Agricultural giant Monsanto was found liable on Friday (8.10.2018) in a lawsuit filed by a California school groundskeeper who alleged the company’s glyphosate-based weed-killers, including Roundup, caused him cancer. Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million in damages; this was the first of more than 5,000 similar cases facing the company around the country.
So what is the relationship of this case to the average homeowner? It is the danger we expose ourselves, our families and our pets to when using toxic chemicals for the sake of a beautiful lawn.
America’s Obsession with Lawns
According to a 2017 article in the Scientific American by Krystal D’Costa… to have a well maintained lawn is a sign to others that you have the time and/or the money to support this attraction. It signifies that you care about belonging and want others to see that you are like them. A properly maintained lawn tells others you are a good neighbor. Many homeowner associations have regulations to the effect of how often a lawn must be maintained. So important is this physical representative of a desired status that fines can be levied if the lawn is not maintained.
Consequently, it isn’t surprising then that most of us take great pride and go to great lengths to keep our lawns manicured and weed free. Why, we even have rules for our lawns – it should be no more than an inch and a half tall and neatly edged!
This means we must be willing to care for it. It must be watered, mowed, repaired, and cultivated. Whether you do it yourself or hire a service the use of pesticides and insecticides are part of the maintenance regiment. However, along with killing pests and weeds, these potent chemicals can also harm you, your children, your pets, and any wildlife on your lawn. Young children are especially at risk from pesticides as they are more likely to spend time outside on the lawn, playing or crawling and coming in contact with any pesticides used there.
Five Most Common Lawn Problems in Tampa Bay
Brown Patch Fungus: Brown patch usually starts in a small area of the lawn. The leaves turn yellow, then reddish-brown, then straw-colored as they die. It is an aggressive fungus and will spread into patches up to several feet in diameter, particularly in the fall.
Fairy Ring: Fairy rings appear year after year, always in the same spot. They are 3-foot to 20-foot rings of dark green or dead grass. Sometimes there will be mushrooms in a circle or semicircle, but not always.
Dollar Spot: Dollar spot appears in a pattern of dead circular patches about the size of a silver dollar. A spot by itself doesn’t look too ominous, but don’t let it fool you. Those small patches become very large areas, and dollar spot is merciless. It kills the grass right down to the roots.
Rust Fungus: Rust fungus is a yellowish-orange powder that turns your lawn to yellow, orange, red or brown.
Grey Leaf Spot: Grey leaf spot looks like brown patch fungus at first, but it attacks the tops of the leaf, leaving tiny olive-to-brown oblong spots, which may have grey “velvet” growths in their centers. As the disease progresses, the oblong spots become oval or an irregular shape.
Natural Pesticide Recipes for a Chemical Free Yard
There are safer ways to keep your lawn healthy and looking good without using pesticides. If you must use pesticides, you can help keep your family safe by using them with care and only when needed. Here are some natural recipes to consider.
- Neem Oil: The oil from the extremely bitter neem plant is a powerful, all-natural pesticide. Recipe: Combine ½ an ounce of organic neem oil, ½ a teaspoon of mild organic liquid soap and 2 quarts of warm water. Stir slowly, pour in spray bottle and use immediately.
- Diatomaceous Earth: An all-natural powder solution for insects of all kinds including fleas. Recipe: Sprinkle diatomaceous earth on top of soil around plants and around the perimeter of the house. It can be used inside as well. Look for the food-grade version so it is safer to use around pets.
- Himalayan Salt Spray: Effective for treating plants infested with spider mites. Spray where needed. Recipe: Combine 2 tablespoons with 1 gallon of warm water. Spray on infected plants.
- Citrus Oil + Cayenne Pepper: Works well on ants. Spray populated areas accordingly. Recipe: Combine 10 drops of citrus oil for every teaspoon of cayenne pepper and 1 cup of warm water. Shake well and spray areas populated by ants.
Remember: When using these natural pesticides, spray in the early morning or late evening to avoid burning plants. Also remember to keep pets away during application since certain ingredients such as essential oils and cayenne pepper can be harmful if ingested. Always use sparingly and only on infected areas. If it recently rained or will rain soon, wait until the ground is dry before spraying to avoid runoff waste and dilution.
Organic Lawn Maintenance Companies: If do-it-yourself organic lawn care isn’t your thing, there are several lawn service companies in St. Petersburg that provide affordable, natural and organic treatments for your lawn, shrubs and trees. Google and visit their websites for complete information.
Jerry Baker’s Green Grass Magic: Tips, Tricks, and Tonics for Growing the Toe-Ticklinest Turf in Town!, by Jerry Baker
The Lawn Bible: How to Keep It Green, Groomed, and Growing Every Season of the Year, by David R. Mellor
Harmful Effects of Chemical Pesticides on Your Health: http://www.havahart.com