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Your Lawn and the Environment

Your Home and the Environment

Lawn and Garden

Reducing Herbicide Use

Yes, more manual labor—hand-weeding—is one way to reduce the amount of herbicide we use, but there are a couple of other tricks you can use, as well:

  • Mulch heavily with an organic mulch such as shredded cedar, straw, cocoa hulls, or compost. This will help keep down the weeds and help the soil stay cool and retain water. These materials will eventually break down, adding nutrients to the soil and reducing the need for fertilizers.
  • Arm yourself with a variety of weeders to make weeding easier and more effective. These include dandelion weeders, wing weeders, stirrup weeders, and cultivators, among others.
  • You can also fight weeds with heat: pour boiling water on them or hit them with a flame weeder.
  • Pull weeds before they go to seed to avoid their spreading.

Reducing Fertilizer Use

There is one point that often gets overlooked in the battle over chemical versus organic fertilizer: too much of either adds to the run-off problem affecting our lakes and rivers. Acre for acre, studies show that urban areas are responsible for more run-off than farms. Here are some ideas for alternatives to fertilizer and for safe use of fertilizers:

  • Mulch gardens with compost, this reduces weeds and enriches the soil.
  • When purchasing fertilizer, get one appropriate for your needs and buy only as much as you need.
  • To reduce runoff, follow the package directions for application rates, and apply fertilizer only on a calm, clear day.

Avoid Being a Slave to Your Lawn

It is possible to have a lawn that doesn't require constant fussing and fertilizing. Using these techniques can save you time and money and reduce the amount of water and chemicals your lawn requires:

  • Leave the grass long. This shades the roots, reducing water requirements.
  • Leave the grass clippings on the lawn. They will decompose quickly, returning nitrogen to the soil.
  • Avoid frequent light waterings, which contribute to shallow root growth. [Note, this is what causes thatch, not clippings left on the lawn!] During the growing season, lawns should get one inch of rain or supplemental water per week, preferably in just one or two applications.
  • Aerate the lawn annually to avoid compacted soil and allow water and air to reach roots more easily. Use a core aerator, which pulls plugs from the lawn, not a spike aerator.
  • Grow grasses appropriate for your area and growing conditions. They will be less fussy than imports not suited for your soil and climate.
  • Plant a mix of grasses. Monocultures are more likely to be totally wiped out by weeds, insects, drought, or disease.


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