Ask EWG: How can I make my lawn non-toxic?

Ask EWG: How can I make my lawn non-toxic?

We know spring has arrived when questions about lawn and garden care start arriving. Rick in Pennsylvania asks, "How can I keep my lawn green and healthy without putting my kids and pets at risk?" Rick, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are not the answer. Here's EWG's Don Carr to tell you why.

Homeowners should be very careful when applying commercial fertilizers to their lawns. There's a huge risk of applying too much, which hurts the lawn, the environment and, in the long run, your health. Excess fertilizer can result in runoff to the curb, which contaminates drinking water supplies and harms aquatic life. Fertilizer can also leach into the groundwater (and into your well, if you have one).

Most pesticides are designed to act as neurotoxins on bugs, but when you send your kids or your dog out to play on a pesticide-treated lawn, they're going to touch, breathe and probably even swallow some of the chemicals. Pesticides can increase the risks of asthma and cancer in children. They can contaminate drinking water and be tracked inside of your home.

A well-maintained lawn requires no pesticides and little or no watering. Instead of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, use a natural lawn care system. Start with the soil, by making sure it's not compacted or poorly drained. Talk to a local garden center or nursery about the best kind of grass to grow in your area of the country. When you mow, never cut more than one-third of the total length of the grass, and leave the clippings on the lawn -- the added organic matter will help keep the soil fertile. Daily sprinklings of water make grass less likely to survive a drought, so if you must water, do it deeply and no more than once a week.

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