This is my ORGANIC vegetable garden.
I know, AMAZING, right??!!!
And this is a picture of my ORGANIC lawn. Look closely and you will see beautiful clovers!
And this is a picture of a remnant of the caution sign posted at my neighbor’s house following the spraying of pesticides. I wish I took the picture the other day when the tape ran across the driveway with the little flags warning of pesticides, but I ran by so fast trying not to breathe that I forgot to take a photo for future use.However, lucky me, I just found this stationed outside another neighbor’s house:-(
And this is a picture of a perfectly manicured lawn made perfect thanks to synthetic herbicides and pesticides.
Before you decide which you prefer, let me make you aware of the true cost of a manicured lawn.
In the beginning of the summer, the NYT published an article entitled, The Toxic Brew in Our Yards. In it the author explained,
“The United States Fish and Wildlife Service says homeowners use up to 10 times more chemicals per acre than farmers do. Some of these chemicals rub off on children or pets, but most are washed with rainwater into our streams, lakes and rivers or are absorbed into our groundwater. These are the sources of our drinking water, and tests show these chemicals are indeed contaminating our water supply.”
She goes on,
“Many chemicals that we use very casually on our lawns cause long-term health problems in ways that have only recently been understood. They “disrupt,” or throw out of whack, the endocrine system, made up of glands and hormones that control almost every aspect of our bodies’ functions.”
While so many (yay!) are starting to wizen up to the inordinate amount of toxic chemicals sprayed on produce, unfortunately, too many are ignoring what is happening in our own back yards. Norman Rockwell we ain’t anymore. Forget those wistful, Americana images of children rolling on the lawn, playing ball barefoot or sitting under a tree reading (wishful thinking in my house…) Instead the ugly truth, all of us, no exceptions, are over exposed to glyphosate, carbaryl, malathion and 2,4-D, a derivative of Agent Orange!!
But before you freak about your health or panic imagining the demise of your perfectly, coiffed, emerald carpet of a lawn, I have good news. Yes, your lawn will start to look like mine– a picture of natural perfection, but as you all know I subscribe to “beauty from the inside out,” the same can be said for your lawn.
Meet Mike Harmon of MH Organics, the company we hired to maintain our lawn. MH Organics is one example of many companies sprouting up across the country to help change the tide and hopefully our perception of beauty when it comes to our lawns.
Here is what we do at my house so that all who come to visit can safely play in our yard and eat the most flavorful vegetables– as good as Italy!! Because without my ORGANIC lawn, I could not have a true ORGANIC garden!
According to Mike, organic lawn care is not about achieving the perfect green, but about improving and building the soil. That is the goal– achieved by using products derived mostly from the earth and ocean. It is all about feeding and improving the soil biology so that over time the soil biology maintains the lawn for you. Sounds kind of like a well functioning immune system to me!! Like a nutrient rich body, a nutrient rich soil will:
- improve drainage
- relieve compaction
- improve resistance to heat and drought stress
- create a heavier root system that improves resistance and recovery from pest and disease pressure
ALL OF THE ABOVE WITHOUT HARSH, TOXIC, LIFE THREATENING, WATER DAMAGING, SOIL ERODING CHEMICALS!!!!
Here is the how and while the cost of organic lawn care is a little more expensive at first, Mike promises me it ends up costing less overtime–
- gluten meal (a high nitrogen fertilizer)
- feather meal
- fish fertilizer– not emulsion (poop), but hydrolyzed fish where the entire fish is ground up– a little bit of everything in it provoking a much better response.
- Humate– a million year old compost comprised of humic and fulvic acid, harvested from ancient lake beds. Humate builds organic matter in the soil and stimulates microbial activity. Or dress the lawn with really good compost which works the same way as Humate.
Fertilizers and soil conditioners depend on the soil biology, insects and earthworms, etc. to digest and release the minerals and nutrients in a form that the plants can easily consume. This is referred to as “nutrient cycling” and the more nutrients are available for consumption, the less run off and leeching into the water supply– JUST THE OPPOSITE OF CHEMICALS!!! With chemicals, there is just not enough cycling of the nutrients hence escalating water contamination.
Also, as for the pesky clover, it is not so pesky. It is actually beneficial as clover transforms nitrogen from the air into a form plants can use. It is essentially free fertilizer!! In addition, it invites beneficial insects and maintains a green color even in drought.
2. Botanical Oils as Pesticides
- neem (for trees, but only if really necessary because it is very strong and will kill bees and NEVER KILL A BEE– that is a whole other post on the pesticide threat to the bee population. We can not survive without bees pollinating!)
Botanical oil use is all about timing. Unlike conventional counterparts which kill everything in sight both good and bad– like antibiotics in our gut– both good and bad bacteria are destroyed–botanical oils are only sprayed when insects are mere nymphs after hatching or applied directly to eggs. The oils target those that are harmful while sparing the insects we need to do their jobs…like BEES or perhaps lady bugs.
Finally, what about those signs left by the pesticide companies? The ones like the picture above that say leave up for 24 hours? The ones most of us never heed?? PLEASE…take some time and ask your lawn/tree company to give you a copy of every pesticide label that is being applied and explain what it is and how long it is present in the soil or on the foliage. As a consumer, do not assume it is only 24 hours because of a little sign. Every product is different. Organic products are a safer choice but that does not negate doing your homework. Awareness is key. Sometimes waiting 48 hours is recommended although with botanicals the wait can be as little as one hour!
The kicker– this is for all my friends spending time in Long Island, I discovered Long Island uses more chemicals than any other area in the nation and there is only one aquifer for drinking water! If you think you are protected because your home relies on town water rather than a well…guess again. Town water is well water…just a bigger well!!
Go back to the pictures of my lawn. Then look at the picture of the perfect idealized lawn and NOW tell me which one you prefer.
As always beauty is in the eye of the beholder and to me, natural is always more beautiful. Even if we do not agree on aesthetics perhaps take one for the team. It is never too late to go…ORGANIC.
For those on Long Island feel free to reach out to Mike Harmon of MH Organics. Thanks to Mike, I am doing my share to help the environment and to protect my family. How about you?
Happy rest of summer!!!