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Organic Lawn Care

Go green for a green lawn
Sean Pearce, York Region Media Group

The province is banning the cosmetic use of pesticides, but fear not, going green doesn’t necessarily mean your lawn will turn brown. Before the ban was announced last week, Vaughan became the latest municipality to pass bylaws against pesticides, joining Markham, Georgina and Newmarket. To that end, Newmarket hosted a seminar entitled Organic Lawn Care For the Cheap and Lazy. It was led by York Region Environmental Alliance chairperson Gloria Marsh, who said a lawn can, indeed, be green in more ways than one.

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“We’re talking about lawn care that won’t cost the Earth,” Ms Marsh said. “And it will save you time and money.”

Those latter two facts drew some approving nods from those who attended the information evening in the lounge of the Ray Twinney Recreation Complex. Still, Ms Marsh explained getting to the point where green lawn options can save you time and money might take a season or two to accomplish. The fact is it involves “resurrecting” your lawn.

“Those chemicals that you have been using on your soil has killed it,” she said. “There are no good bacteria and no beneficial fungus left. When you use chemicals all of that is dead.”

If Ms Marsh sounds like an expert on lawn care and soil health it’s because she is. She has been a landscape designer for more than two decades and helped found the Alliance in 1999. In fact, its original raison d’être was to combat the use of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides in York Region. And that message seems to be hitting a chord with municipalities. Markham and Georgina have bylaws on pesticide and Newmarket’s comes into effect in September. Municipalities are free to make their bylaws tougher than provincial regulations, Premier Dalton McGuinty said last week. Many lawn care companies in the area are already going green ahead of the bylaw and Newmarket has tried to avoid using pesticides for several years, environmental advisory committee member Petra Vollmerhausen said. Pesticide dangers: Aside from being the leading cause of poisoning in Canada, pesticides can also:

  • Cause respiratory problems
  • Cause skin rashes, blistering and redness
  • Result in lung injury if ingested
  • Cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, headaches
  • Produce nose bleeds
  • Bring on asthma
  • Be dangerous to human health if ingested, inhaled, exposed to bare skin or eyes
  • Children, pets and pregnant women are most at risk for poisoning due to pesticides and the chemicals are associated with numerous adverse environmental effects. These can include groundwater contaminations, causing genetic defects in animals and the destruction of beneficial flora and fauna.

Revive your soil

Many people get discouraged, because their lawns don’t always respond to organic treatments right away. This doesn’t mean organic options are ineffective, but, that life needs to return to the lawn.

  • Resist the urge to fertilize in spring: Fertilization does provide nitrogen, which plants need, but permits unnecessary top growth instead of root growth.
  • Aerate your lawn: This provides needed air and moisture into the soil.
  • Compost: Adds major and micro nutrients, improves root development and soil structure. Top dress with one quarter to a half-inch two times per year.
  • Clover: Ignore the propaganda about it being a weed. Clover helps fix nitrogen to plant roots. It provides one third of the nitrogen to a lawn.
  • Clippings: Leave them on the lawn. They don’t cause thatch and provide another third of the nitrogen your lawn needs.
Reporting an infraction: To report an infraction of the pesticide bylaw
in York Region call 905-427-5600.