Chemical-free lawns

May 21, 2008 lawanda Newspaper Columns

      Face it.  You KNOW that synthetic chemical fertilizers and herbicides are bad for the environment and for your own health.  Those little white signs that lawn care companies place on the lawns warning people to stay off aren’t kidding.  But your lawn is addicted and you’re afraid that if you give up the chemicals dandelions will run rampant.  Not so.

      Synthetic treatments kill soil microbes and earthworms essential to a healthy organic lawn.  Excess fertilizer runoff enters our waterways and kills fish and causes algae blooms.  And exposure to these chemicals is linked to numerous human health problems including neurological damage, hormone disruptions, cancer and Parkinson’s.

      Fortunately, there are ways to have a healthy lawn without synthetic chemicals.  There’s no point in weaning your lawn off them; it’s got to be done cold turkey. 

      The first, and easiest step in maintaining a chemical-free healthy lawn is to adjust your mower’s cutting height to its highest setting, typically 3-4”.  The taller grass blades do more photosynthesizing which produces more root growth.  That makes for better access to water and nutrients, resulting in a healthier, more drought tolerant lawn.  The taller grass blades also shade out germinating weed seeds.

      Never cut more than 1/3 of the height of the grass blades to avoid stressing them.  Keep your mower blade sharp and leave the cuttings on the lawn to provide free nitrogen and organic matter.  You may have heard that leaving the clippings on the lawn contributes to thatch, but that is not true.  Fresh clippings on the lawn stimulate earthworm activity and that breaks down thatch.

      If you still feel the need to treat your lawn with something, either for fertilizer or weed or insect control there are several companies that produce organic products for do-it-yourselfers.  One of the best is Gardens Alive which has been in business since 1984 and can be reached at 513-354-1482 or  While the organic offerings at stores like Stein’s aren’t as numerous as the synthetic ones, there is some shelf space devoted to them, and it will likely increase as more people become aware of and purchase them.  There are also a few commercial organic lawn care companies in our area and some of the “chemical” companies offer organic alternatives if you ask.

Organic gardening

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