A lot of us have a love-hate relationship with our lawns. We love them when they’re lush. We hate them when they’re full of dandelions and dead patches. It’s easy to have someone come out and spray pesticides to take care of weeds and bugs. But some people say it’s not necessary and could do more harm than good. Rebecca Williams reports:
A lot of us have a love-hate relationship with our lawns. We love them when they’re lush. We hate them when they’re full of dandelions and
dead patches. It’s easy to have someone come out and spray pesticides to take care of weeds and bugs. But some people say it’s not necessary and could
do more harm than good. Rebecca Williams reports:
So, you might be using pesticides on your lawn right now. And of
course, the pesticide industry says that’s okay.
The industry says the chemicals are safe to use on the lawn if you use
Alan James is president of Responsible Industry for a Sound
Environment, or RISE. It’s a trade group for pesticide companies.
“If individuals or professional applicators read the labels and follow
labels, the likelihood of misuse of pesticides is virtually zero because the
labels provide all the information a consumer or professional needs to
apply products both efficiently and safely.”
But the problem is, not everybody reads the label.
Alan James says if you’re hiring someone to spray your lawn you should
make sure they’re certified and insured. You should also take your kids’
and pet’s toys off the lawn before they spray.
But a lot of people say there’s no point in using chemicals just to make
your lawn look good.
Jay Feldman is with the group Beyond Pesticides. He says of the 30
most common lawn pesticides, most of them are suspected by the
Environmental Protection Agency to cause cancer, birth defects or other health problems.
“There’s a range of adverse effects that are indicated as a part of the
pesticide registration program at EPA. EPA knows this information.
Why not remove pesticides from the equation, especially in light of the
fact that they’re not really necessary?”
There’s a movement to stop using pesticides in North America. Both
Ontario and Quebec have banned the sale and cosmetic use of
So if you’re not going to use pesticides, what do you do?
That’s a question Kevin Frank gets a lot. He’s an extension agent at
Michigan State University and an expert on lawns.
“I love to mow my lawn on the weekends because nobody can call me on
the phone or email me with questions.”
He’s been showing me green, healthy test plots of grass and some that
look sad and neglected. The scientists here have been working to find
ways to have good-looking lawns without a lot of chemicals.
Back in his office, Kevin Frank says he tells people they shouldn’t be
afraid to experiment.
“Do you have it in you to let it go for one season and see what happens?
And it could be ugly, so you’ve got to be prepared for that!”
He says a healthy, dense lawn is actually really good at fighting off
weeds and pests all on its own. So, how do you get a healthy, dense lawn
without a lot of chemicals? Frank says it might take a couple years to get
there. And it means going against conventional lawn advice.
“We’ve done a great deal of research here at Michigan State that runs
contrary to what I call ‘turf dogma’. You know: water deeply and
infrequently – and we’ve shown if you do it on a more frequent basis you
end up with a healthier plan overall.”
He recommends watering lightly – just 10 minutes – every day instead
of soaking the lawn once a week. Frank says it’s also good to fertilize
twice a year, use a mulch mower, and mow high instead of giving the
grass a buzz cut.
He says that could make your lawn so healthy, it might mean you won’t
need to spray or hire someone to spray your lawn.
He says the biggest adjustment in reducing pesticide use is managing
your expectations, and deciding how many weeds and bugs you can live
For The Environment Report, I’m Rebecca Williams.