Lawns should be full of life and chemical-free

Discussion in 'Pesticide & Herbicide Application' started by theturfboss, Feb 4, 2008.

  1. theturfboss

    theturfboss LawnSite Member
    from Indiana
    Posts: 47

    This column ran in our local paper a week or so ago...what are your thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree? Want to write the editor a short note and let her know your thoughts?

    By Lynn Jenkins/columnist

    Spring? Not quite yet.

    Spring is just around the corner. At least that’s what the lawn care companies would have you believe. Their brochures and flyers are filling mailboxes now; they want you to sign their contracts for a multitude of services, mostly composed of chemical applications. According to their advertising material, your lawn risks browning out overnight, being taken over by dozens of weeds, and hundreds of invading insects! If you don’t sign up, they tell you, it’s enough to win you “the worse neighbor of the year” award.

    Hmmmf. Really? Let’s look at the promises (or threats) from such lawn chemical companies and the reality of more eco-friendly lawn care.

    Lawn fertilizers, weed killers and pesticides … did you ever stop to think if your lawn really needs them? Or do you just apply them because the companies that sell fertilizers, weed killers and pesticides tell you that you need them? Typically, these companies recommend four seasonal applications of fertilizers with additional sprays of pesticides and herbicides. They also recommend you apply according to their schedule (for their convenience), not according to your lawn’s needs.

    More fertilizer is used on America’s lawns than all of India uses for food crops. That’s real food for thought. For what value? What is the uniquely American obsession with pouring chemicals onto our grass so that it is “perfect?” The bright green lawn often carries warning tags that suggest no persons or pets should walk on it. We’ve killed any life in it; there are no bees, earthworms, butterflies or toads that used to be an integral part of “lawn.” What’s left is nearly lifeless — only a decorative green carpet. To achieve it, we spend millions of dollars each year to pump deadly chemicals into our lifestreams.

    Americans must be anxious to crank up the mower each spring because we also spend lots of money to get that grass to grow really fast. That’s all the early spring fertilization does. What about early green-up, you ask? Doesn’t that early April/May application help the lawn to turn green early in the spring? Yes, but so does fall fertilization. Moreover, applications in the fall send energy into the roots for healthy root development and disease resistance, rather than to the stem for that too-fast spring growth. Purdue’s agronomists state that you can have a nice looking lawn by fertilizing only twice a year: in September and November. Half the chemicals, half the cost, and half the environmental damage. The lawn chemical companies don’t bother to tell you what the experts say.

    What about crabgrass? The chemical companies tell you to apply crabgrass control by mid-April, and they are right. But they often forget to say that crabgrass is an annual weed, and once it has been eliminated — usually in just one season — there is no need to continue the yearly applications. But millions of homeowners continue to have chemicals applied each spring to control crabgrass on lawns that contain no crabgrass seed. Maybe the lawn chemical companies just forgot to mention that.

    Early summer feedings in June are definitely not needed. That is a natural growth time for grass. Those applications are just for the chemical companies’ benefit. These companies figure that if you mow a lot, you will think that they have done their job. I can think of many things I’d rather be doing than mowing my lawn on summer weekends.

    Did you ever wonder where all the robins went? They used to search our lawns in spring for worms for their babies. Not anymore. Certainly not in subdivisions where the chemical lawn people have become part of the family. More than 65 million pounds of pesticides are used each year on lawns. Just what is this obsession about? Why should we care if a few insects and worms want to hang out on our grass? After all, it is the outdoors. We put so many chemicals on our lawns each year that they have become toxic green dead-zones. The soil beneath the grass supports no beneficial nematodes, no helpful microbes, no valuable earthworms. No life at all. It’s dead. No wonder the robins have deserted the lawns in our subdivisions.

    If you think it’s an exaggeration to call it toxic, just read the fine print on the little flags set up by the lawn chemical companies after an application or on the bags of fertilizer or on the containers of pesticides and herbicides: “WARNING!” That’s the chemical companies’ protection against liability when you, your children or your pets get sick, or when our water is poisoned, or when our wildlife disappears. It’s all a marketing game with homeowners being the targets, and we are also the losers. The chemical companies are the big winners. Think about it next time you trash your lawn with chemicals.



    Lynn Jenkins is a Zionsville resident and publisher of a new magazine, Indiana Living Green. E-mail her at Lynn@IndianaLivingGreen.com.

    You can also email the editor of the paper at jennifer.dawson@timessentinel.com
     
  2. LIBERTYLANDSCAPING

    LIBERTYLANDSCAPING LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Indiana
    Posts: 1,283

    She's wrong. That about sums it up...
     
  3. FdLLawnMan

    FdLLawnMan LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,182

    Wow, she has taken some real liberties with the facts. On some of her observation's I do agree. I do not fertilize early in the spring and do not apply a lot of pre-emergent.

    "Quote"
    More fertilizer is used on America’s lawns than all of India uses for food crops. That’s real food for thought. For what value? What is the uniquely American obsession with pouring chemicals onto our grass so that it is “perfect?” The bright green lawn often carries warning tags that suggest no persons or pets should walk on it. We’ve killed any life in it; there are no bees, earthworms, butterflies or toads that used to be an integral part of “lawn.” What’s left is nearly lifeless — only a decorative green carpet. To achieve it, we spend millions of dollars each year to pump deadly chemicals into our lifestreams.
    Mu reply follows.
    I honestly don't know if we do use more that India. I do know our fertilizer usage is a mere pittance compared to agricultural usage. And so what if we have a green lawn, since when is that a crime.
    Yes, fertilizer is a chemical. According to the EPA it must not be very toxic as I don't flag the lawn, and other research from universities shows that 99% of what is applied to the lawns properly stays on the lawn. To say we have killed all life in it is really an exaggeration. I have plenty of Robins, bees, birds, toads, etc.

    "Quote"
    Early summer feedings in June are definitely not needed. That is a natural growth time for grass. Those applications are just for the chemical companies’ benefit. These companies figure that if you mow a lot, you will think that they have done their job. I can think of many things I’d rather be doing than mowing my lawn on summer weekends.
    My reply follows
    You could probably get by without the early summer fertilization but why would you want to. Your grass will be greener and stay thicker with the fertilization. Wat does she mean by it is a natural growth time for the grass. It still need nutrients.

    "Quote"
    Did you ever wonder where all the robins went? They used to search our lawns in spring for worms for their babies. Not anymore. Certainly not in subdivisions where the chemical lawn people have become part of the family. More than 65 million pounds of pesticides are used each year on lawns. Just what is this obsession about? Why should we care if a few insects and worms want to hang out on our grass? After all, it is the outdoors. We put so many chemicals on our lawns each year that they have become toxic green dead-zones. The soil beneath the grass supports no beneficial nematodes, no helpful microbes, no valuable earthworms. No life at all. It’s dead. No wonder the robins have deserted the lawns in our subdivisions.
    Absolutely crap. If the soil was sterile nothing would grow once the fertilizer ran its course. I asked a few questions and hope to have a few more answers in several more weeks but the gist is we do not know a lot about the microbial action in the soil and how it really works.

    She takes a few facts, quotes Purdue, maybe not completely, and then goes into exaggeration mode.

    I will say this. I do think the business model that Tru Green uses is not sustainable. Applying nutrients on a seasonal basis instead of some predetermined schedule is tailor made for the independent applicator and is one thing we should really emphasize in our marketing.
     
  4. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,448

    She is an extremist who selectivley culls some facts and ignores others to support her opinion. I do agree that too many chemicals are used on lawns, and that the big national companies (the True Greens and a few other spray pray and leave types) and companies like Scotts add to the problem.

    But, she gives herself away with the two apps a year claim. She also completely ignores the fact that anyone using an LCO will have weed seeds deposited on their lawns. I guess she never heard about dandelion seeds or seeds being carried by birds, either. Having said that, I do agree that too many chemicals are being put down in doses that are too large.

    This sort of backlash from unqualified people often with a hidden agenda of their own who have access to media will continue to get away with this sort of thing as long as there are companies out their that use chemicals irresponsibly or manufacture and market for the sake of profit.

    Might get flamed for this one, but why do so many applicators try to control grubs in the spring? These are mature, overwintered larvae that are very hard to kill. Treat them in the spring, and if they survive, the next generation is likely going to be more pesticide resisitant. Spring treatments have to be pretty big doses to have control on the population. That does take a toll on beneficials. Whack grubs after they hatch in the latter part of the summer. No matter what it is, if it's living, it's always easiest to kill when it's young.

    With better timed pre emmergent applications, one as opposed to two usually works. Turf doesn't need 5lbs/m (or more) a year, but that is what Scotts sells, the water supply be darned.

    There is a lot of room to improve upon and reduce chemical usage IMO, but it's that last paragraph that gets my back up. Maybe someone should tell this ... writer... that Roundup carries a WARNING label but has a higher LD50 than vinegar does. I wonder what she would say if her red wine vinegar label said WARNING. And no one puts out lawn flags after fert applications, but she seem to think so.
     
  5. Hogjaw

    Hogjaw LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 386

    ALL NOTE -

    she has to write about something.....or she wouldn't have a job.

    Don't get sucked in.........she'd like you to respond.......would give her something to publish and write more about.

    She may live in a duplex or a high rise.......when she walks out the door........ immediately she's on concrete / asphalt.........she's on concrete, sitting or walking all day...........probably has never hear the birds sing either.
     
  6. garydale

    garydale LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 813

    She has distorted each of her points on this issue.
    Every point she alleges is arguable, but not worth the breathe or ink it would take
     
  7. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 12,097

    My lawn has about 5 worms per sq ft--just as many, if not more-- than lawns that have never been treated. Birds and squirrels are also abundant on my property. The soil is not sterile or "dead" far from it.

    How many worms per sq ft are on your treated properties?
     
  8. Shades of Green LService

    Shades of Green LService LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,011

  9. LIBERTYLANDSCAPING

    LIBERTYLANDSCAPING LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Indiana
    Posts: 1,283

    She makes it sound like Purdue is in agreement with her, but I seriously dougbht Zac Reicher & the guys down at Purdue are of the same opinion.

    She says India uses less fert. on crops, then we do our lawns? WHO CARES! If she want's to go live in India & sing koombyah & have a nice dirt lawn, then :waving:
     
  10. PHS

    PHS LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 724

    I really dislike heavily biased articles like that. I'm open to other points of view if it's dicussed intelligently. This is just a propaganda piece.

    Statements like "pounds of pesticides" isn't very helpful in understanding what's going on. For example, last year I made two treatments (8 gallons total spray) on my Crepe Myrtles with organic insect. soap (warning label) to help control the aphids until the beneficial population got large enough to help out. That could be turned around to say I "dumped 66 and a half pounds of toxic pesticides onto my property last year."

    Or another one, last year I fertilized my lawn with ureaform (38-0-0) and this year I used organic Milorganite (6-2-0). I could just as accurately say my fertilizer usage increased by 530% since last year (2.6#/Mftsq v 16.5#/Mftsq).
     

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