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Weed Control

Ralph Waldo Emerson might have said it best: “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not been discovered.”

In a lawn or garden environment, most of us have a hard time seeing any virtues in any plants that are trying to compete with our grass or peas and carrots. Oftentimes, however, those weeds can be very valuable in telling us something about the condition of the soil below. Changing your mind about weeds starts with learning to identify them.

Weeds are messengers sent by Mother Nature to teach us about the soil. We can kill the messenger — with a chemical, with a tool, a blowtorch or a tarp, or with boiling hot water or by simply bending over and pulling it out — but it doesn’t change the message. The weeds will always grow back unless we change the soil conditions. Here are a couple of examples:

If you have excess plantain, you almost certainly have heavily compacted clay soil.

If you have excess dandelions, your soil probably needs more calcium and less magnesium

“Keep your lawn safe for play”

Lawn games may be the oldest sports ever played on Earth. We can’t think of a better reason to have a lawn in the first place, or a better reason to grow the grass organically, without any products that could harm the backyard athletes of all ages.

It’s a fact. Most Americans don’t read directions. Next time you shop for products containing weed- and insect-killer and fungicides for your lawn, check the label. Virtually all those products will say Caution, Warning or Danger and Keep Out of the Reach of Children.

The good news is that transitioning your lawns and gardens to organic care will remove these risks from your landscape.

When a young mother named Pat Beckett took exception to ubiquitous yellow and white signs that stated “Danger: Keep off the Grass,” she began to ask questions. She soon found a willing accomplice in professional greenhouse grower Chip Osborne, who suspected that he had killed two of his dogs due to overexposure to chemical pesticides. Through the efforts of Beckett, Osborne and, ultimately, the town’s Board of Health, Marblehead, Mass., made U.S. history more than a decade ago by becoming the first town to ban lawn and garden pesticides on public property.

Today Marblehead’s Living Lawn demonstration project is held up by dozens of other communities who have passed similar bans. The Toxics Use Reduction Institute reviewed how the town did it, and how yours can too.

And that’s not all. An entire nation, Canada, and two U.S. states, Connecticut and New York, have enacted laws that just say no to weed ‘n feed, Roundup, Sevin, at least (in the case of New York) on playing fields used by kids.


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