Is there really a way to maintain a lush, healthy, pest-free lawn
without using risky pesticides? More and more natural gardening
advocates are saying yes, it IS possible. If you have ever felt uneasy
about using chemical pesticides, today's column is a must-read!
Pesticides are, quite obviously, poisons intended to kill insects.
However, most pesticides affect vital biological processes that are not
unique to the target pests, according to an organization called the
Safer Pest Control Project (SPCP), based in Chicago, Illinois.
Pesticides can also be harmful to beneficial insects such as ladybugs
and praying mantises that are part of a lawn's natural defenses.
Also affected are microorganisms, the little guys that break down
organic matter that nourishes your soil.
Additionally, pets and children running barefoot on the lawn can track
pesticides into the house where they adhere to carpets and furniture.
Pesticides are regulated by the EPA and are subject to rigorous
testing. However, many concerned individuals and groups such as the
SPCP advocate alternative ways to achieve healthy, pest-free lawns and
You can download dozens of useful fact sheets about non-toxic care of
lawns and gardens at http://www.spcpweb.org/yards/ and you can click on
a direct link when you find this column under the Plant Man heading at
my Web site www.landsteward.org along with many other resources you
might find helpful.
So what can you do if you are leery of chemical pesticides? Among the
Don't water your lawn daily. A deep, weekly watering encourages deep
root growth for stronger grass that has less room for weeds.
Watering your lawn early in the morning allows the grass to dry before
nightfall, lessening the likelihood of fungus that thrives in damp
Be sure you have sharp blades because dull blades rip the grass,
weakening its defenses. Set the blades at a height of 3 inches as this
will increase root strength and shade out many weeds.
Use organic fertilizers
Many commercial fertilizers can get washed away before the lawn can use
the nitrogen, potentially polluting bodies of water.
I can hear a lot of eyebrows snapping up. "Add clover? I'm trying
to get rid of it!" The folks at SPCP recommend adding clover to your
lawn. Reason? It's drought-tolerant, immune to many diseases and
"greens up" all summer. Additionally, it just might distract
bunnies from nibbling on your perennials.
Seek out natural fertilizers, such as corn gluten that can be an
effective pre-emergent weed control. Here's the part you didn't
want to hear: Get a sturdy weeding tool and go after the weeds, but do
it for short periods on a regular basis, instead of trying to do it all
at once. I would suggest that you make this an early-morning activity,
before the sun starts baking your back.
Finally, says the SPCP, try not to focus so much on a totally green
lawn; instead make it your goal to have a healthy lawn that will
naturally resist drought and disease.
My personal opinion is that a naturally healthy soil is the best
foundation for lawns and virtually all other plants. I like to use
organically-based products such as Turf Tea Magic. You can probably
find it online by searching via Google, or drop me a line at
email@example.com and I'll forward you some information.
Correction: In a recent column titled "Vanishing bees: a problem for
gardeners and farmers" there was a typographic error in the Web
address for the Natural Resources Defense Council. The correct address
is http://www.nrdc.org/OnEarth and it's a great resource if you need
to know more about bees and the dangers of diminishing bee population.
My apologies for the error!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send questions about trees, shrubs and
landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org. For resources and additional
information, or to subscribe to Steve's free weekly e-mailed
newsletter, go to www.landsteward.org