Over the last ten or fifteen years our obsession with lawns has gained serious momentum. What’s better than a back yard baseball game on a lawn that resembles the outfield at Fenway Park and there is no doubt that a vast sprawling green lawn accentuates the appearance of our homes and many would say even increases our property values. However, what most people don’t know is that as we’ve become more and more obsessed with the appearance of our lawns we’ve created a significant environmental concern. In 2007, the EPA estimated that we use about 173 million pounds of pesticide active ingredient, which usually comprises around two percent or less of most store-bought solutions, for non-agricultural lawn care alone. The chemical business has absolutely gone through the roof when it comes to creating that nuclear green lawn and based on the plethora of television commercials for weed killers and lawn fertilizers and it doesn’t look like the momentum is slowing.
Or is it.
Upon going to Home Depot to pick up some bags for our gardening video blog, I discovered that this store didn’t carry a single organic lawn fertilizer. Curiosity piqued, I searched online for organic fertilizer on the Home Depot website. A couple random garden fertilizers came up but only two were labeled organic. Interestingly enough the Home Depots in Ontario, not only carry organic fertilizers but that`s almost all they carry. Absolutely no chemical synthetic pesticides or herbicides are sold in Home Depots in Canada. But once you cross back over the border into the states, the organic products disappear from American Home Depot shelves without a trace. Anyway, if you would like greater variety in your organic lawn care needs (or if you even wanted to hire someone) I’ve compiled a list of stores and products with a wider range of selections than the promising choice between Scott’s Organics or Converted Organics. And hey, while you’re at it why not tell them that LEAH sent you?
By Catherine Wachs
It’s practically a ritual in Westchester. Spread fertilizer on the lawn in the spring and fall, maybe even twice more during the summer, so it stays a bright green. Add limestone to keep the soil alkaline, to increase nutrient uptake. Apply a pre-emergent to control the weeds. Spray Roundup and pesticides when needed.
This ritual took hold in the late 1950′s. Up until then, lawns weren’t that big a deal. People just mowed and either put up with weeds or hand pulled them. Quite a few people were growing food in their “victory gardens” wherever there was space and sun.
Just after World War II, when all the G.I.’s were buying homes, the lawn became the mandated symbol of community pride. Not so coincidentally, the factories producing nitrogen for bombs needed another way to make profits. Enter chemical lawn fertilizers.
Bags of these fertilizers combine nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, the main minerals needed for plant growth. (The 3 numbers you typically see on fertilizer bags, e.g. 5-3-5, represent N-P-K: nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium.) These minerals are usually present in sufficient amounts in your soil. The commercial fertilizers give your lawn a super dose of growth promoters. So super that your lawn will look thick, lush and bright green in a matter of days. But this creates problems.
Residential lawns might seem tiny in comparison to vast acres of agricultural land or swaths of highways and strip malls. But grassy areas like lawns, public parks, playing fields and golf courses actually make up nearly a quarter of Maryland's land, and the fertilizers we apply to this so-called "turf" contain nutrients that are harming the Chesapeake Bay. The good news, though, is that with simple, low-cost fixes to our turf management, we could see significant gains in clean water and a healthier bay.
By Arthur Williams
The Canadian Cancer Society is asking city to ban the use of pesticides on lawns and gardens, citing serious health risks associated with the chemicals.
Young children and pregnant women are most at risk from the chemicals used to control weeds, fungus and insects, Canadian Cancer Society spokeswoman Kerensa Medhurst said.
Better products are truthful in their marketing claims and free of potentially worrisome ingredients. Some products might make claims like "gentle" or "natural," but since the government does not require safety testing, personal care product manufacturers can use almost any chemical they want, regardless of risks.
(Karl Tupper, 2011-02-22) I can't tell you how many times I've been asked for figures on pesticide use — it must happen at least once a week. "How many pounds of pesticides are used in the U.S. each year?" "Is pesticide use going up or down?" "What's the most commonly used insecticide in the U.S.?" and so on. The best I could do was point to 10-year old numbers.
But last Friday, EPA finally released updated sales and usage numbers. The agency used to produce a report summarizing national pesticide use every two years, but not long after Bush took office they stopped coming out. Now that report is back, though it only has figures through 2007.
And what does it say? Here are some highlights:
On March 22, 2010 the environmental health group Grassroots Environmental Education released a reportcomparing the relative costs of maintaining a typical high school football field using a chemical-intensive program and a natural (organic) program over a five-year period. The report, prepared for members of the New York State legislature, concludes that the annual cost of maintaining a field using natural products and techniques can be as much as 25% lower than the cost of conventional programs using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.