You know it’s winter in Los Angeles because of the aroma of manure coming from lawns that homeowners have over-seeded with winter rye seed and then covered or topped with steer manure. (The manure topping keeps the seeds warm and protects them from the birds.) Then what follows is the practice of extra watering to make sure the seeds germinate, and then more watering to keep the lawn green during the winter.
It’s an old habit that people have been practicing for decade, but to many people’s surprise, experts say it really doesn’t make any sense, given our current drought conditions and the fact that most plants and grasses are dormant in the winter. Yet people continue the practice, much to the consternation of other neighbors who hate the smell and view the practice as incredibly wasteful.
“It’s an old fashioned habit and it’s just not good for the soil,” said Helen Hartung, landscape designer, Windsor Square resident and chair of the Windsor Square Association Tree Canopy Committee. According to Hartung, there’s a lot of salt in the manure and that makes the soil salty, which can inhibit growth.
“Besides, most people have Marathon sod lawns and they really stay fairly green in the winter. There’s just no need to over seed with the winter rye,” said Hartung, who would like stop the practice all together.
“We should be turning off our sprinklers during the winter…or at least using them a lot less, depending on the amount of winter rain we get,” said Hartung. But, she said, if people must seed their lawns because they want that bright green lawn, they should consider using a product called Topper, which is more environmentally friendly than steer manure.
Experts agree that the best thing to do is to allow your lawn to go dormant in the winter. It saves watering and mowing and there’s less green waste being added to the environment. It’s also nice to see a change of season from bright green to brown. And soon enough, warm weather will return and our lawns will start growing again.