Whenever you see a house with a beautiful lawn, you would naturally assume that the homeowners are contributing to the environment, having planted “greens” in their house. This is a common misconception. In the United Stated, combined house lawns are about the same area size of the Kentucky State, almost 40,000 square miles, and most homeowners still use dangerous household pesticides and herbicides, as evidenced by the 100 pounds of chemicals bought by consumers annually. Add to this statistic the hundreds of golf courses in the country and we are talking about thousands of chemicals leaching into the groundwater, polluting the air and getting under our skin. Fortunately, there has been increasing awareness about using eco-friendly ways to care for your lawns and golf courses. We have come up with five tips on eco-friendly turf care, as listed below:
1. Use water efficiently.
Irrigation is important in turf care but water management (or how you use water) is what is ultimately important. Don’t water too often; it encourages roots to stay near the surface so they are more susceptible to drying out. Watering at regular intervals encourages roots to grow downward to search for water and moisture. A good rule of thumb: Feel the soil up to six inches down when you plan on watering. If it’s still wet, don’t water.
2. Conserve water. Recycle.
Together with efficient water management, water conservation should be a priority. Using rain water or recycled (reclaimed) water for watering is a great idea. Most golf courses now use reclaimed water (former wastewater that is treated to remove solids and impurities) for irrigation as part of the awareness towards conserving water and contributing to saving what is left of the environment. They have also invested and built structures to collect rain water for use.
3. Mulch grass clippings.
Those grass clippings after mowing make for great mulch. You don’t have to collect them in bags, just leave them where they are. Grass clippings, or the portion cut after grass is mown, are 90% water so they begin to decompose almost immediately after falling to the ground. If you leave them in place, they disintegrate and return their nutrients in the soil. You also are in a sense, watering the soil as they are mostly comprised of water.
4. Aerate your soil.
For healthy grass to grow, you need to have healthy soil. Most soils become compacted and unhealthy because of excess foot traffic, mowing and too many chemical product applications. It needs to “breathe” so that the organisms present in the soil can breathe and come alive as well. Cutting “cores” out of the soul with a machine or hand tool, boring holes so that air, water and organic fertilizer can enter, is how aeration is done.
5. Have a gentler approach when it comes to pests.
You might be surprised to read this: Less than 2% of insects or pests found in lawns are pests. Most are considered beneficial. The reality is only a few insects do real damage to lawns. Killing all insects should never be the goal and using chemical products are worse than keeping them alive as they have dangerously negative impacts on our health and the planet. Use non-toxic pest-control agents.
Go Organic on Turf Care
From soil management, water recycling, fertilization and pest control, environmentalists strongly recommend going organic. This means using safe, non-toxic and as much as possible, natural methods for turf care management.
Jeff Carlson, the greenskeeper of one of the greenest golf courses in the US and recipient of the President’s Award for Environment Stewardship said, “People need to understand that those perfect, weed-free fairways they see on television are not possible in their backyards. Even the best golf courses in the nation have imperfections and your lawn will, too. If you go organic, and you should, then you can have a nice lawn. A very nice lawn. Just don’t expect it to be perfect.”