Suburban Ecology: Ban chemicals from your yard

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There is no place for chemicals in my yard. We are always barefoot on our lawn, we have a dog and honeybees. The lawn is green, but certainly not weed-free. I try and pull out the most annoying weeds, usually after a good rain. Crab grass and ground ivy. If there is a spot where the lawn does not do well, I plant white clover.

Don’t over-water, mow high (3-4 inches), aerate annually in the fall, and feed the soil not the plants. And seed. Soil is the key to a healthy lawn.

Water long and deep and infrequently. Let your lawn get hungry and send down deep roots. Leave grass clippings, they are fertilizer. Why remove them and then bring in more organic matter? A mulching mower is great, but a regular mower is fine, too.

If, like my husband Max, you hate dragging lawn clippings into the house on your feet, don’t mow before a rain. Dried clippings disappear fast.  And yes, seed now. Our winters start later now, so seeding this late is a good idea. 

I fertilize my garden beds with compost and mulch, and plant densely so I don’t need to mulch too much.  Soil once almost impossible to dig now is black and rich with worms and easy to work.

If I were to spray any leaf with an insecticide, I’d risk losing my whole beehive. So we live with some bugs. Sometimes, spraying them with a soapy mixture does the trick. But actually, those aphids are hummingbird food, so I usually let them stay. In fact, about 85 psercent of the insects in your garden are beneficial. Let loose on some with herbicide and you lose them all. 

It is a bad idea to expect and want a perfectly manicured, bug- and weed-free landscape. I spray the weeds between the cracks of my brick patio with a vinegar blend I mix up. It works almost as well as glyphosate (the main ingredient in RoundUp), and is not linked to cancer.

Glyphosate works by blocking an enzyme pathway that allows plants to form amino acids, the stuff they need to grow. It also keeps them from taking up the nutrients they need from the soil. It weakens the plant. It does the same to your dog.

While we all now have trace amounts of glyphosate in our urine, our pets have up to 5,000 percent more. This dramatically increases their chances of getting lymphoma, and a host of other problems.

The sooner we can collectively wrap our heads around the idea of a living landscape, the better off we all will be. We must understand the impact of our actions, in our lives and in our gardens.

Just as we continue to strive for wellness in our bodies, so should we in our landscape environment. I believe we need to treat our world better. I know it will return the favor.

Carolle Huber is a local landscape architect, and a founder of Grow It Green Morristown. See more of her blog posts at www.carollehuber.com

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I think this is such an important message! When the kids were little running around barefoot, I realized that the my lawn became a weekly danger zone with “hazard -keep off” signs. So, I stopped the madness and the Money. Now my lawn is green, healthy with clover and grass all mixed together – and no more hazard signs. No more poison going into our water supply. No more feeding the chemical companies.

  2. Thanks for publishing this. I wish Carolle could do a monthly organic backyard gardening column. I, for one, would love the advice.

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