LAWN, GARDEN, & PEST










North Jersey Residents

You presently reside on my general Lawn, Garden, and Pest page, presenting information applicable to many or all parts of the United States. However, I also offer a page of North Jersey-specific Lawn, Garden, and Pest information and links. That page includes my master list of landscapers and pest controllers servicing North Jersey who use natural, organic, or otherwise healthy materials and methods. Prior to review of that local North Jersey page, however, I strongly recommend that you carefully read the general page at which you now reside.


Mosquito Control

Prior to examination of this page, you may wish to read my page of safe yet effective mosquito controls.


INTRODUCTION

This page presents extremely important health information, especially as pertains to environmental health, since this time of year finds many people applying various kinds of chemicals to their lawns and gardens, and using loud and polluting lawn equipment. Whether you presently realize it or not, all of these practices are extremely damaging to human health, especially the health of children, born and yet born.

For example, do you know what a "pre-polluted baby" is? And do you know why it so important for the health of your children and family to refrain from applying synthetic chemical pesticides and other lawn chemicals to your property? And likewise why you must even refrain from use of standard gas-powered lawn mowers and leafblowers? If you don't know the correct answers to these basic health questions, you'll want to carefully read through this entire web site, and in particular this page, as well as my Children & Elderly page.

Specifically, before even reading the page upon which you now reside, I strongly recommend that you invest the time to read carefully through my extensive home page, if you haven't done so already, then come back here. Without question, you'll be extremely glad you did, as reading the main body of health information on the home page will give you the background knowledge required to better and more fully understand the context and importance of the lawn, garden, and pest-specific information on this page.



IN-HOME PEST CONTROL

This page addresses problems of outdoor pests associated with lawns and gardens. For information on indoor pests, please click here.



INTRODUCTION

Alternatives to Monoculture

A standard green lawn is an example of something that actually doesn't often occur in nature:  a monoculture, which is an expanse of land containing one and only one kind of flower or plant. Can a green lawn be considered "unnatural," then? Yes.

Given the chemical and noise pollution generated by many people in maintaining a standard lawn, one might ask if there are alternatives to present a beautiful and satisfying yard and property. Indeed there are. First, you may grow low-maintenance wild grasses instead of a lawn, or simply allow a "freedom lawn" to develop, which basically means that you permit essentially anything to grow that begins to naturally grow. Alternatively, why not discover and explore Japanese suiseki, which is the study and enjoyment of naturally formed stones as objects of beauty, an elegant and beautiful "rock garden," as it were. And many of us are familiar with the serene and unusual beauty of the Zen garden.

A standard green, water-chemical-and-noise-intensive, suburbs-style lawn is not your only option, and in fact, in key respects, is your worst one.

Regarding noise, the Los Angeles Times states:

The best way to put leaf blowers out of business is to learn to love leaves. Forget the marigolds under the flowering tree. Forget grass under the tree. Instead, try keeping the shaded area under the leaf canopy mulched, and the tree will do what nature intended: become self-mulching. Soon you will have birds feeding on the worms and grubs in the mulch, and bird song instead of an 85-decibel roar."

(http://articles.latimes.com/2005/aug/18/home/hm-decibels18)



Three Strikes

As a competent and stalwart guardian of your family, and considerate neighbor, there are three areas of concern that you must properly address in effecting care for your lawns and gardens:

  1. Air pollution

  2. Noise pollution

  3. Use of toxic chemicals

Each is an extremely serious issue that directly affects your health, and that of your family, children, pets, neighbors, and natural environment. Happily, however, these concerns are relatively easy to address.

This new page you are presently reading addresses the issue of toxic chemicals. The issues of air and noise pollution are still largely addressed on my home page; please read those two sections first, then come back here.


Just Say No

Spring and Summer in the Northeastern United States and through much of the country, finds us bombarded through every media with every manner of solicitation, invitation, advertisement, and inducement to purchase the products or services of companies such as TruGreen/ChemLawn, Lawn Doctor, Davey Lawn Care, Scotts, Bayer, Orkin, Terminix, Western, or any number of other companies that manufacture, sell, and/or treat with pesticide products, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers, lawn treatments, mowing, pruning, and other lawn-and-garden related products.

You will also receive solicitations from local landscape and lawncare services to mow, trim, and treat the lawns and gardens on your property. Perhaps you already use a service or have a gardener.

However, it is critical to the health of your family, including your companion animals (i.e. pets), that you categorically decline all these marketing endeavors. Lawn and garden materials and methods must be of a specific kind to ensure health and safety for you and your family, not to mention our natural environment. In carefully reading this web site you will learn what desired materials to buy, where to buy them, in some measure how to use them, and who to hire to do it all for you, if you'd prefer to leave it to the professionals.

Leave your lawn and garden alone while you read and absorb the information at this site. Invest the time and you will reap unimagined rewards in preventing injury and enjoying health. Avoid my counsel at your own peril. If you have already begun treatments on your own or with a standard lawn care company, terminate or suspend these treatments immediately. Then, recast your landscape and lawncare efforts in full compliance with my recommendations, and you'll enjoy a green, beautiful lawn that will cause zero injury to you, your children, pets, neighbors, or environment, short-or-long term.


Dangers of Pesticides & Herbicides

Indeed, did you know, friends, that on July 7, 2006, consistent with the national trend against conventional pesticides, herbicides, and other dangerous chemicals, our sister town of Clifton, N.J. officially renounced use of pesticides? Clifton Mayor James Anzaldi said:

“As a matter of policy and practice, we don’t use pesticides in the maintenance of our city parks. We want to protect water quality and public health, especially the health of young children who are more vulnerable to the hazards of pesticides than adults”


Rose Colored Glasses

Doubters, the hopelessly naive, or those suffering from inertia might consider one of the most recent, credible, comprehensive, eye-opening, and especially potent studies pointing to the egregious harm caused by pesticides and other chemicals, the brand new Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging. This is an extremely important new and groundbreaking study, especially for preventing Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, as well as protecting general health. The study and the website that presents it are easy to read and understand--please take a cursory look, at least.


Break on Through to the Other Side

All the chemicals that you permit into your external environment slowly cross those loose barriers and infiltrate into your internal environment--your body and brain. For example, the synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or fertilizers applied to your lawn and garden by you or your "lawn care" company do NOT stay on your lawn! All research shows that these chemical agents "volatilize" (i.e. vaporize or become airborne) into the air where you breathe them in, they cling to the bottom of your shoes where you track them into your home, and your children and pets routinely come in contact with them if they walk on, lie on, or touch the lawn or the ground. Then, when your child eats their ice-cream cone, or your dog or cat licks their paws, they've just contaminated their bodies yet one more time with a residual amount of one or more chemicals that are likely toxic (especially to a child).

In concert with all the other toxins and pollutants your children will breathe in, ingest, or otherwise come in contact with during their childhoods and over their lifetimes, their "toxic load" (see above) will become heavy and the stage will thus be set for illness now or later, notably in the form of various cancers, asthmas, and other serious maladies. In fact, studies show that the average American carries about 500 synthetic chemicals in their bodies, that should most certainly not be there.

Don't permit any of this foolishness in your family.


TruGreen/ChemLawn

If you already use a commercial lawn care company such as Davey, Lawn Doctor, or especially TruGreen/ChemLawn, it is imperative that you acquire some insight into this latter company (and in some measure those like it) by reading the next section. Happily, there is simply no reason to use such companies, anymore. Several alternative lawn-care companies now exist that are fully committed to organic methods and materials, and plentiful Do-It-Yourself materials exist, now, as well.


Is TruGreen/ChemLawn a Reputable Company?

I want to be careful here because there are many people working for TruGreen and I certainly would never imply that they are all dishonest or criminal.

However, in the opinion of this writer, and many other people familiar with the operation and behavior of TruGreen/ChemLawn, including some of its own shareholders, believe it or not, those holding majority ownership of the company do not run it as a reputable one.

To wit:

FACT:  The New York state Department of Environmental Conservation announced a March 16, 2010 fine of a half-million dollars against TruGreen/ChemLawn. The violations were: misapplying pesticides, using uncertified or untrained workers, and keeping inaccurate records:

...an investigation into company records for 2007, 2008 and 2009 found "many instances" where pesticides were not applied under label directions. That included cases where pesticides were applied during high winds and near water despite directions against such use.

The company also paid a hefty state fine in 1999.

During the period when my next-door neighbor was a TruGreen/ChemLawn customer, about eighteen months ago, I personally saw this company treat his lawn at night, in the dark.

FACT:  In 2006, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office and Division of Consumer Affairs filed suit against TruGreen, alleging that the company violated the state’s Consumer Fraud Act by performing unauthorized lawn treatments in addition to other infractions. The New Jersey complaint alleged that TruGreen engaged in unconscionable commercial practices, made false promises and misrepresentations, and knowingly omitted material facts.

FACT:  Believe it or not, also in 2006 a group of TruGreen/ChemLawn's own shareholders (i.e. stock owners) petitioned the TruGreen board of directors to switch to natural lawn care materials since the ones TruGreen/ChemLawn was using were proven carcinogenic (i.e. cancer-causing) and toxic! The board refused, and TruGreen continues to use those materials to this day-on YOUR lawn.

FACT:  You can search the TruGreen/ChemLawn website until your dying day and you will NOT find a specific list or any specific mention whatsoever of the chemicals they use. Not even one. They simply won't tell you. They only reveal this information when compelled, as when they use a chemical and must tell the customer, and only the customer, what was used. The information appears in tiny print on the customer receipt or invoice. TruGreen/ChemLawn is obviously trying very hard, and succeeding, in keeping mum about the chemicals they use.

Contrast TruGreen/ChemLawn's secrecy with the candid, open, and overtly consumer-friendly approach taken by Scotts, a manufacturer of lawn and garden products, and even Wal-Mart, a mass-merchandiser, in readily providing Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) information on any and all of their products. The MSDS is the standard fact-sheet for a given product or chemical that provides health, safety, and technical information, important for consumers in assessing a given product or ingredient to determine if they consider it safe enough for purchase and use, and important for health care and emergency response professionals in order to know what kind of medical treatment to provide in case of an accident involving that product or chemical.

Reputable companies with nothing to hide routinely provide MSDS information up-front or immediately upon request. TruGreen/ChemLawn does neither.

What is it hiding? The report described above from the TruGreen/ChemLawn shareholders, themselves, answers this question. What this company is desperately trying to hide is the fact that so many of its products are toxic to you, your family, and your environment. TruGreen/ChemLawn is the largest sprayer of lawn chemicals in the nation (i.e. "lawncare provider") and they will do anything to keep it this way. They're especially reluctant to see this information publicized in view of the current climate of increasing concern by consumers regarding the toxicity and harm from toxic chemicals. No matter what they tell you, their actions clearly illustrate that your health is a decidedly secondary concern.

FACT:  On October 23, 2007, TruGreen Upper Saddle River, the branch that services all or part of North Jersey, was TERMINATED as a member of the Better Business Bureau:

"…this company's membership in the BBB was revoked by the BBB's Board of Directors due to failure to respond to one or more consumer complaints filed with the BBB."

(http://newjersey.bbb.org/)

The company remains terminated to this day.

Last season, I spoke personally with one of the TruGreen technicians who services North Jersey, telling him that a principal source of my concern with toxic chemicals being applied near my home was concern for my father, 81, suffering dementia. The technician promised to send me their list of chemicals but never followed through. He also promised to speak with my neighbor whose property runs contiguous with mine, to elicit permission from said neighbor to refrain from treating the portion of his property contiguous with mine. After receiving such permission, the technician was to call me. I received neither the promised call nor the list of chemicals used, so I began calling TruGreen Upper Saddle River, myself, trying to get a hold of this technician. I called about five consecutive nights, and each time I called, I was told that he had mysteriously been absent from work that day. I never heard from him again.

“The cruelest lies are often told in silence.” -- Robert Louis Stevenson.

TruGreen/ChemLawn...a reputable company?

Our colleague Tom Pote of Organic Turf & Insect (see below), told me that during the various classes and seminars he attends he has occasion to overhear the banter between TruGreen/ChemLawn technicians. He has heard them remark that their supervisors sometimes jokingly ask them, as they prepare for their rounds in the morning, "Are you ready to be castrated today?" This "joke" refers to the fact that the toxicity of the materials these technicians spray sometimes causes an actual burning sensation in their testicles.

These are the chemicals that you are permitting be sprayed on your lawn and around your property, that you, your children, and your pets are breathing in, and rubbing on clothing, shoes, hands, paws, and bodies as your children and pets walk, play, and cavort on your lawn.

…a reputable company?

Moreover, even if TruGreen/ChemLawn were a reputable company, it wouldn't matter because it uses exclusively synthetic materials on your lawn, made in a laboratory. Moreover, components of materials they use were likely subject to genetic engineering, and may also contain so-called "nano" elements, brand new atom-sized components that are completely untested on humans, animals, and the environment. TruGreen is literally playing God with their pesticides, and your life and health. Indeed, some persons with a religious orientation question or even object to this.

TruGreen/ChemLawn recently changed their name, dropping "ChemLawn" to become simply TruGreen. Arguably, however, if the company were honest, it would have dropped "TruGreen" to become simply ChemLawn, as that's what it is--a chemical company. There's simply nothing "green" about it.

TruGreen/ChemLawn employees please click here.


Update

Last night, Tuesday, April 28, 2009, TruGreen/ChemLawn treated two properties in my immediate neighborhood, both with pesticides, as both lawn signs read. One of these properties was my next-door neighbor's. The treatment occurred at 9:10 pm or later--in the dark. I know this with certainty since I went out at that time, and as of then neither lawn sign was in place, nor was any TruGreen/ChemLawn truck present. I would have absolutely noticed one or likely both of these signs as I drove away from my property last night, as 1.) I am constantly scouting for them in nervous anticipation every time I leave and return, and 2.) one of the signs is usually placed directly facing me as I drive down the street toward the corner, as I do when leaving my block and as I did last night.

I was told in recent conversations with a TruGreen/ChemLawn telephone representative (name available upon request) that there was a shortage of technicians, that their usual technicians from Mexico were not available, delaying treatment of North Jersey. This is likely why they were behind schedule in treating my neighborhood, and ultimately did so at night, in the dark.

But how can a safe and proper chemical application, avoiding overspray and other problems, occur with zero daylight?

TruGreen/ChemLawn...a reputable company?


REQUEST MANUAL TOOLS

Prior to reading the specific air-and-noise pollution information that follows, it is important that you read my general introduction to the problem of noise.

It is extremely important that you use, or insist that your landscaper or lawn-cutting service use, tried-and-true manual tools such as a rake, broom, and push reel mower, instead of the gas (or even electric) powered equipment that is usually used. Why? Two critical reasons, air and noise pollution, discussed above and on the home page.


Death by Leafblower

The ubiquitous leafblower is a serious and significant contributor to both noise and air pollution, including fine particulates. This fiendish device produces clouds of airborne dust and debris, often invisible, shown to contain any number of the hazardous elements, above, with one injurious addition: it shoots the entire toxic stew into the air, and does so at hyper-speeds of over 240 mph in some cases, depending on model. Imagine the force and velocity (i.e. speed) of a firehose, using air not water, and you'll have the idea.

Our air is polluted, causing injury and death, and the unwitting and uninformed collusion between your friendly neighborhood landscaper and his customers--is this you--is partially to blame. There are myriad credible resources on the Internet describing and documenting the real harms done to children, the elderly, and indeed everyone else including the landscapers themselves, through use of this obnoxious device.

Is your landscaper's name "Larry Landscaper, MD"? Or even "Larry Landscaper, PhD"?

Landscapers possess expertise in landscaping--not health. The fertilizers, chemicals, or other products they apply to your property are simply the products commonly available to them in the marketplace, of which the average landscaper knows absolutely nothing. Including their short and long-term health effects. They are likewise ignorant of the health effects of driving massive toxic clouds, often invisible, into your air with their leafblowers. Therefore, until you see the annotation "MD" or "PhD" at the end of your landscaper's name, you'd better look elsewhere for relevant health information.

Such knowledge is the province of health researchers, a smattering of doctors and other health professionals, and public health educators, like me. If you wish to prevent injury to your family, you must make the acquisition of this knowledge your concern, as well.

For the physical and psychological health of you, your family, and the neighbors around you, some of whom likely don't want the hyper-loud wall of noise produced by a leafblower force-fed into their homes, it is imperative that you elect for use of traditional tools and implements such as the simple rake and broom. These are reliable and effective; they've worked for thousands of years and they work today. If your landscaper balks at the requested change, find another landscaper. Or do the work yourself with your family--yard work makes a great wholesome weekend activity for the entire family: it's engaging, healthful, enhances togetherness, and over time, you'll save a small fortune in landscaping costs. You can buy your next car with the money you'll save.


How Bad Can it Be

According to the online Clean Lawn Calculator at CleanAirLawnCare.com, a typical New Jersey lawn requires approximately 30 mows per season. Assuming this is done with the standard gas-powered equipment that essentially all landscapers use, on a typical 1000 square foot lawn (i.e. small-to-medium sized) in addition to a cut lawn and blown leaves, which you want, what you'll also get, which you don't want, is:

  • The introduction into your air, hence partially into the lungs, bodies, and brains of you and your family, of just under 20 pounds of air pollution (equivalent to the amount of air pollution produced by driving a motor vehicle 600 miles).

  • A further incremental amount of noise pollution that further erodes and impairs the hearing capacity of you and your family, each and every time this loud equipment is used. This permanent loss of hearing occurs whether you consciously feel the noise "bothering" you, or not.

In contrast, use of manual tools brings both of these numbers down to just about zero!

(I write "just about" zero because even rakes, brooms, and push mowers likely generate some amount of pollution in their manufacture, shipping, and storage. However, production of this pollution occurs on a one-time basis:  once your rake, broom, and push mower is manufactured and purchased by you or your landscaper, they produce no further pollution. Power equipment, by contrast, such as gas mowers and leaf blowers produce massive amounts of pollution each and every time they're used, and as you know, during the Summer they are in constant use all season long.)

In fact, use of traditional tools is also an official recommendation of the American Lung Association:

"Use hand-powered or electric lawn care equipment rather than gasoline-powered. Two-stroke engines like lawnmowers and blowers often have no pollution control devices and can pollute the air even more than cars."

Note, however, that from the dual standpoints of air pollution and noise, electric lawn care equipment (which most landscapers don't use anyway) isn't that much better than gas-powered:  the equivalent amount of air pollution produced would still be over 11 pounds (equivalent to driving a motor vehicle over 255 miles). Moreover, even electric equipment is noisy. In fact, in my experience--my next door neighbor uses an electric leaf blower--though electric equipment is somewhat more quiet, it brings with it its own unique kind of sonic (i.e. sound-related) annoyance:  instead of the massive barrage of medium-low pitched noise typically produced by a gas mower or leaf blower, you are subject to the irritating high-pitched whine characteristic of electric equipment. In concert with the amount of pollution and depletion of natural resources required to manufacture, ship, and store these electric tools in the first place, I don't consider them much of an improvement over their gas-powered cousins.

Yes, please use, or request your landscaper use electric equipment over gas-powered, as they are somewhat quieter. But the optimal solution that simply can't be beat in any regard remains manual tools:  the rake, the broom, and the reel (i.e. push) hand mower that my grandfather used, your grandfather used, and in fact all the grandfathers before them have used since the dawn of time. And guess what, Brothers and Sisters? The world then was much simpler, quieter, cleaner, greener, and healthier!

Exactly the kind of world that so many of us are trying so desperately to find again!





Noise

Who is Affected

In a word, indirectly and in most cases directly, everyone.

Though many of you are working during the day and are thus removed from hazardous daytime residential noise like lawnmowers and leafblowers, many people are at home and are thus injured by such noise. Such persons include:  children and their nannies, including infants trying to nap; ill persons and those caring for them; retired persons; the elderly and those who may be assisting them; ill persons and those who may be assisting or caregiving them (that's me); individuals running home-based businesses; individuals who are telecommuting; mentally ill individuals who do not work and those who may be assisting them; workers trying to enjoy their day off; and night workers who are actually trying to sleep during the day.

In fact, "Thanks to loud music and a generally noisy environment, young people have a rate of impaired hearing 2 1/2 times that of their parents and grandparents."

In my particular case, my mother, 81, is almost completely deaf, and my father, 84, and already suffering dementia, is now suffering significant hearing loss. This is an issue of great personal concern to me, and I suggest you take it as seriously. Your child's next hearing exam will tell the tale. Do not allow them to be injured!

If you are wise enough to elect organic lawn care, but then permit emission of clouds of noxious and toxic gasoline exhaust from these dangerous and outdated machines, as well as the incremental hearing loss that you and your children will suffer from these loud machines, you're working at crosspurposes and reducing your net health benefit.

Moreover, gas-powered equipment and even the new breed of electric equipment both run on fossil fuels, so both contribute to global warming, as well. Friends, we simply must request the time-tested manual tools that have served our fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers so well for generations. They are the only ones that do not injure us in any way.

Each lawn care company has its own view on use of manual tools. Most will use them if requested. If the company you select will not use them, or if the extra cost is out of budget for you, you have three options:

  • Select a different company from the list, one who is willing to use manual tools, and do so without an exorbitant extra fee.

  • Hire your preferred company from the list to perform your lawn treatments, but hire a different company, perhaps a small local landscaper or someone who performs "odd jobs," to do your mowing and cutting. Again, provided they are willing to use all manual tools. Most of the organic lawn-care companies are completely amenable to this kind of dual arrangement.

  • Simply do the mowing and cutting yourself using a manual reel mower, rake, and broom. You will reap the benefits of 1.) better health thorough exercise, 2.) exposure to better source of Vitamin D through sunlight, 3. stress release, 4.) wholesome family activity, 5.) finally meeting your neighbors, and of course, 6.) saving money on landscapers.

Again, these are the same benefits that professional landscapers and lawn-cutters will, themselves, enjoy, if they use manual tools for part of their day, in addition to helping save their own hearing. Professional landscapers:  in performing manual services, you'll give your entire body, mind, and spirit a much-needed break during your workday! You'll also expand your market as increasing numbers of homeowners go "green."


Ban Leaf Blowers

Perhaps you're willing to consider joining, or assisting in the formation of, a coalition of residents for the purpose of banning these mega-loud, polluting monstrosities, as 300 other cities across America have already done.

Such an action would comprise an extreme improvement and enhancement to your local quality-of-life that would benefit young and old in many ways, now and in the future.

An outright ban might be less necessary if local landscapers were willing to adopt and rigorously practice a Minimal Mixed Use protocol.

Please visit Nationwide Leafblower Ban for further conversation on the notion of a ban.


Keep Your Landscaper

If you are satisfied with your present lawn-cutting company, by all means keep them, and simply hire an organic lawn-care company to perform your lawn treatments. These companies are usually completely amenable to this dual-arrangement.

In fact, we must sympathize with the landscapers and other lawn-care companies that cut lawns with powered equipment, as they are many times under the gun economically and feel they must use powered lawnmowers and leafblowing machines in order to work as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is completely understandable, especially in the recessionary climate of today. Thus, in some cases they may require a slightly higher fee if you request that they use manual tools. Brothers and sisters, let's help them and help ourselves by gladly paying this extra cost.

In fact, in using manual tools, they, too, will enjoy the many benefits that I've listed, above. Actually, the benefit to landscapers and lawn-cutting companies will be even greater than that of anyone else, since studies show conclusively that years of close-up work with heavy, polluting, mega-loud and sometimes vibrating equipment is going to take a heavy toll on the health of these professionals.

Again, if you are satisfied with your present landscaper or lawn-cutter (especially if they are willing to use manual tools), I recommend you keep them. However, in speaking with an organic company, if you wish to consider them for cutting as well as lawn treatments, be absolutely sure to request that they use manual tools such as the rake, broom, and manual reel mower, not polluting and mega-noisy gas-powered lawn mowers and leafblowers. Numerous studies have illustrated without doubt that repeat exposure to loud sound causes significant hearing erosion over time, and a wide variety of other health maladies. Simply put, the human body has not evolved to accept such loud and foreign noise.



UNDERSTANDING YOUR LAWN IN THREE EASY LESSONS

  1. A "lawn" is composed of grass. Grass is a plant species; in fact, it is related to hay. As most plants, grass does not normally limit its own growth to lawn height, which is approximately 2" in the United States. Grass will ordinarily grow higher--sometimes much higher. In fact, cutting grass to approximately 2" is an unnatural and unhealthy state for grass, and at this unnaturally low height it cannot easily survive: there is not enough surface area on each blade to absorb sunlight, and the grass cannot create deep roots.

    "Mow High: This is one of the most crucial steps you can take to improve the health of your lawn, as a lawn mowed high supports grass health, through shading the roots and preventing the drying out of soil, and leads to lengthening of grass roots, strengthening the lawn. Perhaps most importantly, longer grass blades discourage invasion by weeds and insects. Set mower cutting height at 2.5 to 3 inches. Also, keep mower blade sharp and avoid mowing wet grass. Leave clippings on lawn, unless they are very long, to reduce fertilizer needs." (http://www.immuneweb.org/articles/lawncare.html)

  2. Yes, there is a way to create the appearance that grass is thriving at an artificially low height--simply add synthetic (i.e. artificial) chemicals to the lawn. And, of course, this is exactly what companies like TruGreen/ChemLawn, Davey, and Lawn Doctor do when they "treat" your lawn. Why must your lawn be "treated"? Is it a sick patient? Actually, this is exactly what it is, as you'll learn in a moment.

    Much like a human being using amphetamines (i.e. "speed") to produce an artificial rush of energy, or steroids to create an artificial spurt of growth, synthetic lawn chemicals produce a lawn that looks healthy but is not. The lush green health of a chemically treated lawn is an illusion. Lawns maintained in this manner are actually dead lawns with no biological richness to their soil; if lawn treatments are terminated you'll see this immediately as your lawn quickly degrades.

  3. The correct way to create a lawn that appears strong and healthy is to create a lawn that IS strong and healthy. This is done by building rich soil that is genuinely strong and healthy, which is accomplished in several ways, starting with the introduction into the soil of beneficial micro-organisms and other elements present in naturally rich earth.

    Dousing your lawn with artificial chemicals eight times a month during the Summer is mistaken and ridiculous, as this merely props up the lawn and gives it the appearance of a healthy lawn. All you're really doing is endangering the health of your family and your neighbors with largely toxic and untested chemicals.

    Put another way, standard lawn care companies and chemicals treat your grass, while organic lawn care companies and materials address your soil, as it is rich and healthy soil that is actually responsible for a healthy lawn.

Believe it or not, you now possess the key insight required to understand why you must build your lawn upon a proper foundation of strong, rich soil, not chemicalized into an illusory existence through synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and other lawn chemicals.


Organic Lawn Care

Once you make the decision to build your lawn correctly, upon this foundation of strong, rich soil, you will have committed yourself to, and become an adherent of, what is termed organic lawn care. There's nothing magical or far-out about this idea; it simply refers to lawn care that is free of toxic and counter-productive synthetic chemicals, in favor of historically proven natural methods and materials that are as safe as they are effective. You'll be using the methods your grandfather and great-grandfather used, time-tested, and people and planet-friendly, rather than the so-called "modern" methods that chemical manufacturers such as Dow and 3M would like you to use.

Strong soil, alive and teeming with bacteria, micro-organisms, and beneficial insect life, will produce genuinely healthy grass that will naturally repel both pests and weeds, obviating the need for application of hazardous lawn chemicals. In building your soil and creating your organic lawn, you won't reach initially for a fertilizer product, but will instead likely begin with a liquid compost called "compost tea." Check the links at this site, the larger Internet, or a local lawn-and-garden center for a good organic, OMRI Listed compost tea product. Also check our links for one of the many sites that provide both basic and detailed instruction on growing and maintaining a chemical-free organic lawn.


OMRI Listed

YOU'RE SPREADING WHAT ON MY LAWN?

More specifically in regard to lawn care, it is critical that you use, or request that your landscaper use, only fertilizers and other lawn care materials that are labeled OMRI Listed.


OMRI Seal


It is imperative for the health of you, your family, and your community that you not merely buy whatever fertilizer or other lawn care product happens to be on sale at your local Home Depot, Lowes, or other home center, gardening center, hardware store, or supermarket--even if the product label bears such labels as "Natural" or even "Organic." These labels mean absolutely nothing without a specific product explanation.

Whether performing your own lawn care or working commercially as a professional, you must strictly ensure that all materials you purchase--fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc.--are labeled OMRI Listed (Organic Materials Review Institute). For example, if your fertilizer is not OMRI Listed, by law it can, and usually does, contain:

  1. So-called "biosolids." This is actually sewage sludge, consisting of human waste, as well as everything else people flush down their toilets, whether deliberately or accidentally, such as pharmaceuticals and heavy metals. These latter kinds of materials tend to remain even after waste processing and thus end up in the common fertilizer products purchased at Home Depot, Lowes, or your local hardware store or garden center. These biosolid or sewage-based fertilizers and other lawncare products are now suspected of causing illness. Biosolids are prohibited under the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) regulations.

  2. Urea (a urine-related component although in lawn materials it is synthesized artificially in the laboratory from methane).

  3. Various other substances also prohibited under the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) regulations.

If you were an organic farmer and wanted to submit your crops for USDA organic certification but had grown them with a fertilizer that was NOT OMRI Certified Organic, your application would be denied.

I understand that you're not growing crops on your front lawn. But OMRI listing is required to ensure that your property is free of the potentially toxic component ingredients listed above. Additionally, this explicit certification is the only way to help ensure that your fertilizer or other lawn care product contains no GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), and is likely not to contain unproven nano-technology components. Don't allow yourself, your family, your neighbors, or your customers, to act as guinea pigs for brand new and potentially injurious technologies.

If you apply fertilizers or other lawn care materials to one or more lawns, as a homeowner, landscaper, or lawn-care company, I strongly suggest that you read and understand this short but critical article on sewage sludge in fertilizer.

Suggested Links

Biosolids concerns bubble to surface
"Neighbors say sewage sludge spread on fields may be making them sick"


Finding OMRI Listed Products

I called the Home Depot in Clifton, N.J. on April 26, 2009, and after examining each bag for the six fertilizer products the store carries, the associate told me that none of the products carried the OMRI listing--including the one fertilizer product they carry that is labeled "organic" (a Scotts product). Happily, however, many home improvement, garden center, and hardware stores do carry at least one fertilizer product carrying the OMRI Listed seal.

(North Jersey, N.J. residents can purchase Ringer Lawn Restore, a fine OMRI Listed fertilizer product, from Ploch's Garden Center in Clifton, N.J.).

Elsewhere, if your local retailer does not carry OMRI Listed products, you should place a special order, or simply buy from one of the many internet retailers that carry these safe, premium-quality products. Here are several online resources to get you started; these companies can either sell you a product, or apprise you through their web site of local retailers that do sell these products:

Fertilizer: Ringer Lawn Restore, three different Varieties
(Note: Ringer products are more expensive when purchased from "Safer Brand," (at SaferBrand.com), the manufacturer.)

Fertilizer: Ringer Lawn Restore

Fertilizer: Bradfield Organics - Luscious Lawn & Garden

Sun Gro Horticulture

OMRI Master List of OMRI-Certified Lawn Care Products

Fire Belly Organic Lawn Care
(Note: Firebelly do-it-yourself lawn care products are organic though not OMRI listed.)


Weeds, Natural Methods

If your only problem is a few weeds here or there, simply pull them out by hand!

For a larger area or easier treatment, order a spray-bottle of Burnout II, or perhaps a product from EcoSmart, or simply fill a clean spray bottle with white vinegar, which should also work.

For insect control, North Jersey residents may note that the Acme supermarket in Clifton, N.J. carries the EcoSmart organic insecticide product.

If you wish to purchase locally, check our links page for Green Depot and Green Elements stores.


Mowing, Natural Methods

On this page and elsewhere at this site, homeowners are strongly urged to switch to manual "old-fashioned" tools such as the push or "reel" mower for lawn mowing, as well as the rake, broom, and manual pruning shear. Homeowners wishing to so transition can begin by clicking the links, below, searching the Internet with search terms "manual push reel mower" (without the quotations), or checking their local home center, hardware store, or supply house.

In your search, however, note that organic lawn care requires a lawn height (in the Northeastern United States) between 3" and 3.5", to provide grass blade surface sufficient to permit adequate absorption of sunlight, help crowd out weeds, and develop deep roots. Thus, Brill products, while considered by some as the Cadillac of push mowers, cannot cut grass to these heights and must be disregarded. In fact, most push mowers cannot cut to a proper organic height; here are two exceptions:

  • Fiskars Momentum: this mower cuts to a height of 4", and incorporates many new relevant technologies that aspire to resolve limitations in previous generations of push mowers. Amazon.com consumer reviews are generally very good, if not excellent.

  • Easun NaturCut Ideal 40 16-Inch 5-Blade Push Reel Lawn Mower: this model will cut up to 3", a minimum height required for an organic lawn. The mower is very highly rated by each of the four consumers who have thus far reviewed it at Amazon.com.

  • The Scotts 20" Classic, cutting to a height of 3", is favored by some, though not all, consumer reviewers at Amazon.com.

    (Additionally, the Classic has a California Proposition 65 warning, meaning that it contains one or more chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. You are instructed to wash your hands after use of the product.)

In fact, new models are introduced each season, so I recommend you visit Amazon.com and search on "manual reel lawn mower" for listings and consumer reviews of the newest models.


Leaf Cleanups, Natural Methods

For leaf cleanups, the traditional rake and broom, perhaps supplemented by newer, quiet and non-polluting innovations such as the leaf tarp and leaf net, is aggressively advocated throughout this website. However, homeowners insisting on a powered device for leafblowing are strongly urged to avoid a gas-powered unit, in favor of an electric model such as the inexpensive ($75) yet powerful, quiet, and unusually highly-rated Toro model 51599.


IN-HOME PEST CONTROL

Cockroaches

Download my one-page circular "Cockroach Control the Healthy Way."


Green Shield Certified

Synthetic pesticides applied in-home for pests such as termites, cockroaches, flies, bedbugs, and others are just as toxic, dangerous, and undesirable as those applied to your lawn and garden. The fact is that redress of pest problems rarely if ever requires pesticides or other technologies, chemical or otherwise. Happily, pest control principal and practice is finally beginning to turn green, as evidenced in part by the new certifying organization Green Shield, defining itself as follows:

"Green Shield Certified is an independent, non-profit certification program that promotes practitioners of effective, prevention-based pest control while minimizing the need to use pesticides. Because our approach addresses the underlying cause of pest problems, it is more effective than conventional spray-intensive services. Green Shield Certification is available to qualifying pest control professionals..."

"Green Shield Certified is based on IPM STAR, an established, award-winning IPM certification program for schools that has been operating since 2003."

Accordingly, friends, consult the Green Shield Providers list to find a pest control company in your area that is Green Shield Certified. Also consider non-Green Shield Certified pest control companies if they can credibly and persuasively illustrate that they perform nontoxic pest control.

It's possible that a non-GSC provider might be even more aggressively oriented toward organic pest-control than a GSC provider. It appears to me, upon casual examination, that GSC providers are long-established pest control companies versed in the practices of traditional toxic pesticides, who now offer a non-toxic treatment, or their version of it, to consumers who request it. In possible contrast, however, at least some of the non-GSC providers I'm aware of appear to be relatively new companies, starting out with a fundamental commitment to non-toxic products and an organic model of service.

Be cautious, as pest control is an area ripe for greenwashing.















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