Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s smart. We’re right to be skeptical when someone’s only reason for doing something a certain way is “that’s the way we’ve ALWAYS done it.” Doctors no longer prescribe applying leeches and beauty products & house paints no longer contain lead – both of which used to be industry standards. We should no longer accept outmoded — and potentially harmful — practices in the lawn care industry either. Here are the top five most common lawn care practices that should be stopped immediately, along with better alternatives: Using lawn chemicals Although synthetic fertilizers may produce impressively quick results in the lawn and garden, use of these synthetic compounds can lead to fertilizer pollution. The environmental damage is made greater by the polymer coatings of synthetic fertilizers added to ensure a slow release. These coatings also mean that when washed into the water table, the harmful effects of these fertilizers will linger for unnatural amounts of time. Do this instead: Go organic. Effective natural alternatives to synthetic fertilizers not only do exist, they will cultivate longevity and beauty better than their chemical opposites. They are designed to prevent weeds, provide a deep green and dense lawn, and improve soil with minerals, micro-nutrients, and microorganisms. Unlike synthetic programs which require increased chemical use over time, organic lawn care becomes more effective with age. Spraying with toxic weed killers A 2003 Environmental Protection Agency report states that of the 30 commonly used lawn herbicides 19 have studies pointing toward carcinogens, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 15 with neurotoxicity, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 27 are sensitizers and/or irritants, and 11 have the potential to disrupt the endocrine (hormonal) system. Do this instead: Synthetic herbicides are not only dangerous, but they are also unnecessary. In the lawn, weeds can be greatly reduced by addressing the conditions that allow them to flourish. Non-toxic solutions to weed issues include improving the soil and growing conditions, planting locally adapted grass, mowing high and often, watering deeply but not too often, and correcting drainage issues. Mowing short Many homeowners think that mowing short will make their lawn look like a golf course. Golf-course putting greens are cut every day to keep the grass at a mere eighth of an inch and are spoon-fed fertilizers and weed killers. Your lawn, however, is not a golf course, and trying to keep it looking like one will cost more than most want to spend. ‘Mowing short’ is bad for several reasons: It lets the sun reach weeds, helping them grow; it can stress and kill your lawn; the grass grows unevenly; and it can make the lawn grow faster, adding to the number of necessary mowings. Do this instead: Mow high! Typically, cool-season grass ought to be trimmed at three and one-half inches. Warm-season grasses should be trimmed at a height of two inches. Mowing the lawn is healthy and can be largely beneficial for your grass. You are trimming the oldest section of grass since it grows from the bottom up. Cutting higher – typically the top third – shades roots and promotes a root system that is deeper. Deep roots can reach water that is deeper in the soil, giving grass reserve power that enables it to get through dry spells. Attaching grass catchers Attaching a catch bag to your mower will prevent harmful thatch from building up in the turf, right? Wrong! When mowed properly (see #3 above), the lawn’s clippings do not cause thatch since they are short-lived and break down rapidly. In fact, grass clippings are a free source of nitrogen that can substantially reduce by one-third to one-half the fertilizer you’ll need to use. Clippings also prolong the effects of any fertilization by returning nitrogen in an organic, slow-release form that promotes steady grass growth. Do this instead: Instead of raking and disposing of cut grass from mowing, let clippings lie on the lawn. Clippings break down quickly and encourage beneficial microorganisms and earthworms that digest thatch and maintain healthy soil. Clippings from overly long grass cannot be left on the lawn because they mat and smother the grass, but the raked clippings can be recycled as mulch in the garden or used in making compost. Applying deadly insecticides Most homeowners are very aware of the dangers of chemical insecticides but may not be aware that they are a mostly unnecessary danger. The safest way to prevent insect damage in the lawn and garden is to discourage the insects from coming in the first place. A healthy garden is the best defense. Do this instead: Rather than treating with toxic chemicals, homeowners can adopt safe, effective practices such as removing weak plants, building healthy & organic soil, using non-toxic essential oil-based sprays such as neem or cedar, and minimizing insect habitat. Lawn care “the way you’ve always done it” may cause more harm than good: Do this instead! Ultimately, when deciding on a lawn-care program, homeowners should consider safety, heartiness, and longevity over ‘that’s the way we’ve always done things’ which often cause quick fixes, fragility, and fleeting dependency. With organic fertilizers and environmentally friendly pest control, the soil condition is greatly improved, allowing for reduced weed pressure and dense, durable turf resulting in better weed suppression, improved drought tolerance, and increased disease resistance. Best of all, the resulting beautiful lawns and gardens are also safe for pets & people to enjoy!