The following was inspired by the great Sierra Club hand out-and personal attention to the issue-which has made me physically sick. Spring is here and the chemical spraying/fertilizing madness has begun.... and it has become especially disturbing to see schools, hospitals, those who reside along lake-shore areas, and local government building properties buying into the nonsense! Read on....
Lawns On Drugs--Just Say NO!
Once upon a time, Spring was aglow and fragrant with the bright colors and sweet scent of benign beautiful plants like dandelion and clover, which had numerous culinary/nutritional values and medicinal properties. We made greens, salads and some even made coffee! After a long dreary and bland winter, awing at the avenues becoming a sudden corridor of color and sweet fragrance was a common and accepted sight in the mind.
Now the commercial lawn services came along and through their marketing methods have re-shaped our vision of how a lawn should look. They convinced us that anything other than a blade of grass is a terrible thing. “It must be destroyed or it will kill your lawn” they told you----And hence was born the lawn chemical company’s version of a lawn: A sterile patch of green with no signs of life--a mono culture.
Once we began to see all the diversity in our lawns disappear through years of spraying and fertilizing, we have been conditioned to think the lawn must look like marketing’s version of a lawn--and the moment a dandelion happens to reappear in this new sea of ‘green only’ yards--we freak out and run for the Round-Up, or worse, call the chemical guy again! Let’s try and un-condition the thinking that lawn chemical companies helped to foster: the mentality of a mono-culture lawn as a perfect and healthy lawn.
Is it really healthy?
Commercial lawn chemicals, despite claims by dealers as “being safe”, are not in the best interest of a healthier environment. Getting a lawn hooked on them like drugs, renders it virtually useless in fighting infection and pests on its own, as its "immune system" gets weakened, and therefore becomes even more susceptible to disease and/or pests these companies apparently set out to destroy in the first place! Adding chemicals to a lawn is not a magic bullet situation; the pesticides kill indiscriminately and kill many beneficial organisms within, and on top of the soil. Alternatively, a naturally healthy lawn is one where 95% of all organisms are beneficial.
With nature’s system of balance in the lawn absent from over-spraying, we have to rely on even more spraying of chemicals to do what nature used to do for free. Lawns are now becoming addicted to chemical fixes to remain artificially healthy. This scenario is analogous to a vampire needing blood to appear alive. By interfering with natural balance we often do more harm than good.
Here are some thoughts to consider about lawn chemical use:
* Phosphates from fertilizers getting into storm water runoff travel directly to our lake/water sources via storm drains after rains. Bad for aquatic life and health of lakes/rivers. Blue/Green algal blooms result from too much nitrogen/phosphate from fertilizers--when the blooms die, the algae rots and is consumed by bacteria which deplete water of oxygen, thus impacting aquatic life; and in particular the fishing economy. (Lake Erie-Perch fishing) Such causes bad odors results in huge dead zones in the lake and is very unhealthy for swimmers.
* Pesticides like 24-D (a defoliant used in Agent Orange), Diazinon, Dursban and others are all linked to cancer according to the USEPA.
* Chemical drift remains in the air days after application which contributes to respiratory irritation from fumes.
* Residue (petroleum based) from chemicals remains on lawn for days after application and can get tracked indoors despite contrary claims. Bad for you and your pet.
* Several US cities and many Canadian communities have either banned uses of many lawn chemicals or placed restrictions of their uses for mere cosmetic reasons.
Think about it, is all the above worth a green lawn? It is just a lawn; not a food source we are trying to protect from a devastating pest situation. It does not have to consist of grass plants only. We should de-program the images sold to us by lawn companies and try accepting another. A "weed" is not always a bad thing and in fact is just a name given to any plant growing outside its community of origin. “Going Green” does not mean your lawn has to stay green even in dormant times. If you still desire a mono-culture look of just green, consider the fact that there are many organic and safer alternatives to the chemicals to achieve this.
My next related article will deal with the concept of designing a yard/lawn that is not nearly as co-dependent on our water and oil resources. We will talk about a yard utilizing native plants, trees, and shrubs which "grew-up" and evolved locally without the help of people in any given place, thus making them more independent of water, fertilizers, etc. In the meantime, I recommend the following websites to introduce you to this concept. Discover how wonderful and full of good life your yard can be!