Lawn & Garden

Lawns can be one of our most expensive and time consuming home items. Between mowing and fertilizing and weed preventatives, there goes a lot of time and money. But that’s not the whole story. Not often considered is the cost to the environment. Fertilizers and herbicides can be detrimental to the ecology and water quality of the county with their associated hidden costs. For most of us, we also pay the extra cost of cleaning these chemicals out of our drinking water.

The Marion County Soil & Water Conservation District is actively helping landowners make better choices for their lawns and gardens. Soil has historically been a main focus for the district and we are involved in protecting the soil from erosion and improving the health of the soil in ecologically wise ways.

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Garden problems solved with the Flower Doctor App

Mobile apps by Purdue Extension specialists can guide home gardeners in the proper care of their plants with the help of treatment methods based on proven research.

The Annual Flower Doctor and Perennial Flower Doctor apps for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch can help home gardeners with dozens of problems for more than 200 plants. The apps are available for 99 cents each.

“Every year, homeowners invest millions of dollars in their landscaping materials, and due to insect diseases and sometimes a lack of experience, problems come up. This is an affordable and efficient way to fix those problems,” said Janna Beckerman, a Purdue Extension plant disease specialist and content specialist for the apps. “You just pull it out of your pocket and have answers right away.”

The apps build on Purdue Extension knowledge, using more than 400 high-quality photos that allow users to match 200 different plants with thousands of plant problems. The problems are ordered based on how common they are in Midwest gardens and yards. Once diagnosed, the apps guide users through methods to manage affected plants.

View Flower Doctor App

Summer Lawn Care – Naturally

With all of the fun summer lawn activities going on this time of year, many people are becoming interested in natural and organic lawn care in order to create a safer place for children and pets to live and play. It takes time and commitment to go completely organic in lawn care and still maintain some similarity to the traditional look of a suburban lawn, but it is well worth the effort.

Organic and natural lawn care methods are based on creating healthy soil in order to achieve healthy lawns. This takes longer than lush lawns created with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides but healthy soil will pay you back in dividends with lawns more resistant to environmental conditions and minimal inputs later on. Summer is a good time to assess your existing lawn. If it is in very poor shape with a lot of weeds, you may decide to renovate and reseed. This also gives you an ideal opportunity to amend your soil for a good re-start. Reseeding is best done in the late summer and early fall. Consult a reputable seed dealer or check out one of the many organic lawn how-to books out now to help you choose a grass seed mix that will be best suited to how you use your lawn and have the best response to organic lawn care methods. Many improved cultivars are now available.


Mow high (2.5 to 4 inches) in order to improve root structure and help shade out weeds.

Decide whether to irrigate during the hot, dry summer months or let the grass go dormant. Much moisture in the soil during the month of July will cause an increase in the grub population. If you decide to irrigate, pay close attention to the amount of rainfall we receive and water only enough to provide a total of 1 inch per week.

Hand-pull weeds or spot treat with herbicidal soaps, as needed.

Monitor for insects. In early summer look for the bluegrass billbug, chinch bug and sod webworm. In late summer look for grubs, chinch bug, and sod webworm. If insect damage is a problem, try organic solutions to control them. See information at or contact an organic lawn company for assistance.

September is the time to fertilize with an organic fertilizer based on the results of your soil test.  You can also put down corn gluten for weed control in September if no seeding is to be done. Be sure to follow directions for application carefully.

Now, sit back and enjoy your lawn knowing you are improving the environment and creating a safe, healthy lawn.


Local garden centers may or may not carry organic lawn care products such as corn gluten and fertilizers. Products are available from the following catalog sources (not an exhaustive list):

Gardens Alive!
Offers corn gluten, organic fertilizers, and grass seed mixtures (including those with endophytes) This is an Indiana company!

Gardener’s Supply
Offers corn gluten, biological pest controls, composting equipment

Extremely Green Gardening Co.
Offers fertilizers, corn gluten, nematodes, grass seed

Planet Natural
Offers corn gluten, fertilizers, organic and low-toxicity herbicides, and weeding implements

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
Offers fertilizers, weed and pest controls, composting supplies, soil testing supplies

Additional Resources

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