Given the verdant carpet of weedless green that envelopes the Tabaka’s house now, it’s hard to believe that three years ago — before their organic lawn care practices began — the backyard “was a disaster,” or so says Tracy.

Now a field of dreams reaches in all directions, sporting an extensive swing set and sandbox that is free of the crystalline silica dust (EPA- and OSHA-regulated carcinogens) typically found in sandbox sand. In this northern suburb, the pristine yard flows seamlessly into other neighborhood yards, most of which are maintained with more conventional chemical treatments.

The Tabakas’ conscientious living started about seven years ago, when they were considering children. “It started with food,” says Tracy.  Now the parents of two say, “It snowballed … Everything we see, do, touch, is rolled into this,” — a concern for what their children and retired service dog are exposed to, playing in their yard and living their daily lives.


Retired service dog Rocket lounges on his field of green.
Retired service dog Rocket appreciates the organic lawn care that keeps his play space green.

A meeting with “Organic Bob” Dahm gave them the strategies for organic lawn care, which they determined that they could do themselves. These triathletes and ski racers who work as Adapted Outdoor Recreation Educators for Three Rivers Park District are in wheelchairs, so the undertaking meant some changes to a zero-turn lawnmower. But, after three years, they are now in maintenance mode.

In addition to keeping the grass fairly long, the Tabakas also spread organic fertilizer twice a summer and a compost tea mixture four times in the growing season. They use a weed torch for the areas covered by rock, and are currently waging war with voles, reseeding areas that the critters laid bare.



Sam Tabaka uses organic lawn care practices to reseed lawn following vole activity.
Sam Tabaka gets the upper hand on vole invasion with organic lawn practices, including reseeding their encroachments.

They follow the practices Organic Bob suggests, his “1,2,3” approach to organic lawn maintenance

  • Make sure your lawn gets about 1” of water per week
  • Spend a couple of minutes hand-weeding each day
  • Mow high, to maintain a height of about 3”.

These habits, in addition to initial assessments regarding the amount of sun exposure (which determines the most appropriate grass seed mix) and level of invasive weeds, produce a lawn that requires half the water of a regular lawn.

Organic lawn care helps any yard, and the planet, since — as Dahm says — the largest “crop” in the United States is turf grass. For those with more weeds than grass, check this blog in September for optimal timing on the first steps to establishing a healthy, chemical-free lawn. Meanwhile, follow the steps enumerated above.

For the Tabakas, such practices help them “pass along the knowledge and values that are near and dear to us,” while still allowing their kids to “live their lives” on a lawn that is picture-perfect.


Tabaka children play in their organically maintained yard.
The Tabaka children are the inspiration for these, and other organic practices.


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