The Whole Healthy Yard
By Melanie Cane
Everyone wants a beautiful yard, but at what cost? The Rye Sustainability Committee addressed that question at a Healthy Yards/Healthy Pets talk at Pet Pantry October 16. Guest speaker AJ Johnson, Rye Nature Center’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, informed listeners about the health and environmental hazards of toxic chemical lawn applications (pesticides), lawn mowers, and leaf blowers. He also offered practical and often less-expensive alternatives.
The bad news is that pesticides and other traditional ways of maintaining your yard, such as gas mowers and leaf blowers, are hazardous to your and your pet’s health, as well as the environment. Pesticides can poison you, your children, and your pets, and it can be acute or chronic. Johnson cited several articles linking the chemicals in various pesticides, including those in flea and tick preventatives, to cancer, seizures, and serious illnesses in people and animals. Even if you do not spray your lawn, he noted, your neighbors’ applications can contaminate your property. He instructed people (and their pets) to stay off grass that has been treated with pesticides for at least 48 hours.
The good news is that you can create and maintain a sustainable yard that will spare your health and the environment, as well as save you money in the long run by staying local — literally. “Plant native grasses, create borders with native plants to obviate runoff from your neighbors, rake instead of blowing, and mulch, mulch, and mulch some more,” he advised.
Johnson recommends several varieties of native grasses, little and big blue stem, and switch grass. To trap pesticide drift, he suggests planting native shrubs and perennials, such as chokeberry. For homes that do not have space for borders, planting sacrificial beans or tall switch grass work without taking up much space. Home Depot sells native grass seeds and, starting in May, Rye Nature Center do so as well.
He left the audience with two more tips for a healthy yard: water deeply but not too often, and mow frequently but not too short.
For more information, go to ryesustainability.com or visit Mr. Johnson at the Rye Nature Center.
Members of the Rye Sustainability Committee at the Healthy Yards presentation with AJ Johnson