regular beer (no light beer)
  • 1 can of regular soda (any kind-no diet soda)
  • 1/2 cup of liquid soap (do NOT use anti-bacterial dishwashing liquid)
  • 1/2 cup of liquid ammonia
  • 1/2 cup of mouthwash (any brand)
  • Pour into 10-gallon hose-end sprayer (other sizes will work too)

The secret and awesome part about this is that chances are you have all of this stuff at home (maybe not the sprayer or the beer/soda if you don’t drink it). I haven’t used it yet but if a former golf course groundskeeper says it’s legit, I’ll believe him… though I’m wondering where the gin comes in.

Do you have any good lawn care tips or weed killing suggestions?

(Photo: umair-ehmad)

{ 19 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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19 Responses to “Green Lawn Care Tips and a Secret Lawn Tonic Recipe from a Golf Course Groundskeeper”

  1. mikestreb says:

    The secret tonic is NOT for killing weeds! It is a fertilizer concoction.

  2. ziglet19 says:

    We recently installed drought-tolerant landscaping in our front yard; however, we have nut grass popping up ALL over the place. It’s driving me crazy – we keep going out there and pulling it out by hand, but we can’t keep up with it. Any suggestions?

    • Shirley says:

      If the nut grass is coming up in spots where you don’t want ANY vegetation, try pouring chlorine bleach on that spot. It sure works on driveway cracks and gravel covered areas.

  3. Youngfye says:

    It is really ironic that I should receive this email today. This past week my husband got some weed killer and accidently spilled it on the lawn. He is devastated!! I forwarded this email to him, hoping that it will offer some help and we will nothave to endure a huge brown patch of lawn for the rest of the summer

  4. Light beer isn’t even good in this situation 🙂

    There is almost always a more natural way that uses common household ingredients to solve many of our household problems. Yet so many people continue to expose their families and the environment to chemicals that are not only dangerous, but also expensive.

  5. Dave says:

    Lawn aerating shoes don’t really do a whole lot, so probably no reason to spend the money. Once a year, go rent a plug aerator at the local rental place and do the job right.

  6. billsnider says:

    I use Weed-Be-Gone. Works well on almost every weed.

    I also seed just before labor day. Days are getting cooler and moist. Gives grass a chance to root and flourish the following year.

    I fertilize twice a year. I do it early April with a grab grass preventer. I also fertilize early September. i use exactly what they specify. Over fertilizing is bad for the grass and the environment.

    I water around 4 AM. Gives water a chance to be absorbed before the heat of the day. Do this three times per week.

    I cut the grass as high as mower permits and I mulch.

    All of this works very well.

    Good luck.

    Bill snider

  7. zapeta says:

    Great tips! I have no lawn yet but these will come in handy when I do.

  8. skipman says:

    I used to work for a lawncare company, and we always offered these two tips:
    Water before 10 AM & Mow with blade at highest setting. I use NO chemicals on my yard, yet it rivals the neighbors who get the $50 treatments every month!

  9. Green Tips says:

    We can use Grass Clippings Instead of Store-Bought Fertilizer. Grass clippings are natural home remedy. It is free and easy to apply grass clippings. We should not use a bagger when we mow our grass. The clippings are 100% biodegradable, and they will decompose in time to help feed your grass.

  10. eric says:

    I don’t play much golf (must watch the budget…) but these are good lawn tips in general. I’ll have to start implementing some of them.

  11. Craig says:

    Good read! We just bought a home in the middle of a heat wave and our grass needs help!

    We’ve been watering in the evening. I see people here saying the early morning is better. Why is that?

    And how can I bring my dry lawn back life?

  12. BamaDawg says:

    Anyone know how it is applied? What is a 10 gallon hose end sprayer? How many square feet will this mixture cover?

  13. Lawn Disease says:

    Vinegar to deal with weeds? That’s really interesting. Similar with lemon juice.

  14. zoe says:


  15. shelbi says:

    I tried to the lawn green grass tonic killed all my st augustine grass

  16. Dottie says:

    I want to try this lawn tonic but I have dogs, does anyone know if this tonic will harm the dogs after it drys? Thank you

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