Employ Organic Lawn Care Practices to Reduce Negative Impact of Chemicals

As spring arrives, our thoughts often turn to gardening and yard work. Along with thoughts about which trees and bushes need pruning and what type of flowers to plant come thoughts of a nice green lawn.

This is the perfect time to consider how our lawn care practices are affecting the environment. Often, we don’t realize the multi-faceted impact of our lawns.

One of the major concerns is the impact that herbicides have on animals and wildlife. Our own pets are being affected by these chemicals.

Studies show that lawn chemicals are being detected in dogs, even among dogs in residence where chemicals were not applied. These chemicals can spread to neighboring homes and can be detected more the 48 hours after application. Researchers believe these chemicals are linked to bladder cancer in dogs.

Dogs are not the only animals affected. Cats generally have a wider home territory than dogs and can expose themselves to a greater area. Our pets track these chemicals into our homes, which can affect our health and the health of our children.

Insects are also negatively affected. The effects on pollinators are especially concerning. Bees, specifically, are directly affected by these applications. Dandelions are integral to bees’ survival, as they are the most valuable early spring wildflower for bees.

If a bee hive survives the winter, the bees will be safe from starvation if they can stay alive until the dandelions bloom. Bees collect pollen and nectar from plants as their food source. They make honey from the nectar and pollen is their sole protein source, which they also use to make food for their young.

As you may have heard, our bees are in trouble. Researchers have been looking for answers to Colony Collapse Disorder for some time. Scientist are warning that exposure to chemicals is one of the reasons for declining bee populations.

This is a serious problem because bees do a lot more than just produce honey. It is estimated that honey bees pollinate approximately 15 billion dollars’ worth of American crops. Bees pollinate crops like apples, melons, broccoli and cranberries. Blueberries and cherries are 90% dependent on bees for pollination and almonds depend 100% on honey bees.

Bees also collect pollen from clover and plantain weeds. By waiting to cut our lawns until the flowers from these wild plants have bloomed, we can positively impact the local bee population.

The pesticides that are toxic to bees can remain for weeks after application. Not only is the bee that is exposed to the pesticide likely to die, but the whole hive (up to 60,000 bees) could also be killed. When the bee returns to the hive with toxic pollen which is then fed to the young, the entire hive is in danger.

Rather than using spray, employ organic gardening methods. Don’t worry about a few weeds in your lawn, they’re not going to hurt anyone. But that herbicide or pesticide that you may be using certainly could.

Did you know that many people react to chemical sprays, especially those with auto-immune issues? Many asthmatics also have bad reactions to lawn treatments. Others may feel ill, have an allergic-type reaction or unexplained rashes.

All of those chemicals wind up in our ground water, which contaminates well water and drinking water. Eventually they make their way, along with pesticides and fertilizers, to pollute our lakes and streams. The residues of these chemicals can be found in our tap water.

The overuse of synthetic fertilizers is contributing to serious contamination of our water supply as well as damaging our soil. It is important that homeowners and professional landscapers realize the impact these products are having on our health and environment.

Using herbicides on driveways, sidewalks and parking lots adds to the already high levels of these chemicals in our environment.

If you are determined to spray, look for sprays that are less toxic to bees and wait until evening when the bees are no longer foraging or even better, wait to spray until the flower has wilted.

Better yet, change your mindset about your lawn. Having a green lawn all summer uses up valuable water supplies — a luxury that we still have in the Great Lake State but one that won’t last forever, especially if we continue to pollute our fresh water supply.

Most Americans don’t have pristine lawns all summer long and that’s okay. It’s just a perception that we need to have unnaturally green grass. As long as our kids and pets have a soft place to play and run, does it really matter if there are some dandelions or some drier patches?

The quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil we grow our food in is so much more important than the way our lawn looks.

Try using organic practices and give the herbicides and fertilizers a break. Sit back and enjoy your dandelions, knowing that you are positively affecting not only your family’s health and the health of your neighbors but also the health of our planet.


Originally published in The News Herald column Food for Thought by Theresa Edmunds.