Lawn care is an amazingly popular gardening pastime in America and there are millions of acres of different types of lawns all over the country.
The American population spends billions of dollars on their lawns every year because:
- A good looking, well-kept lawn will add value to your property.
- Lawns provide a nice, soft, mat-like surface to walk on and for children to play on.
- Lawns help to quiet noise.
- Lawns reduce dust and help to control erosion, particularly on sloping ground.
- And they also do their bit to reduce carbon dioxide (CO₂) levels and so improve air quality because all plants need CO₂ to survive. We breathe it out and the lawn takes it in.
But when it comes to lawn care, the majority of people still use chemicals in the form of harmful pesticides and herbicides to keep their lawns looking good. If you look at the products that are on the shelves you will see that most of them are highly toxic. For example:
- Mecoprop (MCPP) a common herbicide used in “weed and feed” type fertilizers and also to control broadleaf weeds is classified as slightly toxic by the US Environmental Protection Agency. But there are signs that it could be carcinogenic to humans.
- 2,4-d is one of the most widely used herbicides in North America. It is thought to be carcinogenic and is illegal in some places as a result.
For more information about the dangers of pesticides and herbicides visit the Pesticide action Network North America (PANNA).
The importance and benefits of organic lawn care
One of the greatest environmental concerns relating to toxic pesticides and herbicides is that they soak into the soil and leach into the groundwater and contaminate it. If the toxic chemicals dissolve in water, they may also run off into streams when it rains.
Other concerns relate to the chemicals polluting the air. While you may not consider this to be a potential hazard, if a pesticide has a high vapor pressure then it will easily make its way into the air after it has been applied. With this goes the danger of people and animals inhaling the toxic vapors.
Another thing is that pets (particularly dogs and cats) and children playing on lawns that have been treated with toxic chemicals are immediately exposed to the potential hazards that go with them, both by touch and possibly inhalation.
Now if organic or natural products are used, these dangers are immediately avoided.
Furthermore, while chemical pesticides and herbicides will control weed growth, they don’t do anything to help improve the soil conditions. Organic products on the other hand, often contain organic fertilizers and they stimulate and promote healthy root growth and improve soil porosity, helping to reduce compaction.
If you build a healthy soil using organic and natural products you may be surprised to find that you eliminate the need for toxic chemicals and other harsh, potentially dangerous measures.
Options for organic lawn care
In recent years, there is an increasingly avid interest worldwide in ecology and plants. People are concerned about the environment and about what man has done to it – and continues to do to it.
With this concern come 21st lawn care products that are non-toxic and non-pollutant. These include organic products that you can buy to control weeds in lawn and natural products that you can use to fertilize your lawn and keep it healthy all year round.
One of the new-age product types that has been around for little more than a decade uses corn gluten meal (CGM) as a herbicide in lawns. It targets perennial and annual weeds and stops their roots from forming, thus killing the plants. It is very safe to use and has no toxicity. Better still, this organic product breaks down in the soil and becomes a source of nitrogen which is so important in the soils that lawns grow in.
Vinegar may also be used as an organic herbicide, although it is not yet widely used.
Gardeners who use the organic approach also use heat to control weeds. A portable flamer will help you do this job with ease.
Then there are products that contain a combination of complex carbohydrates, both macro and micro nutrients, amino acids, enzymes, proteins, minerals, vitamins and all the essential trace elements a healthy lawn needs to thrive. But remember that the most important nutrients are potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen and that if the grass doesn’t get enough of these it is sure to deteriorate.
There are also many organic amendment on the market including compost (mushroom compost works wonders) and aged steer (or ox) manure. Although not normally available commercially, aged horse manure can be used with a top dressing.
If you attend to your own lawn, be sure to investigate which organic products are available in your area. Also be sure to follow a well-thought out maintenance program that takes the seasons into account.
If you use the services of a lawn maintenance company, make sure that they have an environmentally friendly approach and aren’t going to pump poisons into your yard.
The height you cut your grass to is another important element relating to lawn care, as is the method you use. Organic lawn care says “no” to mowers and other landscaping tools that are powered with gas. Instead use an electric mower, or better still a reel mower. Reel mowers are the type that you manually push. They are relatively lightweight, and because they don’t have any sort of engine, there is absolutely no danger of pollution. They also don’t make the same kind of noise that gas mowers make.
At the end of the day most people will agree that the best lawn care program will build a healthy lawn that:
- looks absolutely stunning all year round,
- is safe for children and animals, and
- is not expensive or time consuming to maintain.
Using organic products and following an environmentally friendly approach will help you to achieve all these requirements.