Put down all chemical weapons this season.
Make Love, Not War in Your Yard This Spring
By Melissa Grieco
Pullquote: There is no such thing as a safe pesticide.
Notwithstanding the fact that Rye and environs are currently blanketed by a thick layer of snow and ice, spring will arrive in less than a month’s time. As temperatures slowly rise and the thaw begins, our lawns and landscapes will begin to emerge from underneath their wintry blanket.
As property owners also emerge from their seasonal (and pandemic-induced) hibernation, a uniquely suburban ritual will get underway in American yards across the country. That of the weekly lawn-care “battle” which begins as soon as the first patch of green grass becomes visible. It entails the use of heavy, loud machinery such as gas-powered mowers and blowers, and it involves a slew of “chemical weapons” too.
Many homeowners outsource the care of their yards to landscaping companies. As a result, they are often unaware of the dangers of the chemical cocktails being applied to their properties during a typical “weed and feed” visit and pay little heed to the significance of those little yellow warning flags left behind after the trucks leave.
However, there is no such thing as a “safe” pesticide. In fact, lawn chemicals have been linked to cancer, liver or kidney damage, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption and birth defects in humans and increased cancer rates in dogs. After all, it only makes sense that formulas and compounds that are designed to poison and kill plants, insects, molds, and other living things could negatively impact humans and other mammals too.
A typical chemical lawncare schedule that many landscapers follow goes something like this:
Early spring (March to April): Spray pre-emergent herbicides to all grassy areas (aka lawn). Pre-emergent herbicides such Asoxadiazon, Prodiamine, and Surflan are designed to kill weeds before they sprout. If grub damage was observed during the previous year, coat lawn with a grub control insecticide such as carbaryl or trichlorfon.
April-May: Check for snow mold damage and use a lawn fungicide if necessary. Apply a high-nitrogen, fast-release chemical fertilizer such as 22-4-4 to promote a lush, green lawn. Administer fertilizer once or twice a week. Combine application of 22-4-4 with continuing application of pre-emergent herbicide.
May: Treat whole lawn with post-emergent herbicide weed control.
June-July: Whenever and wherever an errant summer weed, such as an unsuspecting dandelion, is spotted, douse it liberally with glyphosate-based herbicide.
August: Consider using more grub control insecticide if grub population warrants it. Check for chinch bug damage due to hot, sunny conditions, and if damage is visible, apply insecticide containing Bifenthrin across the entire lawn.
September-November: Apply fall fertilizer with high ratio of both nitrogen and potassium.
All in all, this adds up to a whole lot of chemicals being added to your turf on a regular basis. These toxic substances can be easily inhaled or absorbed through skin when walking barefoot outside, which is why licensed professionals are required for the application of some common lawn chemicals. These individuals must don protective equipment such as gloves, masks, and hazmat suits in order to reduce their exposure.
Furthermore, the weekly ritual of conventional lawncare is an unnatural cycle that leads to an ever-increasing dependency on more and more chemical inputs. This inevitably undermines the health of the turf, soil and immediate eco-system and its ability to rejuvenate and replenish itself.
The use of lawn chemicals is also harmful to beneficial insect species and our wildlife. For example, several grub control insecticides are acutely toxic to bees and pesticides can affect birds’ ability to care for offspring, causing their young to die. In addition, lawn chemicals can runoff and enter our waterways due to heavy rain or the use of irrigation systems where they harm fish and other aquatic animals and contaminate our drinking water.
So, instead of letting your landscaping company come armed for battle in your yard this season, why not consider asking them to ditch the conventional “mow and blow” plus “weed and feed” lawncare methods. By switching to natural and eco-friendly practices such as reducing turf size, mulching leaves, and using grass clippings as natural fertilizer, it can be a healthier and more peaceful spring for all.