Lawn chemicals are minimal or nonexistent


What is this?

We ask that folks cut back on weed-and-feed and the other fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides that have become so heavily advertised for lawn care over the past several decades. Common fertilizers – organic or not – are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) and are always listed in this order by percent weight on the fertilizer bag. For example, a 3-1-2 fertilizer contains 3% nitrogen, 1% phosphorus and 2% potassium. Commonly used pesticides include ingredients such as the carcinogen 2,4-D and the nervous system inhibitor diazinon.

How do I do this?

On my own

  1. You can have a lush, green lawn with fewer chemicals. With the following tips, you can begin to create a lawn that, for the most part, delivers its own nutrients and pest control.
  2. Note: depending on the condition of your lawn when you begin this approach, it may take  a few seasons to achieve premium results. Also, every neighborhood and property owner has a different expectation for what a lawn should look like. Some demand the pure green rugs that modern advertising has successfully declared to be socially obligatory. Others allow a few weeds here and there. Still others embrace dandelions and a more “natural” look.
  3. Intense core aeration reduces compaction and allows grass roots to grow stronger. It can happen in spring or fall and is available through most landscaping firms.
  4. Spread a quarter-inch layer of organic compost over your lawn to provide the ingredients needed for a healthy lawn and living soil. This is especially beneficial after your lawn has been core-aerated.
  5. Mow at a good height of 2 ½ to 3 inches so grass roots can become longer and stronger, and weeds are shaded out. Leave clippings on the lawn for the nutrients they provide.
  6. Water, if at all, once a week for one full inch. This will create deep resilient grass roots. Water in the morning – not evening – to prevent disease.
  7. If you do use chemicals, it's less expensive and more effective and healthier to treat a specific issue rather than the whole lawn. If you still feel compelled to use a weed-and-feed program, simply reduce treatments to one or twice a year, or cut your application rate by half. You will probably be pleasantly surprised with the results.
  8. When applied properly, corn gluten does a good job as both a crab-grass preventer and fertilizer and it's free of synthetic chemicals. Use these corn gluten tips.
  9. You might prefer to simply replace some turf grass with native trees, and shrubs or perennial gardens.
  10. If it’s been a long time since you’ve added grass seed to your lawn, consider a high-quality overseeding in the fall, especially if you have bare spots.


Hire some help

If you use a lawn care company, ask about ingredients used and don’t be surprised – or misled  – by “green” claims and assurances of safety. Request they use the above methods when caring for your lawn. Some companies are taking substantive steps toward becoming eco-friendly so this might be a good year to shop around.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • Note: Lawn needs and timings vary greatly by location and turf type, so first make sure which kind of grass you have. In Lake County, most of our grasses our cool season grasses.

    What fertilizer will you use on my lawn?
    The answer should be a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer – recommended ratios of N-P-K are 3-0-2. The only time you might want to add phosphorus is for newly seeded lawns. The best lawn product is high quality compost. Corn gluten can be a nice fertilizer as well as a crabgrass preventer if applied under the right conditions.

    How will you cut it?
  • (This information coming soon)

    How will you control lawn weeds?
    Weeds are signs of poor soil health. Your service should first focus on creating conditions for a healthy lawn with the previously mentioned mowing, watering and fertilizing recommendations. Then, if there are bare spots or the grass is thin, they should add a high-quality premium grass seed in early spring or fall. Occasionally, problems will still come up that require special management. Your service should start by identifying the problem, looking at control options (both mechanical and chemical). If using chemicals, they should choose carefully and follow all label directions while treating only the problem areas.

  • Aeration?
    Absolutely. It’s great for compacted soil. Make sure they use an intense core aeration method – simply poking holes in the soil will not reduce compaction. It’s even better when they follow this up with a thin layer of compost.

Why is this important?

If you cut back on lawn chemicals, your lawn will be healthier for people, pets and wildlife, and streams and lakes will be cleaner.

The majority of lawn pesticides are linked to cancer, birth defects or other serious health problems, and are listed as toxic by the Environmental Protection Agency. Children and dogs are particularly vulnerable as they inhale air-borne ingredients or absorb them through their skin.

Also, when it rains, a great deal of lawn fertilizer washes into storm drains and is carried to streams and lakes. There, it causes algae blooms, heavy weed growth and serious problems for fish, tadpoles, turtles, dragonflies and other aquatic life.

If your lawn has been treated regularly with such products, your soil most likely supports very little life. Many pesticides and fertilizers damage the microorganisms that are essential to healthy soil. Healthy soil, in turn, allows for strong root growth and adequate nutrients for your grass. It also suppresses disease and can reduce pests.

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