The blooming of forsythia shrubs and the sprouting of tree leafs signals the beginning of the lawn care season and the many critical decisions to grow strong, resilient grass this spring. This year, seven retailers in Kane County alleviate the anxiety lawn care may bring by eco-labeling effective organic and natural lawn care products and tools.
“For many, management of lawns starts at the point-of-purchase,” said Ruth Kerzee, Executive Director of the environmental non-profit Midwest Pesticide Action Center (MPAC). “Natural lawn care products not only benefit the environment, but may provide essential nutrients and organic matter for healthy soil and turf growth that synthetic chemicals do not.”
The seven eco-labeling retail participants that span from Aurora to C
arpentersville (see bit.ly/MGGpopmap) use distinguishable green shelf tags to identify natural lawn care products (see image to the right). The labels arrived just in time for National Lawn Care month and the Kane County Healthy Places Coalition’s (KCHPC) focus on limiting toxic exposure of lawn pesticides to children, pets, and wildlife.
“The KCHPC promotes environmental health through collaborations like this eco-friendly lawn care labeling program that assists community members in avoiding exposures to potential hazards such as lawn pesticides,” said Theresa Heaton, Director of Health Promotion for Kane County.
Of the 30 most used lawn pesticides, studies have linked 13 to probable or possible carcinogens, 13 to birth defects, 21 to reproductive effects, 15 to neurotoxins, and 26 to liver and kidney damage.
“These pesticide risks are of high concern for our communities in Kane County, particularly for our children who are still developing and exhibiting different behaviors to adults such as rolling around in the grass and putting grass in their mouths,” Heaton said.
Managing weeds and ensuring a green, healthy lawn does not require synthetic pesticides and the associated health and environmental risks if lawn managers pay attention to grass health and needs.
“MPAC advocates for a natural lawn care approach that stresses and addresses the root causes of weed and pest problems such as poor soil drainage, nutrient deficiency, or soil compaction, as opposed to the symptoms of just applying a weed or pest killing product,” Kerzee said.
All seven Kane County retailers from hardware to home improvement stores feature brochures from MPAC’s Midwest Grows Green education initiative that cover the basics of natural and proper lawn care. The labels displayed on shelves point out natural pesticides and organic fertilizers, but, also, tools essential to the natural lawn care approach such as soil tests, electric mowers, manual weeders, and rain barrels.
“Your grass requires more than just nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. It wants space to grow strong roots and proper time to develop fully. Steps such as adding organic matter from compost, aerating twice per year, and mowing no lower than three inches will nurture your grass,”Kerzee said.
MPAC’s Midwest Grows Green website includes more information about natural lawn steps and practices (see bit.ly/MGGweb). For updates on retailers involved in the lawn care eco-labeling program and other natural lawn care work in Kane County visit the Kane County Healthy Places Coalition’s website.
A couple of easy steps to manage your lawn naturally, effectively, and safely include:
• Water Deeply and Infrequently: This encourages deep root growth. Aim for one inch per week. You can easily measure that amount by placing a cup in your yard while watering. You’re done watering for the week when the cup fills one inch deep. Water early in the morning to minimize disease problems.
• Mow High: Keep your lawn mowed at three inches or higher. This increases root strength and naturally shades out weeds, so your grass withstands drought and stays green longer. Don’t mow unless needed.
• Use Organic Fertilizer: Commercial fertilizers easily wash away, polluting nearby lakes and streams. Many contain toxic weed killers. Choose an organic fertilizer to capture and deliver nutrients in the lawn throughout the growing season. Keep grass clippings on the lawn as they provide an excellent natural fertilizer.
• Weed Naturally: Proper lawn care maintenance naturally eliminates most weeds. Annual reseeding gives grass an advantage over weeds. Avoid using pesticides, as they can harm other beneficial living things such as bees, birds, and fish. The right tool makes quick work of weeding. After pulling weeds, use grass seed and soil to fill in the hole. Your grass will grow strong and healthy as a result.
Interested in more ways to keep you lawn and home landscape healthy and safe for children, pets, and wildlife? Take MPAC’s Midwest Grows Green pledge and receive up-to-date natural lawn care tips, resources, and updates. For more information, go to bit.ly/MGGpledge
Midwest Pesticide Action Center
Midwest Pesticide Action Center is the only Midwest organization dedicated to protecting people and the environment from the serious impacts of pesticides. Based in Chicago, Midwest Pesticide Action Center works to implement long-term policy changes and to develop innovative, model programs for indoor and outdoor pesticide use reduction.
For more information about Midwest Pesticide Action Center and Midwest Grows Green please visit www.midwestpesticideaction.org
About Kane County Healthy Places Coalition
The mission of the Kane County Healthy Places Coalition is to engage all interested community members in assessing interest and issues for improving overall community health. It is an essential health partnership to reach the 2030 Kane County vision: “To have the healthiest residents in Illinois!” The health of our indoor and outdoor environments is integral to the health of everyone, particularly our children. The Coalition is formed by participants from diverse community sectors: municipal governments, hospitals and health providers, fire departments, child care providers, community groups, non-profits, private corporations, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Kane County Health Department and many others.