Safe Lawn, Safe Family


Lawn care is a big part of summer, but dousing our grass with chemicals shouldn’t be part of it.

By FamilyTime

 

As a nation, we are pretty obsessed with our lawns. We like them big, lush, bright green, and recently mowed. Some folks have lawns so large, the lawn mower leaves a diamond pattern on the grass — much as the vacuum cleaner does on an expanse of carpeting.

It’s time to get control of this obsession! To reign in our lawns and learn to love a little irregularity. This is not to say we should abandon the green, grassy patch that connects house to sidewalk, driveway to house, and house to garden. We simply need to be mindful of the damage we do when we dump chemicals, both pesticides and fertilizers, on the grass.

What To Do

To keep the lawn fresh and green, reseed it once a year. Spring and fall are good times for this. Aerate the thatch first with a rake and then use a grass seed mix with a relatively high proportion of fast-growing annual rye. The rye allows slower growing perennial grasses to take root.

Water the lawn only when necessary and do it right. Most lawns need only an inch of water a week to stay green all summer long. Make note of how heavily and how recently it has rained before you turn on the sprinkler. You may not need it!

Water early in the day, if possible. Do not water in the middle of the day when the sun evaporates the water before it has a chance to penetrate the soil. Use a sprinkler directed at the grass, not the driveway, and let it sink into the soil so that it’s good and drenched.

If you have soaker hoses, use them. These save a lot water although you have to pay attention and move them around.

After a rainfall or good watering, manually pull out weeds by the roots. This is time consuming, for sure, but a lot better for the planet than using a herbicide.

Set the mower to a high level; three to four inches is best. Longer grass shades growth and prevents weeds from sprouting. It also helps to hold in moisture. Don’t rake up the clippings but let them decompose naturally on the mowed lawn.

Use compost on the lawn for the best fertilizer. Organic products are another option, but to avoid misusing or overusing them, follow the instructions carefully. Keep all fertilizers (including organic) out of the reach of children.

What Not To Do

Do not apply chemical fertilizers or pesticides to your lawn! Lawn services will try to talk you into doing so, and may have a convincing line about the safety of their product. Don’t buy it.

As a country, we put more than 70 million pounds of pesticides on our lawns every year. An astonishing percentage of these inputs pass through the plants, leach into the water tables and eventually find their way into our water systems, where they cause a lot of harm.

When applied to the lawns, many pose serious threats to animals and birds. Some studies indicate that dogs exposed to treated lawns are more than twice as likely to develop certain cancers than other dogs.

And it does not stop with dogs. The increasing use of pesticides has given scientists ample opportunity to study their effect on human beings. They have found links between these harmful chemicals and certain cancers, neurological disorders, miscarriages and birth defects.

Many of those affected are children. Kids play on lawns and live in houses where the chemicals are tracked inside. In fact, more than half of the pesticide exposures reported to poison control centers around the country involve kids under the age of five. We treat well more than two million cases of human exposure to poison every year, and weed and insect killers are responsible for a significant number of the more serious.

When a product requires a little yellow flag to be planted in the yard that warns of danger to children and dogs, something is not right.

Of course, you can have a lovely, rolling green lawn this year and for years to come. It may not be as velvety as those treated with chemicals, but with a little work, a little care, and a lot of concern for our families, pets, and water supply, your lawn will be a welcoming place. Perfect for bare feet and wiggling toes!