Reprinted from Nature’s Field

by David Skousen

“We’ll get him before he gets your lawn!” So begins an ad by a large firm guaranteeing eradication of any insect eating your lawn. We are also told that “the sad part is, you probably won’t even notice them until you’re left with a sick, infested lawn covered with ugly brown spots.” What could be more horrible? For one thing, losing your health. In 1988 a federal jury in Philadelphia handed the nation’s largest lawn care company its first defeat, awarding $67,000 to a woman who suffered repeated outbreaks of hives due to the chemical spraying of her lawn.1

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “many lawn pesticides in current use are neurotoxins which become airborne during and after application. They form a toxic smog that hangs over the entire neighborhood, threatening the health of every man, woman and child who breathes the air.”2

Medical records show that some people have become ill, and others died as a result of exposure to chemicals placed on lawns. In fact, groundwater in numerous places has been found to contain some of these same chemicals, especially herbicides used against “noxious weeds”.3

The General Account Office of the U.S. government says that Americans relying on professional lawn care companies could be receiving misleading information about how safe these chemical treatments are. There are may types of chemicals used, and Diazinon and 2,4-D are now under special review by the Environmental Protection Agency because of the toxic reactions found in waterfowl and a possible relationship with human cancer.4

Lawn Pesticides

In what is now a $1.5 billion lawn-care business, chemicals that were used 5 years ago had been approved after flawed safety tests were accepted by the government. Also, consideration was not given to children playing on recently sprayed lawn.

Some of the immediate symptoms of lawn-care poisoning include sweating, nausea, blurred vision, lack of muscle coordination and chest tightness. With or without these warnings, long-term effects have been linked to lowered fertility rates, miscarriages, birth defects, immunesuppression, cataracts, liver/kidney dysfunction, heart disturbances and sensitivity to chemicals.5

A few groups of people have banded together to fight this environmental pollution. Included in the list of enemy chemicals are pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, which are use by company sprayers to combat a customer’s specific lawn problems. Sometimes they are used “just in case”. In addition, other chemicals are used to fertilize the soil, it is claimed, even though soil tests are not taken to determine real soil needs.

Bring Your Lawn to Order

If we want a “healthy” lawn, we must first resolve to cooperate with nature instead of fighting it. Begin by leaving the poison chemicals alone. Remember that a healthy lawn supports a host of beneficial creatures, such as earthworms. These creature, which are killed by lawn chemicals, are nature’s little gardeners. They plow your ground without charge. Their“castings” (wastes) provide fantastic fertilizer, delivered right at the roots of your grass. In addition, their meanderings provide tunnels that fill with atmospheric gases like nitrogen, which the plants need for better growth. If the lawn becomes a little bumpy at the surface from their work, using a heavy roller over it occasionally can iron out the problem. We also know that chemical sprays kill the bacteria necessary to break down debris from last season’s growth, which is suppose to release absorbable plant nutrients for future seasons.
Scientists are finding that chemical fertilizers are not necessarily in the right proportions to supply what your soil needs, especially the trace elements. Too much of a good thing is an additional problem, for one element can unbalance others and cause undesirable side-effects or poisoning in plant life.

Reclaiming Your Lawn from Chemicals

To build up your soil, use mild fertilizers that will not burn or shock the plants such as “mature” animal manure, fish meal or kelp. Composting old leaves and other organic matter and spreading them over the lawn is very beneficial. Worms just love to eat organic matter and will be attracted near the ground surface where your lawn roots are.
For insect attacks, remember that insects are attracted to plants that are in distress. Weakened plants give off chemical odors (let’s call it “floral B.O.”) that insects are drawn to. This is nature’s way of taking out the weak and sickly. Infestation tells you something—your lawn is sick! This is a powerful parallel with disease in the human system. Disease attacks a weakened body.

Emergency measures can be taken that won’t destroy your grass plants while you are correcting the cause of the problem. Spray a solution of mild, natural, biodegradable soap on infested areas. This works well for softbodied insects. Diatomaceous earth (dead micro-organisms which retain sharp edges) can be sprinkled as a powder on the grass. This cuts into the insect bodies, allowing fluids to escape so the insects dehydrate. For creatures like caterpillars, beetles, grubs and grasshoppers, certain bacterial products can be purchased which kill them but are harmless to people—a type of “germ” warfare.

Weeds can be temporarily controlled by hand-picking until the grass is strong enough to crowd them out. Mow down the weed stems so they won’t go to seed and remove larger leaves that kill the grass underneath. Most weed seeds need sunlight early in their life and die under the darkness of thick grass.

To an herbalist, weeds are useful plants. Not only do they provide“medicine” for our bodies, they may help build the soil. Weeds are another sign of a soil deficiency, and are nature’s way of replenishing the soil by using a different species or family of plants to grow on that particular ground. (You will see this in forests where one type of tree is gradually replaced by another, a process sometimes taking hundreds of years.) Disease can often be controlled by keeping the lawn from constant dampness, enjoyed by mold and fungus. But the stress of too little water
will cause plant immunity to drop. Sometimes it is best to use different grass varieties that are disease-resistant in your particular climate; ask your local garden shop or agricultural agent about it. A mixture of various kinds of grass is often synergistic, and seed companies have formulas adjusted to the general needs of your area.

When you mow, don’t take off more than a third of the stem above ground until the grass is stronger. The roots need the strength of the greenery. Also, allow the lawn to take a rest from mowing during the waning of summer. When the weather is very hot, lawn growth slows down and should not be artificially stimulated by nitrogen. (In some cases, it does not appear that the application of a little nitrogen is harmful.) Fast growth can deplete water and nutrients absorbed so that while it grows better for a time, the plants weaken.

When do you water? In humid areas, night watering may encourage mold or fungus. Water moderately so roots won’t drown if the soil does not drain well or the water table is high. In hot, dry areas, on the other hand, night watering is beneficial by allowing the water to remain longer in the soil before evaporation in the heat of day. Water deeply to encourage the roots to reach down for deeper water that takes longer to evaporate in the heat of the day. To tell when the ground is too dry, stick your finger into it. If the top quarter-inch is hard or powder-dry, it’s time.

Except in the South where fire ants may be a nuisance, walking on your own turf (ideally without shoes), or lying down on your lush, green bed to watch the billowing clouds perform fantasies—that is your little bit of heaven. Or are you the more active type that would rather dance upon it with a butterfly, to celebrate your new lawn-gevity? The worms below will just
have to wonder what the noise is all about.

1 Organic Gardening, September 1988.
2 Hippocrates News, October 1990.
3 op. cit., March 1988.
4 Insight, 23 April 1990.
5 Let’s Live, July 1989.

Organic Gardening Supplies
People who are concerned about their health should be aware that it is largely determined by the health of our environment. Many of us have learned to avoid using poisonous chemicals for medicine. We also need to avoid using poisonous chemicals on our yards. Here are two sources of supplies for your natural yard and garden.

Nitron Industries
4605 Johnson Road - P.O. Box 1447 - Fayetteville, Arkansas 72702 - 1-800-835-0123
This company sells an enzyme soil conditioner which will help to“detoxify” your lawn and garden. They also provide a variety of good organic fertilizers.

Gardens Alive!
This company sells the best collection of organic pest control products we’ve found. They also carry some organic fertilizers. Their catalog is highly educational.

Let’s do ourselves and our gardens a favor and quit poisoning our environment and ourselves.

This information is for educational purposes only. Consult with a qualified health practictioner for all serious or persistant illness. Copyright © 1999 by Robinson & Horne, L.C., P.O. Box 1028, Roosevelt, UT 84066. This material may be duplicated for educational purposes only (not for resale) provided it is not altered in any way.