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Some say sustainable lawns are cheaper and easier to maintain.

www.pittsburghlive.com | September 21, 2011

Having a lush, green lawn isn't the status symbol it used to be.

Now, having a lush, green sustainable lawn is the only way to one-up the Joneses.

In the past decade, several communities, including the Canadian province of Quebec; Westchester County, N.Y.; Saginaw, Mich.; Sarasota County, Fla.; and all of Wisconsin, have adopted various bans on the use of "weed-and-feed" products, particularly those containing phosphorus fertilizers, because of environmental and health concerns.

In Quebec, the list of banned products consists of almost two dozen active ingredients — pesticides and herbicides — including 2,4-D and Sevin (carbaryl) — two of the many lawn and garden chemicals Americans frequently use.

Paul Tukey, founder of Safelawns.org, an organization dedicated to promoting environmentally friendly lawn-care, and the author of "The Organic Lawn Care Manual," describes the typical American lawn as a "junkie" — utterly dependent on three or four annual applications of fertilizers, constant artificial irrigation, grub control, weed control, height control.

So here, then, are six easy-to-implement ways to grow a gorgeous sustainable lawn that rivals any chemical-laden landscape and is easy on the eyes and the budget. A gentle reminder, though, that change doesn't happen overnight. It might take more than a season to wean your turf of these vices. But, stick with it. Tukey says a sustainable lawn is a lot less expensive in the long run and far easier to care for.

Step 1: Shift your thinking from "feeding my lawn" to "feeding my soil."

Tukey likens the way we should grow grass to the way a forest grows trees.

"Create a nutrient-cycling system where your grass is fed by additions of organic matter rather than through added artificial chemicals," he says. This means relying on the beneficial insect and microbial life in your soil to break organic matter down into usable plant nutrients as happens naturally in any undisturbed ecosystem, such as a forest. This is readily accomplished by topdressing your lawn one or two times a year with a finely screened compost spread via a pitchfork and a wheelbarrow.

"It creates a nutrient-rich blanket that is available to plants for far longer than a chemical fertilizer," Tukey says.

For the rest of the article, click here.
 

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