Cutting Back on Lawn Chemicals

at 9:18 pm

Just as more extreme droughts and runoff issues are causing us to re-examine the ways we use water in our landscapes, a host of concerns are conspiring to cause many of us to cut back on our use of lawn and garden chemicals.

Still, we are less cautious about chemical use than our neighbors to the north. Canada recently enacted widespread bans on lawn and garden chemicals. For the story of how and why this happened, see fellow Lawn Reformer Paul Tukey’s documentary A Chemical Reaction. (Here’s my review.)

Even if you are not among those who are concerned about negative health and environmental effects of lawn and garden chemical use, you may be interested in cutting back simply for economic reasons. With less discretionary income, many families are reviewing and prioritizing household expenses, and a perfect lawn is a luxury some of us can no longer afford.

If you’d like to cut back on lawn chemicals, here are some strategies to consider:

Go organic — Maintain a fabulous lawn without the chemicals. For help, check out our page on “Lawn Care We Like” or consult Paul Tukey’s book The Organic Lawn Care Manual.

Try better-adapted grasses — Growers and researchers continue to develop native grass lawns, drought-tolerant lawns, slow-growing lawns, … do your own research and plant a lawn that will perform well with much less care.

Two examples of better-adapted lawn mixes:
Neil Diboll at Prairie Nursery developed No-Mow Lawn, a blend of fine fescues that perform well in the northern half of the US.

Mark Simmons and colleagues at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center developed Habiturf, a blend of native short grasses suited to arid southern and western regions.

Shrink your lawn — Eliminate lawn you don’t use. I’ve written plenty about this topic at the LessLawn website, and my fellow Lawn Reformers include experienced landscape designers, growers, TV personalities, and writers. For expert guidance, check out what what they are up to.

Tolerate broadleaf plants — Mow whatever is growing in the lawn. As I’ve written elsewhere, when you are running after a ball, you don’t stop to count the dandelions*. You may even want to encourage clover as a beneficial natural fertilizer for your lawn.

Retain/restore wilder areas — Why not share the land with other species, especially on a larger property? Wilder areas can be managed for invasive species and other potential hazards, while at the same time harboring wildlife and native plants in a healthy, sustainable living community. (Here are some resources and ideas to help you create/restore woodlands and prairies, as well as a list of my favorite books for making lawnless landscapes of different types.)

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