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Rethinking the Lawn

Apr 30, 2018

By Guest Blogger Steve Fielder of Go Green Galloway     


This time of year, we are bombarded with advertisements for products and services to seed, feed, cut, weed, whack, blow, sprinkle, over and over and over, for a “beautiful green lawn.”


It is time to reflect on the status quo: our own practices and those of our lawn-care providers. All of these chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and more are happily sold to us and our providers, under the assumption that we must have them. Actually, we don’t.



Typical lawn care depends on using our properties as basically inert substrates, on which to plop and primp a green turf mat. The soil microorganisms that would naturally be providing free services are often killed off so that some chemical or someone can aerate, dethatch, chemicalize and provide the grass enough root penetration into dead or dying soil to look healthy. What we are then looking at is a parody of an ecosystem, dependent on the next bag of fix for its survival. Humans, particularly children playing on this grass, as well as pets and wildlife of all types, are at risk from these poisons. Runoff is a community problem when rain carries these chemicals into driveways, sidewalks, storm sewers and water bodies. When the green turf mat gets wet, it may actually shed water from underneath the grass, as the soil may be compacted and unable to absorb. Riding mowers, car parking and other heavy uses greatly exacerbate the compaction problem.


In contrast, organic lawn care is focused on maintaining natural soil biology and nutrition. It involves accurate soil testing, applying compost and other natural nutrients if needed, using natural pest controls, using sharp and clean tool blades, avoiding compaction by vehicles and tractors, installing rain gardens and rain barrels and using the grasses that are the most compatible with our climate and the various demands of your yard situation. Grass clippings can be composted or simply left on the lawn to break down for nourishment of the soil. Clippings that are flung out into the street by mowing or whacking must be gathered up manually or mechanically to keep them from going down the storm drains. By all means, we can reduce our lawn size with expanded beds and rain gardens to provide pollinator-friendly perennial plants all around the yard, adding design appeal and buffering unnecessary water runoff. If we are so lucky as to have a moss lawn or a portion of one, that is a perfectly natural and desirable scenario for shady conditions.


We can help change the norm of toxic, non-native and ecologically detrimental landscaping plans that are recommended, even mandated, for individual properties, most commercial settings, sports facilities and multi-unit developments. We love our open spaces for all sorts of recreation, but it is time for developers, landscape designers, service providers, nurseries and lawn products industries to work more closely with natural processes to get the job done. Our dollars, spent wisely for products and services, should speak strongly for us toward healthier yards and more sustainable communities.




The views, opinions and positions expressed are those of the author alone and do not represent those of The Atlantic County Utilities Authority.