Is it getting more difficult every year to drag out your lawn mower and get the mowing done? Are you questioning the amount you’re spending on fertilizer and pesticides as the budget get tighter?
You can reduce the time and money you spend on your lawn dramatically. All you need is a new way to look at your lawn and how you manage it. You can:
- Reduce the amount of lawn you have. The vacated areas can be filled with flowers, shrubs, vegetables, or drought-resistant native plants that require little upkeep.
- Create an organic lawn without using pesticides and fertilizers. Cut the grass high, leave the clippings on the grass, water deeply and infrequently to create deep roots, and allow clover, moss and other plants to creep in. Pull dandelions by hand with a sharp tool, if you don’t like them. They’ll be gone in about one year.
- Let part or all of your lawn revert to a meadow.
Ecologist F. Herbert Bormann urges people to consider having a “freedom lawn.” It allows for the natural growth of grasses, clover, wildflowers, and other broad-leafed plants. Freedom lawns are better for the health of people and the planet, Bormann, author with others of the book “Redesigning the American Lawn: A Search for Environmental Harmony,” told me in an interview.
Industrial lawns, loved by Americans for decades, surround most homes. The industrial lawn is a carpet of green lawn with grass species only, cut short and maintained by use of large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides.
Industrial lawns have a high environmental cost, he said. Mowers pollute the air and contribute to the greenhouse effect. Clippings fill already crowded landfills. Chemical pesticides threaten human and animal health, and fertilizers threaten water supplies and use scarce fossil fuels.
Americans spend $40 billion annually tending 60 million lawns, according to an article in the Chicago Sun Times.
More than $2 billion worth of pesticides are sold for use on American lawns annually. Homeowners use 10 times more pesticides per acre than farmers do, Bormann’s book reports. “Chemical pesticides used in lawn care are designed to destroy or control living organisms and may therefore pose a threat to many forms of life, including humans and their pets,” he said.
About $1.7 billion is spent on lawn fertilizers lawns annually. Costly fertilizers often can only be partially used by plants and the nitrogen is lost as a gas or in drainage water, Bormann said. These releases contribute to greenhouse gases or cause water pollution.
“We can have freedom lawns at a much lower environmental cost,” he said. In “Redesigning the American Lawn,” Bormann lists the advantages of freedom lawns. They:
- Provide a home for many species of plants, animals, and microbes.
- Clean water before it returns to streams and groundwater.
- Reduce global warming by net removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
- Have no impact on local landfills.
- Have no impact on global fossil fuel supplies.
“With freedom lawns, the bothersome things about industrial lawns would be lessened,” he said. “We as individuals want a better and cleaner life. A responsibility goes along with that. The responsibility is to be more clever about how we manage lawns.”
Bormann, a botanist who enjoys observing plants of different colors and shapes proceed through the life cycle, says freedom are more interesting and fun.
Here are resources to help you with lawn care:
“Fertilizers and Pest Control” – Safelawns.org
“30 Commonly Used Pesticides” – National Coalition for Presticide-Free Lawns
“Lawns, Grasses, and Groundcovers, Vol. 1” by Lewis and Nancy Hill – Rodale Press
“Poisons in the Grass” – Natural Therapies for Chronic Illness & Health Maintenance
Tomorrow's post on The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide will offer comments on Using Native Plants in Your Gardens Saves Time, Water, Money.