Saturday, February 27, 2010

Killing ourselves to feed our lawn?

This post is for Jeffery.
A beautifully landscaped, green lawn is something sought after by many Americans. It has became the new "keeping up with the Joneses" to make your lawn more full and more green than your neighbor's.

The standard way of doing this is to use lawn treatment chemicals, fertilizers and lots of watering; all of which are harmful to our environment, animal life and most scary of all, harmful to us! The only way to reduce a dependence on chemical fertilizers is to develop a healthy lawn, which is naturally resistant to weeds, insects and diseases.

Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 19 have studies pointing toward carcinogens, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 15 with neurotoxicity, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 27 are sensitizers and/or irritants, and 11 have the potential to disrupt the endocrine (hormonal) system.
(references). In addition, for you pet owners, pet bladder cancer has been linked to lawn pesticide applications (Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association, April 15, 2004.)

I am aware that it is easy to become bogged down with facts and figures. It has become so easy to read the above paragraph and it just go right over our heads. There are so many warning out there today that we have become desensitized to them.

This link offers some personal stories about the harmful effects of lawn pesticides.

Making a change to "green" lawn care doesn't have to mean turning into a hippie. It can be done a lot easier than one may think.

Starting with one of the most basic aspects of lawn care, if you mow your grass to the proper height and disperse the small grass clippings evenly, this can provide many benefits. Here is a link that discusses the different types of grass and the proper mowing heights for each.

If you mow grass too short it discourages deep root growth and results in a rapid loss of the moisture in the soil. On the other extreme, if you let grass grow too tall it causes the excess grass clippings to smother the turf.
Some other things to keep in mind about mowing your grass:
  • Raise the height of your mower blade during the hot and dry season. A higher setting reduces moisture loss and encourages deep root growth.
  • Keep the blades on your mower sharp and clean, and mow when the grass is dry.
  • Mow over leaves so they will decompose along with grass clippings.
  • Collect leaves and grass clippings for mulching or composting (instead of sitting them on the curb for garbage pickup).
How to combat weeds the natural way
If you maintain a thick, healthy lawn this will almost always out-compete weeds. Proper mowing, fertilizing, watering, and soil conditioning will easily eliminate or prevent up to 95 percent of weeds. Why not prevent the problem instead of using a chemical to solve the problem?
For the minor weeds that do grow, why not pull them by hand? Consider using household vinegar rather than conventional chemicals. Believe it or not, this is a very effective treatment. (Vinegar can burn grass and garden plants, so be sure to spot treat weeds only.) If you must use chemicals, why not spot treat instead of treating the entire yard?

Here is a site that sells natural lawn care products.

You have heard of recycling but what about grasscycling?
Grasscycling is the natural recycling of grass by leaving clippings on the lawn when mowing. There are many benefits to grasscycling.
  • It makes turf greener and tougher.
  • It prevents common turf diseases.
  • It reduces or eliminates fertilizer needs. Grasscycling provides about 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn per year.
  • It cuts down on watering needs
  • It eliminates the disposal of grass clippings and leaves.
Instead of using fertilizer, why not use compost?
Having a compost bin is an easy thing to do. It isn't just something that people in rural areas do, suburbanites and apartment dwellers can do it too! You can compost with a small compost bucket under your sink (complete with lid and filter, no odor), you can compost with a backyard bin or you can build your own composting system. The possibility's are endless. Here are some commercial composters and here is a link to a great composting guide.

Smart Watering can also cut down on the amount of chemical you use on your lawn.

Watering your lawn, on average, accounts for 40 to 60 percent of residential water consumption during the summer months. This makes lawn maintenance not only a chore but also a drain on the pocketbook and water supply. What is worse, is that much of the water applied to lawns is never absorbed by plants.
The greatest waste of water is from watering to often or too rapidly.

Water applied too rapidly is lost as runoff, which may carry polluting fertilizers and pesticides to streams and lakes. Water is also lost into the air when applied as a spray, especially on hot afternoons.

What do do?
Water infrequently yet thoroughly. In the absence of rain, most ground covers will benefit from a very thorough, once per month watering (during the growing season). Saturate to a depth of 8" to 10". This watering schedule will create a deep, well-rooted lawn that efficiently uses the water stored in the soil.
Your watering practices should be influenced by the weather. Decrease the amount and duration of your watering during cool or humid conditions and skip a scheduled watering after a moderate rainfall.

Water during the "right" time of day. If you water early in the morning it will prevent mildew diseases and it will cut down on evaporation. The type of soil you have will determine how often you should water and how much you should water.

Here is a link on how to determine the type of soil you have and how to water accordingly.

Set your sprinklers so that you are actually watering the plants and not the driveway. Use timers and/or moisture sensors to prevent over-watering. Soaker hoses deliver water directly to the base of the plant, reducing moisture loss from evaporation. A sprinkler head should spray large droplets of water instead of a fog or fine mist, which wastes water by evaporation and wind drift.

No comments: