This page is meant to provide a starting point for review of lawn care and vegetation management policies. While often regarded as the “least cost solution”, toxic chemical herbicides can have serious health consequences to wildlife, pets, and people – especially children – and used long term, will result in damage to the environment. When viewed in a broader context, these “least cost solutions” are very costly indeed.
While Roundup (glyphosate) is commonly viewed as safe, research has shown it is anything but safe. Peer-reviewed scientific studies and reviews have established links to antibiotic resistance, birth defects, cancer, damage to the gut microbiome, endocrine disruption, infertility, kidney disease, and neurodegenerative disease (e.g. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s). Click HERE for links to studies.
Communities Are Making Changes Across the U.S.
Public awareness is growing. Parents are concerned about their children’s exposure to toxic chemicals; pet owners are alarmed. Creating safe outdoor spaces for work and play is a priority for forward-looking communities seeking to attract people and businesses to their area. Look HERE to see a map of communities across the U.S. that are implementing new policies to transition away from the use of chemical pesticides to control unwanted vegetation.
Integrate them: integrate the weeds as a part of your yard. Recommendations for a lush yard:
- Mow high (3-4 inches) and leave the grass clippings. Learn more here.
- Spread an organic compost. When? Spring & fall. Learn more here.
Systems approach/mechanical method:
- Mowing high: (at least 3”) so that grass develops strong roots to compete against weeds. Keep your blades sharp. When? All year round. Learn more here.
- Dethatching: is to remove excess thatch, a layer of organic debris that can build up on top of the soil, Thatch is considered excessive when it’s more than half an inch thick. The layer can block air, water and sunlight from the grass and inhibit its growth. It also can make your lawn more susceptible to disease and insect infestation. You can use a dethatching rake or a power dethatcher to get rid of the debris. To help prevent thatch from accumulating in the future, use a mulching lawn mower to trim your grass to the appropriate height. When? Fall. Learn more here.
- Get your soil tested: It is highly recommended that you analyze your soil to determine specific soil needs. Contact your University extension service to find out how to take and send in a soil sample. In addition to nutrients and pH, ask for organic content analysis, and request organic care recommendations. Ideal pH should be between 6.5‐7.0, and organic content should be 5% or higher. When? Fall. Learn more here.
- Aeration: If your lawn is hard, compacted, and full of weeds or bare spots, aerate to help air, water and fertilizer to enter. If you can’t stick a screwdriver easily into your soil, it is too compacted. Get together with your neighbors and rent an aerator. Once you have an established, healthy lawn, worms and birds pecking at your soil will aerate it for free. When? Spring & fall (as needed). Learn more here.
- Watering: Well-established organic lawns are drought-tolerant and may need to be watered less frequently. If watering (irrigation) is needed during the summer months, be sure to water deeply only in the morning. Frequent shallow watering results in shallow root growth, which allows for weeds to colonize. It also creates a humid environment, which encourages harmful soil fungi and pathogens. (See Watering Techniques Factsheet.)
- Seeding and over-seeding: Grass varieties differ enormously in their resistance to certain pests, tolerance to climatic conditions, growth habit and appearance. Endophytic grass seed provides natural protection against some insects and fungal diseases ‐ major benefits for managing a lawn organically. Talk to your local nursery about the best seed for your area. When? Spring and fall. Learn more here.
- Pulling: Small amounts of weeds can be physically removed by pulling or digging. Be sure to remove the entire root system of perennial weeds. Overseed bare areas with grass seed. When? Anytime
- Fertilize: with weed clippings and compost. Your grass clippings contain 58% of the nitrogen added from fertilizers, improve soil conditions, suppress disease, and reduce thatch and crabgrass. So, leave the leave the clippings on your lawn. You can also use a mulching mower and leave the leaves on the lawn too. Compost is an ideal soil amendment, adding the much‐needed organic content to your soil and suppressing many turf pathogens. Preferably after aerating, spread ¼ inch layer of organic or naturally‐based compost over your lawn. Compost tea and worm castings are also, great additions. Spring & fall. Learn more here.
Organic pesticide (includes herbicides, fungicides & insecticides) and fertilizer options: We recommend organic pesticides as a last resort. See this extensive list that offers organic herbicides, fungicides and insecticides HERE.
For fertilizer, look for organic slow release fertilizers at your local nursery or order online. A few fertilizers, such as Ringer® Lawn Restore®, are certified by the Organic Materials Review Institute. North Country Organics has many natural fertilizers, including phosphorus‐free fertilizers for lawns close to fresh water bodies. Other choices include Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, Seven Springs Farm, Down To Earth’s Bio‐Turf, and Harmony Farm.