Give up garden chemicals for the new year
Mike McGrath, Garden Editor
Your gardening New Year's Resolutions
WASHINGTON -- Happy New Year, everybody. Time for a new calendar on the wall, a big note over your desk reminding you not to write 2011 anymore, and, of course, the requisite New Year's resolutions.
But these resolutions convey benefit to the planet as well as yourself.
The raid resolution
Here's a New Year's pledge that'll save you money and remove a tremendous self-imposed health risk from your life: Resolve to never spray pesticides inside your house.
I've always felt it was foolish to endanger your outdoors with these things, but spraying hormonal disruptors and nerve toxins inside your home -- where you and your family are continually inhaling them -- is absolute madness.
And, it doesn't work. Old-school toxic sprays are almost useless against indoor pests. Nuisances like ants, roaches, fleas and termites can only be controlled by traps, baits and other non-toxic methods.
I realize that the normal reaction to finding evidence of a pest problem is to shoot first and ask questions later, but resolve now to instead take a deep breath and reverse that order. Shoot me an email describing the situation and I'll get back to you quickly with details on how to eliminate your specific problems without poisons.
Say no to scalping
Time for all of the lawn owners out there to stand up, raise your right hand (eh, your other right hand, guys) and resolve to stop making your lawn look so lousy. Yes, you -- the guy who scalps his lawn so short you can see dirt blowing out the back of the mower -- you're the reason your bluegrass looks like a bad road in Beirut.
The secret to having a great looking lawn has nothing to do with chemicals, organics or service schedules. It's simply to never cut your grass below 3 inches. Lawns with three inches of green on top are healthier, softer to walk on, grow much more slowly, need much less food and water, resist weed invasion naturally, have many fewer bare spots and stay green longer during dry summer heat waves.
So resolve to check the cutting height on your mower before you use it for the first time this spring (sharpen the blade or install a new one while you're at it) and to actually measure the height of your turf after the first cut.
If the ruler says less than three, sad your lawn will be.
Let your lawn beat those weeds
Making this pledge will help the whole planet prosper in the New Year: Resolve to stop using toxic chemical weed killers on your poor lawn. Some of the most commonly applied herbicides are known cancer causers, and others are human hormonal disruptors. Do you really want a "lawn to die for?" Besides, grass is the toughest plant on the planet, all it needs to resist weed invasion naturally is to never be cut lower than three inches, to be fed ONLY twice a year (once in spring and once in fall, never ever in summer), and to be watered deeply and infrequently.
A lawn that's correctly cared for will easily out-compete dandelions, clover and all those other plants whose presence so upsets you. Plus, you'll save the Chesapeake Bay, save a lot of money and perhaps save your life.
Get your lawn off big mac meals
Here's a resolution that'll help your lawn and help save the poor beleaguered Bay: Resolve to stop feeding your turf with chemical fertilizers (whose other worldly use is in the manufacture of high explosives.) These over-amped salts weaken your grass by forcing it to grow faster than nature ever intended, creating bare spots and actually encouraging weeds.
So, how should you feed your lawn?
With your lawn!
Returning those nitrogen-rich clippings to your turf in pulverized form by using a true mulching mower provides half the food your lawn needs all year. (Those clippings are a whopping 10 percent nitrogen -- and that's exactly the food at exactly the level that lawn grasses crave.) A gentle natural feeding in the spring and another in the fall rounds out your turf's nutrition needs.
So if you're on a four step program, get on the twelve step program and resolve to get your grass off junk food. Feed it a nice light natural diet and watch it thrive.
Resolve to make at least one positive change this year