The Dark Side of Lawns

You can have a thick and healthy sea of green without polluting water, harming wildlife, and endangering the health of your family and pets.

By Beth Huxta


Go Green Guide
You can help improve the environment and reduce human exposure to lawn chemicals by raising awareness in your community about the dangers of conventional lawn care and the benefits of organic turf.

Educate your neighbors. Post a "Pesticide-Free Lawn" sign in your yard (find them online at beyond and talk with your neighbors about the problems with lawn chemicals. Share the simple organic lawn maintenance plan in this article.

Create a demand. Request that your local nursery carry organic fertilizers and lawn products.

Be a positive example. The best way to draw attention to the benefits of an organic lawn is to grow healthy, beautiful grass organically.

Be politically active. Write to local officials to let them know you're concerned about lawn-chemical use in your community and urge them to consider repealing preemption laws, which restrict municipalities from passing local pesticide ordinances that are stricter than state policy.

Facts and Tips

  • American homeowners use up to 10 times more pesticides per acre of lawn than farmers use on an acre of crops.
  • Reduce H2O flow: Help droughtproof grass by watering it thoroughly but infrequently, so that it develops deep roots.
  • Deep roots: A square foot of lawn contains 850 grass plants and 392,000 miles of roots.
  • Home, safe home: Mowing grass high is as effective at controlling weeds as herbicides, which endanger children's health.

Newbie hint
Control weeds before they germinate, and fertilize your grass with the natural, organic weed and feed: corn-gluten meal. Apply 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet, advises Chip Osborne of Put it down in early spring, when forsythia is in bloom, but avoid using corn-gluten meal after overseeding, since it kills grass seeds as well as weed seeds.

Master's Tip
Apply phosphorus to your lawn only after testing. Even organic sources of phosphorus can seriously affect water quality, and most lawn soils don't need it. Phosphorus-free fertilizers have a middle number of "0".