Making our lawns & gardens beautiful & safe for all
We are warned daily to eat organic in order to stay away from foods carrying risky residues from pesticides (bug & weed killers). And rightly so. Science-based evidence is piling up about the dangers caused by these toxic chemicals lurking in our conventional food supply, making it critical to avoid them by choosing organic & non-GMO foods.
But what about the use of these chemicals in our own backyards? The same synthetic fertilizers, bug killers, & weed control products creating human health risks and environmental damage in our food supply are also packed on home improvement store shelves for us to buy & use in our own yards.
Why is that so? It is simple logic that if these products do harm when we ingest them with our food, they are likely to be as big of a health concern as we come in physical contact with them on our lawn and in our gardens. Not only that, these chemical agents are endangering our ecosystems in all sorts of ways, so why would they be good to put all over our own grass, trees, & flowers?
Glyphosate, neonicotinoids, 2,4-D (Weed B Gon), Dicamba, among dozens of others, wreak tremendous havoc. They are linked to autism, cancer & auto-immune disease, taking down beneficial insects, bees and monarch butterflies at alarming rates, polluting our drinking water, creating massive algae blooms in lakes and river, and drifting onto & killing plants on neighboring properties, to name just a few.
So how does using seemingly minor amounts in your backyard and mine really matter? According to the American housing survey, there are over 125 million single family homes in the US. If every household is using a just one gallon of commercial fertilizer, pesticides and weed killers, it’s safe to say we are polluting our environment with MILLIONS of gallons of unsafe toxic chemicals. Think for a moment, where does all this stuff go? First off, we come in contact with it. When we play, recreate, barbeque and use our yards after its applied, we breathe the residue in. Our skin makes direct contact with it through our feet and hands. It comes into our homes on our shoes. Our pets ingest it. During rainstorms, the rest goes straight from our yards to the storm drains, into streams, then into to our local waterways and to rivers, aquifers, reservoirs, and oceans beyond. Hence, these dangerous pesticides invade every part of our life-sustaining eco-system.
Whether you struggle with weeds, pests, insects, or fungus in the care of your lawn and garden, there are plenty of ways to make your backyard (and front!) a truly healthy oasis for you, your kids, pets, and the local ecosystem.
- If you DIY, buy lawn and garden care products with OMRI label. You’ll be assured that you are taking care of your yard without adversely affecting your health or that of the local environment.
- Replace glyphosate (Bayer-Monsanto Roundup) weed killer, etc. with widely available lawn & soil care products from Jonathan Green, Dr. Earth, etc.
- If you use a lawn care service, find one that uses only natural products.
- Want to try homemade weed killer? Mix vinegar and dish soap with water; it does the trick in driveways or garden beds. Don’t use on lawns or you will kill the grass too.
- Want to fertilize the lawn, trees, shrubs? Choose products from Jonathan Green, Dr. Earth, or save money and use your own compost.
- Mulch each spring and supplement in hot days of August to keep weeds down & help your plantings retain water. Choose mulch that has not been derived from recycled wood sources unless the source is clearly labelled (wood pallets & construction debris can include unsafe heavy metals or chemicals).
- If making landscape changes, pick local plant varieties. They won’t need as much water or the insect & fungal treatments that non-native plant species (think tropical plants in northern climates) would need to thrive.
- For your landscape design, look for local naive plants that fit your home property site characteristics (i.e. shady or sunny, dry or wet, sandy or clay soil, etc.) for the least amount of intervention & care.
- Go wild. There’s nothing that says manicured is the only garden style. In allowing a portion of your property to be reclaimed as natural habitat, not only will you have less yard work to do, you create a welcome home for indigenous plants, insects, and birds desperately needing one.
- Use some of your yard to plant an organic vegetable garden. Trading in lawn care maintenance for a garden patch is a win-win. Pick easy to grow herbs & greens along with one or two of your favorite vegetables & you’ll have your own backyard bounty. Jersey tomatoes, yum!
- Water only when needed. If you have a lawn sprinkler system, use a water sensor or turn off for a few days whenever there’s a nice drenching rain. You’ll use less municipally treated water & save on your water bill.
Because, really, what is better than relaxing at home in your backyard in the summer? Whether it includes helping your toddler taking her first steps on a lush lawn barefoot, lying in the cool grass looking up at puffy clouds in a blue sky, or picking romaine or arugula from the garden for tonight’s dinner, knowing it’s safe for you, your family, and the local habitat makes it all the more worth it.