By Katie Marks, Networx
There's nothing quite like a sweep of emerald-green lawn, is there? It's a beautiful thing to see, but unfortunately, lawns are often laden with toxic chemicals: harsh chemical fertilizers; nasty herbicides to keep down weeds; and pesticides for creatures that can call a lawn home and ruin it in the process. But your lawn doesn't have to be that way -- you can have a gorgeous green lawn without the chemical heartbreak.
A frank word first, though: generally speaking, lawns are not inherently environmentally friendly, because they require so much water. Especially if you live in an area where drought conditions are common, I encourage you to consider reducing the size of your lawn or eliminating it entirely. You could plant a drought-tolerant herbal groundcover to replace it, creating the green look without establishing thirsty turf.
That said, if you want a lawn and you accept the fact that the high water usage is always going to be an issue, you can take some steps to mitigate it. Work with your plumber on keeping your lawn's water consumption down.
For example, water in the morning, and consider a drip watering system rather than sprayers. This delivers water right to the roots of the grass and minimizes losses to evaporation. By watering in the morning, you ensure the water gets to the plant instead of vanishing in the heat of the day, and you limit the chance for mold and mildew development (which can be a problem if you water at night). Water less frequently, too, to force the grass to put down deep roots and search for its own water.
You might also want to consider rainwater irrigation or a greywater recycling system. By collecting water that would otherwise go to waste, you're reducing the environmental load of your lawn.
And as for taking care of that gorgeous lawn of yours? Step one: throw out any lawn chemicals you might have (by which we mean: take to a designated hazardous waste processing facility, please!). Not just because they're not environmentally friendly, but because they can be unhealthy for you and for animals around the neighborhood.
Now, let's talk about how to fertilize a lawn as well as controlling weeds and pests, the natural way.
Biopesticides are getting popular. They use naturally-occurring substances and organisms to target lawn pests without causing collateral damage -- nematodes, for example, can limit lawn pests and keep grass looking healthy. As with anything you apply to your lawn, though, make sure you follow directions and read warning labels carefully to ensure you use them correctly and safely.
Organic pesticides are also available, using natural, eco-friendly ingredients that are safe for children and pets. You can even make your own at home; for example, dishwashing fluid can be ideal for controlling pests when applied in a water solution.
Organic fertilizers are, of course, recommended, and they should be applied exactly as directed on the packaging to avoid an excess of fertilizer. Make sure you actually test your soil to see what it needs first, to make sure you'll applying the right mix. While too much of a good thing doesn't sound possible, it can happen with your lawn! You may notice fertilizer burns if there are too many nutrients on the lawn, and runoff from your lawn could pollute local waterways, causing algae blooms and other problems.
Did you know that humble Epsom salt can actually be a great lawn fertilizer and pest control tool? Spray an Epsom salt solution on the lawn and water as usual to watch your grass grow more healthy, and you'll notice that insect pests are also less likely to come around.
You may not have thought about it this way, but weeds are messengers. You know that old saying to "bloom where you're planted"? That's how weeds feel. The composition of the weeds in your lawn can provide information about what kind of soil lies below, and if you adjust the soil conditions with fertilizer and amendments like compost, you should be able to eliminate the weed problem.
We've got even more tips on weed control right here.
Finally, consider cutting the fossil fuels. Lawnmowers eat tons of fuel, and pump out tons of pollution. Cut the gas dependence with a manual mower or electric version; and consider the fact that some grass varieties grow more slowly and low to the ground than others, which can cut your mowing responsibilities down.
A lawn doesn't have to be an ecological disaster area with these tips, and you can work with a landscaping service on establishing the look you love without a high environmental cost.