July 9, 2010
Give back to nature and enjoy the benefits of a low-maintenance, eco-friendly humane lawn
How easy it is to go with the flow, mindlessly mowing and maintaining a lawn in the same old way without thought of whether there is another way, a better way.
As it happens, there is a whole world of interesting (and attractive!) options that will enable you to help support wildlife where you live, work, and play.
All you need is the desire for a livelier landscape and openness to some experimenting to see what works!
- Allow selected areas of grass to grow, mowing only a neat edge around them to create a habitat island.
- If you’re starting a new lawn or replacing an existing one, plant grass only where it is needed, and opt for a hearty, pest-resistant, draught-tolerant grass species appropriate for your region.
- In low-traffic areas, use native ground cover plants instead of grass.
- Create mini-meadows of native grasses or wildflowers and mow only pathways around them.
- If you choose to water your lawn, do so in the morning, and water infrequently and deeply to strengthen the root structure.
- Fertilize naturally by leaving lawn clippings behind when you mow (but don’t use grass clippings from a chemically treated lawn as fertilizer).
- When needed, add compost, or organic fertilizers that increase microbial activity and protect against thatch and disease.
- Create a balanced compost mix with carbon-rich brown materials (dried leaves, straw, hay, and sawdust) and nitrogen-rich green materials (grass clippings, weeds, seaweed, vegetable kitchen scraps, and coffee grounds).
- Turn the compost pile often to let oxygen reach the microbes.
- Add compost with a spreader or by dumping and raking.
Each year, pesticides are applied to U.S. lawns and gardens at the rate of about 3 pounds of active ingredients per acre, harming far more than their insect targets. They contribute to at least 72 million pesticide-caused bird deaths every year , and make their way into streams, where they kill still more wildlife.
Studies also suggest a possible link between the rise in lawn pesticide use and increased risk of childhood leukemia, brain cancer, and Parkinson’s disease.
Similarly, dogs exposed to lawns treated with a common pesticide have shown an increased risk of canine lymphoma.
- Stop using pesticides, so that beneficial insects can return and keep insect pests in check. Add native plants to support healthy populations of beneficial insects.
- When necessary, apply neem, insecticidal soap, natural pyrethrins, or spinosad.
- Consult the 2012 Directory of Least Toxic Pest Control Products, available from the Bio-Integral Resource Center.
Roughly 90 million pounds of herbicides already being applied to lawns each year, harming people, pets, and wildlife.
- Apply a mulch of shredded oak and maple leaves to discourage weeds.
- Allow grass to grow to about 3 inches before mowing, crowding out weed sprouts with shade.
- Remove weeds with a “weed hound” or dandelion knife.
- Douse weeds with hot water to wither them.
- Suppress weeds before they emerge by applying corn gluten meal.
Browse this list of books and websites to learn more about how you can give back to nature.
A place that offers food, shelter, water, refuge from toxic sprays, and safety from mowers—it’s what every creature wants, right? They want a Humane Backyard. By making simple changes, you can create that haven of comfort and security for local wildlife. And you can do it anywhere: in the city, suburbs, or country. So look around--at your backyard, balcony, or the park down the street—then let us teach you how to make your own Humane Backyard. Once you’ve learned how, take our Humane Backyard pledge.