What price for a perfect lawn?

Color splashes the landscape as the Earth awakens in May after the dormant winter. Tulips, azaleas, lilacs, and perennial favorites brighten yards and roadways as trees leaf out in tender shades of green.

Underfoot, lawns regain their color after the dark of winter. But is a carpet-like lawn worth the price of chemical treatment that contaminates surface and groundwater and harms humans and wildlife?

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut offers alternative solutions to farming, gardening, and land care that respect biodiversity, soil, water, air, and the needs of future generations.

A growing community of farmers, gardeners, land care professionals, and consumers, NOFA encourages a healthy relationship with the natural world.

NOFA offers 10 reasons to ditch lawn and garden chemicals and replace them with organic products, adapted from a fact sheet by the Organic Landscape Alliance in Toronto.

  • Lawn chemicals are unnecessary. Historically, organic lawn care has been practiced for much longer than chemical lawn care and it can easily be implemented on any lawn.

  • Chemical pesticides and fertilizers contaminate surface and groundwater. This diminishes the quality of drinking water, aquatic habitats and aquatic life forms. Fish and aquatic insect species are highly sensitive to fertilizers and pesticides.

  • Chemical pesticides threaten the health of children, the most vulnerable segment of the population due to their small size and underdeveloped physiology. Children are the most exposed to pesticides because they may put contaminated grass, soil and toys in their mouths and breathe close to the ground.

  • Chemical pesticides threaten the health of outdoor pets when they lick contaminated paws and coat, breathe close to the ground or eat contaminated grass. Like children, they are highly vulnerable because of their small size.

  • Chemical pesticides threaten the health of local wildlife. Turf-dwelling and -feeding species such as the American robin, Canada goose, American wigeon, European starling, common raccoon, and eastern gray squirrel are highly exposed to lawn chemicals. Granular-formulation pesticides can harm birds that mistake the granules for seed or other food items.

  • Chemical pesticides and fertilizers reduce the activity of beneficial organisms. 
Healthy soil is alive with beneficial organisms that actually kill pest insects, decrease the spread of disease and help plants gather nutrients and water. For example, earthworms improve air and water circulation, decompose thatch, deposit nutrient-rich castings, and help to neutralize soil.

  • Local wildlife needs safe places to live. As suburbs encroach upon natural habitats, wildlife are forced to flee or adapt to less ideal, often crowded habitats rife with potential dangers. Exposure to lawn chemicals is one such danger.

  • Chemical fertilizers are a waste of money. Chemical fertilizers usually contain three macronutrients: phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen. They lack other macro and micronutrients and include no organic matter or microbes. In contrast, compost from a backyard bin is an organic and natural soil amendment that provides a more complete package of nutrients, organic matter and microbes.

  • Chemical pesticides have the potential to cause damage throughout their lifecycles. 
All stages of a pesticide’s lifecycle — production, transport, storage, use, and disposal — have the potential to degrade environmental and human health.

  • Chemicals actually degrade the overall long-term health of lawn and garden, and frequent application of pesticides creates a chemical-dependent landscape.

Cities and towns can be more habitable for humans and wildlife by avoiding lawn and garden chemicals and switching to organic, environmentally friendly products. Many lawn care services provide them.

We have only one Earth. If we don’t care for it, who will?