Non-Toxic Lawn Care
There are several reasons to re-think the way we care for our lawns. The phosphates in fertilizers contribute to blue-green algae blooms in Lake Champlain, and the chemicals in pesticides and fungicides can pose a hazard to our families, pets and the environment.
Listed below are resources to help you manage your lawn and garden in ways that will keep it both beautiful and healthy.
Before applying fertilizers, why not save yourself some money and have your soil tested to determine what it needs.
The University of Vermont provides soil tests for a small fee, and results are available in five to seven business days. Click here for forms and additional information.
The Natural Resource Conservation Service has instructions on how to collect samples for testing.
Fertilize without Fertilizers
Compost is 100% natural, cheap, and it won't contribute to phosphorous run-off in the lake. Visit NWSWD's composting page for information on how to make your own compost.
Another alternative to fertilizers is vermicompost tea. It's made by adding worm castings to water and pumping air through the water. Sprinkle the water on areas that seem in need of an extra boost as well as houseplants and gardens. Vermicompost tea kits are available from most area gardening supply outlets.
The simplest way to fertilizer your lawn is to leave the clippings where they fall. Microbes, worms and other fauna involved in decomposition will break those clippings down into an ideal mix of nutrients for your grass.
Beat Back Weeds
The simplest way to beat weeds is simply to mow high (3-4 inches). Longer grass will shade the weeds, depriving them of the sunlight they need to prosper. Cutting too low can also weaken your grass plants. The blades are where the plant makes its food and if they're too small the grass will grow faster to compensate. This fast growth uses up resources the plant could be using to make new plants.
Watering infrequently, as strange as it sounds, actually makes for stronger grass plants. The plants are forced to grow their roots in search of water, and dig down deeper than most weeds can manage, leaving the weeds more vulnerable to a dry spell than your grass.
Lawn to Lake has information on how to minimize the impact your lawn has on Lake Champlain.
The National Wildlife Federation's Guide to Gardening for Wildlife.
How to Attract Birds to your backyard.
Vermont Master Gardener program . Information on becoming a Master Gardener as well as articles about gardening and lawn care.
Less Lawn provides information on reducing your lawn and the time and resources involved in maintaining it.
Join the Million Acre Challenge at Safe Lawns and pledge to keep your yard chemical free.