The Southern Nevada Water Authority and water purveyors throughout the southern and southwestern part of the U.S., have long advocated against having massive water intensive lawns. The option to not having turf is a landscaping pallet made up of indigenous plants that are able to survive on the amount of rainfall that is normal to your area. These plants can range from groundcover to trees that are classified as drought tolerant. In addition to providing color and texture to your property, a well designed landscape will attract birds, provide needed shade and cut down on the Heat Island Effect.
Even with this type of planting you still must control weeds that invade your property. So what are your options, bending over (or kneeling), to pull weeds by hand or spraying them with herbicides.
A recent study from the University of Southern California found that young infants and toddlers exposed to weedkillers within their first year of life are four-and-a-half times more likely to develop asthma by the time they are five and almost two-and-a-half times more likely when exposed to insecticides. The studies go on and on that link childhood exposure to chemicals to cancer, asthma and learning and developmental disorders.
Lawn Fact: During a typical year in neighborhoods across the country, over 102 million pounds of toxic pesticides are applied in pursuit of a perfect lawn and garden. This figure, up from 90 million pounds in the year 2000, continues to grow despite the growing body scientific evidence of the public health and environmental consequences. Source: Beyond Pesticides
In addition to the concerns of human direct contact with herbicides and insecticides there is also the issue of downstream polluting. When chemicals are sprayed over large surfaces such as turf, large quantities are needed to accomplish the goal of either fertilizing or killing weeds. These large quantities of chemicals build up and are not completely absorbed into the plants or soil, so when sprinklers water the lawns or during normal rain events, these chemicals are washed out of the lawns into the storm systems and carried to lakes, rivers and streams. Many times these bodies of water, as is the case with Lake Mead outside of Las Vegas, are the main source of drinking water.
Children and lawn chemicals don’t mix!
- The National Academy of Sciences reports that children are more susceptible to chemicals than adults and estimates that 50% of lifetime pesticide exposure occurs during the first five years of life.
- EPA concurs that children take in more pesticides relative to body weight than adults and have developing organ systems that are more vulnerable and less able to detoxify toxic chemicals.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) cites that over 30% of the global burden of disease in children can be attributed to environmental factors, including pesticides.
- Studies show that children living in households where pesticides are used suffer elevated rates of leukemia, brain cancer and soft tissue sarcoma.
- A 2005 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that students and school employees are being poisoned by pesticide use at schools and from drift off of neighboring farmlands.
So, is the option have to have an ugly, weedy lawn? No! The National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns has some easy tips you can use to create a healthy lawn.
- Make sure your mower blades are sharp and keep your grass height at 3 to 3 1/2 inches.
- Some weeds are the result of using poor quality grass seed. Make sure you use the proper grass seed for your region.
- Many “weeds” have beneficial qualities. For example, clover takes nitrogen from the atmosphere and distributes it to the grass, which helps it grow. Clover roots are also extensive and very drought-resistant, providing resources to soil organisms. It also stays green long after your lawn goes naturally dormant.
Is an occasional dandelion, knotweed or clover cause for alarm? No! Dandelions’ deep roots return nutrients to the surface, crabgrass provides erosion control and the virtues of clover were addressed above. And by not using chemicals on your lawn you are helping your children, pets, neighbors and our planet live a healthier life.
Need some non-toxic gardening tips?
- Visit Loving Natures Garden. Alison Kerr will give you the inspiration you need to keep your garden green.
- Another wonderful site is Ecosystem Gardening – Carole Brown is ready to help you Create Wildlife Habitats and Protect the Environment.
Know the health and environmental impacts of the products you’re using to improve your lawn and garden. Check out Beyond Pesticides (formerly National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides) works with allies in protecting public health and the environment to lead the transition to a world free of toxic pesticides. The founders, who established Beyond Pesticides as a nonprofit membership organization in 1981, felt that without the existence of such an organized, national network, local, state and national pesticide policy would become, under chemical industry pressure, increasingly unresponsive to public health and environmental concerns.
- Rodale News-Chemical Free Solutions for Grass (matilijasyh.wordpress.com)
- How Important Is Organic Gardening to You? (bethtrissel.wordpress.com)
- The great (big) American lawn (persquaremile.com)