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Grassroots Action
(Previous Grassroots Actions)

It’s Spring! Start a Healthy, Pesticide-Free Lawn Now

Spring is here and so is the time to get started on getting your lawn healthy and getting others to do the same without toxic pesticides. The key to a healthy lawn is practices that optimize the growth of grasses and minimizes conditions favorable to pests, pathogens and weeds. Presence of weeds is a sign of a lawn undergoing stress. Stresses may include compacted soils, improper mowing heights, too much or too little irrigation or fertilization, accumulation of thatch, uneven grading and/or unsuitable grass species. When pest numbers exceed tolerance levels, there are a wide variety of strategies and tactics that are available. Here are some ideas to get you started off right.

Basic Steps to Getting Your Spring Lawn in Shape

The following Lawn Care Calendar is adapted from the Greater Madison Healthy Lawn Care Team, a member of the National Coalition for Pesticide Free Lawns. (Please be sure to adjust the timing of the lawn activity to your local climate.)

MONTH ACTION
April (When forsythia, one of the earliest spring-blooming bushes, blooms and when the grass is beginning to turn green, but before trees have begun to leaf out.) • Sharpen mower blades. Set to 3-3 1/2". Tune up mower.• Begin mowing, leaving grass clippings on lawn. Edge paths.• To stop weed seedlings from taking root, apply corn gluten meal at the rate of 12 lbs./1000 sq. ft. Spread the product just as weed seeds are germinating.
April/May • Aerate, and if thatch is a problem use a power rake.
May/June • If you want to make two nitrogen applications this year, apply the first one now. Apply no more than 2-3 lbs nitrogen/1000 sq. ft. per year on sunny lawns or 1-1.5 lbs nitrogen/1000 sq. ft. on shady lawns. Never apply more than 1 lb nitrogen/1000 sq. ft. at one time. Use natural sources, such as compost, manure, fish meal or vegetable meal fertilizer.• Don't apply nitrogen now if you used corn gluten meal on weeds. Corn gluten contains 1 lb. of nitrogen per application.
April - June • Dig or rake creeping charlie, dig dandelions, burdock, thistle, and other perennial weeds. This is the most effective time of year to weed since root reserves are at their lowest in the spring.

Creating a Healthy Lawn.
Weeds can tell you a lot about the condition of your lawn and indicate what you need to do to grow healthy grass that is naturally resistant to weeds and pest problems. Learn to read your “weeds” for what they indicate about your lawn care practices and soil conditions, and you’ll be on your way to creating a healthy lawn that will be less work in the long run.

Hire A Landscaper.
Beyond Pesticides has put together Safety Source for Pest Management: A Least Toxic Service Directory, a growing directory of lawn and structural pest management companies that are interested in providing the services you want, without poisoning you, your family or the environment.

Display A Pesticide-Free Zone Sign.
Show your neighbors that pesticide-free lawns are important for the health of children, families, pets, the environment and the community. Close to 10,000 metal ladybug signs have already been posted around the country.

Get Involved In Promoting Organic Land Care in Your Community.
A growing number of communities across the country, concerned about pesticide impacts to public health, the environment and wildlife, are taking actions that you can replicate in your own city or town. From the north shore of Massachusetts to San Diego, CA, municipalities are establishing pesticide-free parks, piloting organic playing fields, passing policies that restrict pesticides on municipal lands, or voluntarily for private land. These actions are usually spearheaded by a local activist.

Safe Lawn Door-Hanger.
The Door-Hanger is a tool to help spread the word about the dangers of lawn pesticides and the ever-increasing availability of alternatives. It’s an easy, non-confrontational way to approach neighbors you suspect are using pesticides.

Radio PSA for Organic Land Care.
Radio provides a great outlet to get the message out about the importance of organic land care. Public service announcements (PSAs) are often played by radio stations as a service to the public. The chances that they will be played increases greatly if the request comes from a local listener! Please contact your local radio station and request that they play the PSA promoting the importance of organic land care for healthy communities.