None of us wants to endanger our lives or those of our children and our animal companions with pesticides and chemical fertilizers. But if you live in a neighborhood where the lawns look like golf greens, you may feel some pressure to keep up with the Jones’.
Pesticides, whether they are insecticides, fungicides or herbicides, are designed to kill unwanted species of life. They are not selective in what they kill and their effect goes beyond those few irritating bugs or weeds we want to eradicate. These pesticides are among the 75,000 new chemicals that have been introduced into our world since World War II. Twelve of the most common pesticides are suspected carcinogens while 850 have hormone-disrupting effects. Today, we carry 500 measurable chemicals in our bodies, chemicals that would not have been evident in the 1920s.
There are steps you can take to return your lawn to its natural state, but you have to be patient. A chemical-dependent lawn is highly susceptible to pests and diseases so it will take some time to restore its health. Likewise, if you’re starting out fresh with a “mixed bag” lawn, you’ve got some work ahead of you. Fortunately, there are a number of organic lawn care companies sprouting up across North America who can do part or all of the work for you.
Aerating – You don’t want compacted soil, so aerate it in the spring to encourage the exchange of oxygen, moisture and plant nutrients. Ants and earthworms will fertilize and continue the aeration process.
Topdressing – Add nutrients and microorganisms to your lawn with applications of compost, topsoil and/or composted manure.
Overseeding – Spread a layer of grass seed over the existing lawn to improve grass density. Use hardy, pest-resistant grass species.
Mowing – Never cut off more than the top third of each grass blade in a single mowing. Mow to a height of three inches. This leads to good root development and denser turf which shades out the weeds. Make sure you cut with sharp blades.
Watering – Water one morning a week to a depth of one inch.
Fertilizing – Use compost, grass clippings and slow-release organic products. Be aware that natural botanical pesticides do not necessarily mean less toxicity.
Finally, consider alternatives to 100-per-cent grass. Check out other possible ground covers and vegetation. Welcome the dandelions; eat them! Grow thyme. Plant wildflowers and attract the birds and butterflies. And share your enthusiasm for a drug-free lawn with your neighbors.