This content is sponsored by the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection.
As temperatures warm up, Montgomery County residents are rethinking their approach to lawn care. The County’s pesticide law bans most synthetic pesticides, including “weed & feed” and other herbicides and pesticides on lawns.
Many chemicals found in lawncare products are harmful to the health of people and pets, as well as the environment. Exposure to certain pesticides has been linked to many serious health conditions in children and adults from respiratory disorders to Alzheimer’s. Impacts on the environment include harm to pollinators and aquatic wildlife, bird and mammal birth defects and mortality, and cancer risks for pets.
Making the switch to organic lawn care is relatively simple but requires a plan and some patience. If your weed care plan was to rely only on chemicals to control weeds in your lawn, you may need to put extra effort into the first few years or your lawn conditions could suffer. There are some simple things you can do to improve your lawn:
Take a soil test! A soil test costs between $10 and $18. This will help you make a plan for what your lawn needs. Good soil health is imperative for good lawn health.
Feed your soil (not with fertilizers). Core aerate the lawn if the soil is compacted, and feed the soil with organic amendments such as compost, earthworm castings, compost tea or other natural materials to boost soil microorganisms.
Mow Smart! Make sure to set your mower blade to cut higher than 3 or 4 inches and sharpen your blades after every 12 hours of use. Leaving the lawn longer is healthier for the grass and helps to reduce weeds – and it does not mean you’ll cut the grass any more often than you already do! Rather than bagging lawn clippings, just leave them. They are an important fertilizer for your lawn and this is less work for you.
Use your hands, not herbicides. Pull a few weeds a day, or head out for an hour or two of healthy exercise in the fresh air each week. Leave some clover to help provide nitrogen to the soil, and tolerate a few dandelions, violets, or other flowering plants that are good for pollinators and wildlife. Although it may be tempting to water frequently or use sprinklers, avoid the quick and frequent water sessions. This encourages weeds to grow. Instead aim to water deeply, and infrequently, to promote healthy root growth of the grass.
Overseed your lawn to fight weeds. A dense lawn can have up to 6,000 blades of grass in a one-foot by one-foot area! The denser your grass, the harder it is for weeds to get established. Check with a local landscape supplier or company that mixes certified seed blends for your area to get the best grass for your lawn. Fall is the best time for broad overseeding, but you can repair bare or thin patches of lawn all season while waiting for fall to come back around.
Switching to organic lawn care is healthier for your kids, pets, lawn and the environment, and it’s the law. Making a plan is key to making the switch to organic lawn care successful.
For more information about the law and to learn about organic lawn care practices, go to MontgomeryCountyMD.gov/lawns.