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CREATING A HEALTHY ORGANIC LAWN
AS MORE COMMUNITIES BAN CHEMICALS
BY
ANNA MAY KINNEY


Tell me, how can there be so much of a difference in weather conditions from one year to the next? Last spring we had one of the driest springs I have ever seen, this year everything is still so wet that you cannot turn over the ground, weed or do anything in the garden and just forget about the greenhouse for another week.
 
          Most of us can’t wait to get out the lawnmower and neatly crop out our lawns, but before doing your first major cutting you might want to consider a few things.
 
          Even when you don’t see standing water, grass growing on a well-soaked lawn can be easily pulled out roots. It’s best to wait a couple of extra days to allow the ground to dry, and when you do mow, remember to set the cutting blades at their highest settings.
 
Yes, the grass will have to be cut sooner, but it will help prevent loose rooted grass from being pulled out. We really don’t want to create more bald spots along the way.
 
Everyday you hear that another community has banned the use of lawn chemicals, the big question people are asking these days is “Can you have a chemical free lawn that is not a mess of weeds and bugs?
 
The answer is not a simple yes or no, but IF. The first step to a chemical free lawn is doing what it takes to make it healthy, because a healthy lawn will not be as attractive to bugs, or weeds.
 
If you are willing to change the way you look at weeds, bugs and the microorganisms that nourish your lawn and realize it will take patience to make the change from the quick chemical fix-all to natural healthy alternatives; then YES you can have both, a healthy attractive lawn without chemicals.
 
Bugs must be looked at as bird food; increasing your bird population can control many of them, and you can take a few simple steps to help your feather friends find the pesky bugs.
 
A good example is the Japanese Beetle, they have two life cycles a year and appear as grubs in both spring and fall. Birds adore eating them, but they can be a challenge to find amongst the thick grass, but you can help.
 
Simple mix 2 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap in one gallon of water per 1,000 square feet and spay once a week.  The grubs will come to the surface, where the birds will be able to see them and have a feast. Adult beetles can be hand picked, mashed or dropped into soapy water. Or you could have a few guinea hens running around in your yard eating both grubs and beetles.
 
Many weeds can be easily controlled with a little hands-on attention. Take the annoying dandelion; with a two-year life cycle the young plants can be dug out quickly with a little handheld garden fork, during their second year, you will probably need a larger weeding fork, but once dug out they will not come back.
 
If you have children, teach them how to dig, offer them a reward for every plant removed. No kids, enlist your friend’s kids, neighbor’s kids or grandchildren, it is amazing how many dandelions a few kids can find and remove in an hour when they are motivated. Remember this kind of work maybe hard on an older back, but it can be a lot of fun for the younger generation, but do make the reward something worthwhile.
 
Unable to remove all the plants, at least go around and pop off the flower heads before they have a chance to turn white and fluffy and reseed the entire yard.
 
There are other great advantages to having an organic, chemical free lawn, those dandelions can be used to make a tasty homemade white wine, a delicate jelly or served as salad greens, a great source of phosphorus, calcium, potassium and vitamin A.
 
New research at the University of Iowa has shown that a relatively new organic herbicide, corn gluten meal, can over a three-year period to produce a weed-free lawn. Test results concluded that during the first year 60 percent of weeds where eliminated, 80 percent the second year and 90 to 100 percent were gone by the third year. A few companies offer corn gluten meal in palletized form containing nitrogen and potash, but it is not an easy product to find and you may have to have your local garden center order it for you. Just think, the more people who go organic, the greater the demand for safe products, resulting in local stores stocking a greater variety of alternatives at a lower cost.
 
An alternative to fighting crabgrass and other invasive weeds is planting perennial rye grass. The rye grass is a vigorous grower competing for space, it smoothers out most grass type weeds and at the same time emits a natural poison which is a great insecticide for some small, damaging bugs.
 
If you still think that Chemical fertilizers and herbicides are safe, take a long hard look at the warnings on the side of the bag. People who would never let their children roll over in a pile of manure are letting small kids lie on lawns treated with all kinds of dangerous chemical. Researches are linking the use of these chemicals with a form of childhood leukemia, so maybe it’s time we take a look at what the enemy really is. A few dandelions never hurt anyone.
 
There is a nonprofit organization called American PIE (Public Information on the Environment) 124 High St., Box 340, Glastonbury, CT  06073-0340; Phone: 800-320-2743
 
Try to remember a healthy ‘living’ lawn; one full of all kinds of microorganisms is really your best defense again most broadleaf variety of weeds, such as quack grass, creeping Charlie and dandelions.
The End.