Pledge Your Yard as a Pesticide-Free Zone! Organic lawn and garden care is friendly to pollinators, birds and humans. Going organic doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice an aesthetically pleasing lawn and it certainly doesn’t mean that you have to devote long hours to tending your lawn. It DOES mean planting what will do well in our climate, watering deeply but infrequently and finding safe alternatives to expensive fertilizers and harmful pesticides. Here are a few steps you can take to ‘Go Organic’:
1. Test your soil to determine what organic supplements you should add to make it healthy.
You can do this through the Cooperative Extension Service at a state university or soil lab. There are a few to choose from in Connecticut, including the The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven. Directions on where to send your CT soil samples and more information can be found at: http://www.ct.gov/caes/cwp/view.asp?a=2336&q=378202. Since laboratories tend to give recommendations for fertilizer in the chemical-based form, ask for recommendations for organic fertilizer. Garden centers also sell digital pH test kits for home use.
2. Use organics and natural fertilizerssuch as leaves and compost to add nutrients to soil. You will be building soil microbes – adding nutrients instead of synthetic fertilizers, which disrupt soil biology and pollute with runoff into waterways. The use of the weed-killer Roundup is toxic and dangerous with the active ingredient glyphosate and 2,4-D, derived from Agent Orange. Leave grass clippings, when you mow, as they decompose within a couple of days and supply the lawn with substantial nitrogen and organic matter. Organic fertilizers don’t harm pollinators, birds, animals or humans and are biodegradable, sustainable and environmentally friendly. Beyond Pesticides recommends looking for compost or organic slow release fertilizers at your local nursery or order online. The Gardener’s Center in Darien supplies products for organic landscape management including organic fertilizers which include these brands: Espoma, Dr. Earth, Neptune’s Harvest and Safer Brand. Down to Earth’s Bio-Turf is also recommended along with a Bonide Burnout weed control product.
3. If your soil is hard, compacted and full of weeds or bare spots, aerate it to reap the benefits of more air, water and fertilizer reaching your lawn.
It’s time to aerate your lawn, if it is so compacted that you cannot stick a screwdriver easily into your soil. You will need to aerate less often once you have established a healthy lawn. Worms and birds pecking at your soil will aerate it for free.
4. Purchase grass seed and overseed bare patches to ‘crowd out’ the growth of weeds.
Other options for weed control are: pulling weeds by hand, applying corn gluten meal as a pre-emergent to weed prone areas or using a flame weeding machine with a targeted flame that kills weeds. For really pesky weeds, spray them with horticultural vinegar, or acetic acid. Cultural practices like maintaining healthy soil, using at least two native turf grasses, proper watering and raising your mower blade so that the grass is three inches high, after mowing, are key to weed management.
5. Contact local organic lawn and garden care companies fora consultation and services.
We suggest John Distasio, at Bee Green Lawn & Land Care in Norwalk (203-554-6184) and Paul Fujitani at Growing Solutions (203-403-6552) who also serves Fairfield County.Both can help you make the transition from chemically treated to organic, pesticide free lawns and gardens.
P.O. Box 164, Rowayton CT 06853
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