By: Heather Skyler
Let’s face facts: lawns are not good for the environment, but they are pretty. Is it possible to have your lawn and eat it (um…I mean walk barefoot in it) too?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, home lawns produce a significant amount of run-off water contaminated with pesticides and fertilizers, which can be toxic to humans and aquatic life. And the typical gas-powered lawnmower produces six times more pollution per hour than a car.
Now that a ban on the cosmetic use of pesticides is in place, it’s definitely time to figure out how to get an eco-friendly and sustainable lawn.
With that in mind, here are some tips for creating a more eco-friendly lawn, as well as suggestions on the best seasonal lawn care.
1. Seeding: First of all, if you don’t yet have a lawn in place, pick a good mix of seeds to begin. Use drought-tolerant grass seeds and be sure to use a mix, rather than one variety. It’s a good idea to over-seed the lawn in the spring and fall, because a thick lawn will crowd out weeds.
2. Watering: Lawns need about an inch of water a week. More than that and you’ll starve the soil of oxygen, promoting disease. A good way to ensure one inch a week? Place an empty tuna fish can beside your sprinkler. When it’s full of water, that spot is done! It’s best to water early in the morning or in the early evening, never in the heat of the day.
3. Cutting: The best mowing height is two to three inches. If your lawn is small, consider using a hand-powered mower. You’ll save money on gas, help out the environment and get some exercise in the process. Whatever type of mower you use, make sure the blades are sharp. Dull blades will tear the grass, making it more prone to disease. Alternate directions each time you mow. Leave grass clippings on the lawn. They’ll act as a natural fertilizer by returning necessary nutrients to the soil.
4. Fertilizing: Once a year, either in the spring or fall, apply a top layer of organic fertilizer to your lawn, such as: cornmeal; compost; fertilizers containing bone meal, dehydrated manure, fish emulsion or seaweed; or compost tea. (Compost tea is made by combining compost and water in a bucket and stirring it once a day for several days)
5. Controlling weeds (without pesticides): One way to “control” weeds is to accept having some in your lawn. Many people call this type of lawn a “freedom lawn,” and what could be more American than that? If you can’t stand the weeds, try getting them out the old-fashioned way, on your knees with a spade. You can also pour boiling water onto weeds growing between patio stones. Corn gluten meal also acts as a natural weed preventer, but don’t put it on new grass seedlings because it will kill them. Consider replacing some of your grass with native plants, which will require less water and won’t typically require any type of pesticides to thrive.
6. Aerating: Aeration requires removing plugs of dirt from your lawn so that air, water and nutrients can reach the roots. You’ll want to do this once a year to help prevent thatch and insects, and to have a generally more healthy lawn. You can rent an aerator, hire a landscape company to do the deed, or buy those cool shoes with the spikes and walk back and forth.