There are many approaches to caring for your lawn. Whether you choose extensive or low maintenance efforts, synthetic or organic lawn care products, caring for your lawn in a responsible manner is important not just to your yard but to the overall environment. Below are some tips for responsible lawn care and information about how you can chose a toxic-free lawn care approach.
Synthetic Lawn Care Treatments
If you have a lawn service, carefully assess and discuss your needs with your lawn company. For example, most lawn service plans treat for grubs in spring and fall. But grubs don't feed in the spring. So spring treatment is unnecessary and wastes your money.
Professional advice is available to help understand what’s really necessary in your lawn treatment plan. You can phone Cornell Cooperative Extension, at (585) 753-2550, to review what your service is proposing. It’s an opportunity to save money and avoid applying chemicals that are unnecessary.
If you choose synthetic lawn care treatments, here are some basic tips:
- Don’t treat for crabgrass until the forsythia bloom - this is when crabgrass germinates. A second treatment four weeks later, especially in the event of a particularly rainy season, can ensure continued success. Fall treatment is not needed. Crabgrass is an annual weed that dies off by the end of summer/early fall, so treatment at those times is a waste of time and money.
- Treat for grubs in July, not any earlier – grubs don’t feed in the spring, so spring treatment is unnecessary.
- If you treat for weeds, research the product you are using to find out how long it is effective
- It is important to consider pollinators in the spring (bees and other insects). A pre-emergent weed preventer should be applied before the spring weeds flower, or a post-emergent can be considered after other sources of pollen have become available for insects.
- A single weed prevention treatment in the fall will cut down on weeds with less possible impact on pollinators.
- Weed preventers also can be harmful to a lawn in drought dormancy, so it is best not to treat during those times.
Crabgrass preventers and some weed preventers will stop desirable grass seed from germinating, so if you plan to seed your lawn do so in the fall or avoid these products in the spring.
Please follow the Town’s practice of responsible and very limited pesticide use, and only when strictly needed.
Some residents choose to forego chemical treatments in favor of organic lawn care options. Whether you choose to go completely organic or are working toward minimizing your use of synthetic lawn chemicals, the tips below can help you cultivate a healthy lawn that is healthy for the environment. Many thanks to the engaged residents who initiated the Toxic-Free Challenge and passed along this information to the Town.
Pittsford Challenge for a Toxic-Free Neighborhood
Join your neighbors and skip the synthetic chemicals this year
Re-evaluate your lawn contract
- Avoid non-organic pesticides and herbicides
- Organic-slow release fertilizer, only in the fall
- Avoid lawn-stressing spring & summer applications
- Skeptical? Try skipping pesticides one year and see
Choose the right plants
- Fescues for shade
- Blue and rye for sun
- Try non-grass ground covers
- 3 inches or higher
- Return clippings to lawn
- Keep blades sharp
Develop healthy soil
- Chemical use can destroy a healthy soil ecosystem
- Add a top layer of organic material such as composted manure instead
- Aerate every 1-2 years
- Only in the early morning, if at all
- Deep watering of 1” weekly to encourage deep roots
- Use a tuna can to measure sprinkler output
Consider native plants
- Try replacing some of your grass with native trees, shrubs and flowers
- Native plants need no water, very little care, and no chemicals
Patch bare spots quickly
- Weeds love bare ground
Other Toxic-Free Tips
Killing Weeds with Household Vinegar and Dish Soap
- Mix regular household white vinegar (5% acetic acid concentration) with a few drops of liquid dish soap.
- Treat while the area to be treated is dry and in full sun.
- Spray directly on young or newly emerged weeds. Weeds will dry out and die.
- This approach works best with young/newly emergent weeds.
- While the mixture burns on contact and will kill the above ground plant parts that it touches, it won't kill the roots of older, more established weeds, thus allowing weeds to re-sprout.
- Take great care if using horticultural vinegars (with higher acetic acid concentrations) - these can burn skin, cause eye damage, and are especially damaging to any toads or other creatures shading themselves beneath the weeds.
Further Sustainable Landscaping Info & Resources
The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Sustainable Landscaping website has extensive information about green yard and garden tips, selecting native plants and resources for a chemical free yard. Visit www.dec.ny.gov/public/44290.html to learn more.