After having read so many articles on the environment and global warming and as spring was approaching, I kept asking myself, “what more can I do?” That is, apart from the ordinary efforts, such as recycling all household garbage, even washing out plastic bags used for vegetables and reusing them again, going to the farmer’s market for many years, isn’t there something more I could or should be doing?
With the onset of spring, the first thing most of us think about is our lawns, you know, fertilizing, weed killer, etc. Some of us also think about Lawncare.net service areas so we can get booked in! However, this year I decided I was going to have a totally organic lawn, free of chemicals. I never used much other than fertilizer or weed killer. I feel like it is time to give my lawn the care it deserves, which is why investing in equipment such as Swardman Reel Mowers would be a good move to make. It’s worth a try and a friend of mine recommended it, so there’s no harm in trying, especially if I can get the garden I have always dreamed of.
For starters, I had heard about and read a little about the benefits of “corn gluten meal” as a weed killer. I began reading about it on the web at various websites, learning about its properties, how it works and what it actually does. It is a perfectly natural “pre-emergent” weed killer. That is to say, that the use of it at the proper time of the year can get the roots of pre-emerging weeds, but cannot kill the already existent weeds. Most of the organic websites wanted quite a bit of money for this “corn gluten meal.”
I went to a feed store not too far away. Interesting store, which I had only visited maybe once before a very long time ago. I asked the owner, “Sir, do you have any corn gluten meal? I am going to go organic with my lawn.” “No, I don’t have any here, but I can order you some.” “O.K., how much does it cost and how long will it take, it must be applied at the time the crocuses are blooming.” He went to look it up, “It will cost you about $22.00 for 36 pounds (that is about $20.00 or more dollars cheaper than organic stores sell it for and it is exactly the same thing), and I can have it here by Monday.” “O.K., please order it for me. Now, what about fertilizer – do you have any organic fertilizer?” “Yes, we have Milorganite – it’s totally organic.” “What is it?” “It’s waste, a waste treatment product – I’ve used it as part of my lawn care for years and my neighbors want to know why my lawn is so green.” “O.K., I’ll take a bag of it.” Would you believe that a 40-pound bag costs less than $10.00?
Of course, I came home and just had to look up Milorganite. If you’re interested at all, here is more on the product
But, more importantly, it’s what the chemical fertilizers are doing to our earth, our waters, our nature.
Why an Ecological Approach to Lawn Care? There is growing concern regarding the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides on our lawns, and their effects on our children’s health, our health, the health or our pets and our environment.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency each year over 140 million pounds of toxic pesticides are applied to suburban lawns in pursuit of a perfect lawn and garden. Unfortunately most homeowners are not aware that many of the substances found in traditional lawn care products pose significant environmental and health risks.
And note this article in the New York Times ,dated April 24, 1994:
CUTTINGS; Fertilizing Your Lawn? Look Before You Leap
By ANNE RAVER
Published: April 24, 1994
WHEN the forsythia blooms, so the saying goes, it’s time to kill your crabgrass. Get out there with the herbicides like 2,4-D and pendimethalin to poison the weeds that have had the audacity to trespass on the great American lawn. . . . .
This is but one example of what we are doing to the earth and environment. Pretty scary!
I immediately applied the Milorganite – no need to worry, it doesn’t burn the grass, can sit and wait for the rain(s). Great! I like that! And the rains have been almost endless this spring. Ooooh, the rains have come and the fertilizer has sunk in and everything is coming up green, evenly, at that. I like it! I like it! I have now learned of yet another organic fertilizer, named Renaissance, containing organic nitrogen (haven’t used it yet).
At this point, I remind myself about “a little bit of knowledge . . . ” and so, I went to Borders and purchased this book Organic Lawn Care Manual (by Paul Tukey). It’s a very neat book.
So now, the corn gluten meal has come in and I must apply that. Owing to the fact that the ground of my lawn is extremely bumpy and I have severe carpal tunnel problems, I decided to use my hand-held manual “broadcast” type spreader. Wonderful stuff, kinda’ like a powder. I tried dodging the winds as I continued to “broadcast,” but it didn’t work out too well, as the in end result, I wound up looking like a “corncob” – yep, a half an hour spent trying to get rid of the “meal” in my clothing and Nikes. Advice: Use a drop spreader if you ever decide to go this route. You will have to soak it in, if you’re not expecting rains.
After applying the corn gluten meal, you will have to wait about six weeks before you over-seed (meaning seeding over an established lawn). This is very important – it’s getting more and more grass to grow, thus, forcing out weeds.
Now, it’s time to take care of the grubs in the front and side yard. Raccoons have been digging up the front lawn in search of the grubs – looks like someone had a golf club and took many swings at my lawn with patches of turf up here and there. Milky spore is the cure for this, but needs to be applied twice or more – so it will get another treatment this month.
So what to do about the existing weeds. Unfortunately, my backyard was the recipient of unwanted weeds from an uncared for backyard (vacant house) butting mine – creeping Charlie, violets, dandelions, etc. According to the book, learning to identify your weeds is an indication of soil conditions and there are certain remedies, including a soil test, for modifying the soil. Well, O.K., later on that one. This is the part I like: “Do you loathe digging, pulling and spraying weeds? Ha, what a silly question. How do you do that? With a flamer! A flamer is used to boil the water in the stems and foliage of weeds. So, of course I bought a flamer.
This is actually kind of fun. You torch the leaves of weeds for a second, drying up the water in them and they start to wilt – but some are very resistant and will need another shot. Of course, my lawn looks like I was visited by some UFO’s who left their codes burned in my lawn.
Nosiree, RiaD, I’m not putting up a picture.
I must also make some compost tea, a method using water and compost and mixing it up for about a week and putting on your lawn. Oh, and the book also recommends adding white clover to your grass. We had that in our grass when I was a kid. Funny!
Well, my lawn basically looks like hell – but it’s not an overnight process and takes about two years to get going, but I’m determined and, guess what, I have the only lawn that the robins have visited around me.
Does anyone have trouble getting rid of magazines? Well, I confess I do. I hang onto them – so many are so nice in so many ways, beautiful pictures, stories, recipes, etc. So, now I became determined that I would not simply allocate them to recycling in the usual way. Some I took to hospital reception rooms and then made some phone calls. It paid off. A senior assistance home in my area wanted my magazines. The seniors like to read them, make collages and other items from the pictures. So, I bundled each like magazine chronologically, tied them up and took them (over 100) to the senior home. The administrator helped me get them into the “residence.” I received a “thank you” note from her.
I also had some older computer pieces, a couple of monitors, keyboards, speakers, mice and other sundry items, which were still good and usable, but too little memory for the internet, perhaps. I checked out the web and there is a charity that does take such equipment, but they want a life history on each piece and then you have to ship the items to them. So, again, I started making phone calls. Again, I had luck. United Cerebral Palsy (of Greater Chicago) has a branch entitled ATEN – Assistive Technology Exchange Network. This branch takes in computer equipment, works on it and sees to it that children with disabilities are the recipients of this technology – their motto “Too often, the children with the greatest need are those with the least access – but ATEN is working diligently to change that.” Any equipment that is not usable, is broken down into plastics, glass, etc. and recycled. This was perfect – another extended life for equipment that generally winds up in landfills. So I cleaned off the various pieces I had, loaded them into my car and went to the facility that takes in the equipment. They greet you at the back door and carry in the equipment and give you a Donor Receipt with a list of items donated.
My next effort will be to take any hazardous waste materials to a place designated for just that. I don’t think there will be any extended life to any of it, for example, oil based paint, etc., but you never know, but at least it will be properly disposed of.
This will be an ongoing quest — still thinking about what else I can do!