Your Grass Can Be Greener

How to minimize the environmental impact of your (great looking) lawn

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Most of us, though we’d rather be doing something else–like backpacking–have a husband/wife/roommate/landlord/dad/mom/neighbor who ask us/requires us/guilts us into making sure our lawn looks good. Good looking lawns, however, are often high cost to the environment.

According to The New York Times, Americans bought 4.5 million tons of bagged fertilizer in 2007, most of it for “healthy looking” lawns. While fertilizer made people’s lawns lush, it also washed into lakes and rivers killing fish and plants and exposing humans to dangerous chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

Bags of chemical fertilizer are not the only solution for green, lush grass says Bill Duesing, an educator with the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) in an interview. Instead try compost. It’s got more than 6 billion good-for-your-lawn living organisms in a small handful, and you can make it or buy it. Duesing also recommends adding rye or fescue seed and clover to your mix next time you seed your lawn. They’re lower maintenance, and the clover pulls nitrogen from the air and puts it into your soil–no fertilizer needed. Finally, Duesing recommends leaving grass clippings and leaves where they fall, and mulching both, preferable with a push or electric mower to help build healthy soil.

Have dandelions? Eat them, says Duesing. They’re a great spring tonic. Toss washed leaves in salad, throw them in stir fry, or sautee up the root. Dandelion root is a good liver cleanser. Both root and leaves are best in the spring.

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