Friday, July 15, 2011

Lawn Dilemma

I live in surburban Long Island, and that basically means that I am expected to maintain my lawn according to the exacting standards of my meticulous neighbors--a lawn, in other words, that is plush, green, and free of unsightly weeds and crabgrass. And that is no small feat when temperatures on the Island reach 100 degrees in July and August as they are often known to do. When that happens my beautiful grass dies, but ugly weeds and crabgrass seem to thrive. It's almost as though they're mocking me by grown to epic heights, while the grass that I had struggled so hard to establish in June withers away.

Perhaps there's not much we can do about dead lawn patches in the heat of summer (other than keeping the sprinkler on all the time, which is no real solution), but don't pesticides at least off us the opportunity to get back at those ungodly weeds? Pesticides are indeed an easy way to ensure a weed free lawn, but at a huge ecological cost. They leach into our groundwater, kill helpful organisims in the soil, and may be responsible for the astronomical rates of breast cancer in places like Long Island.

So does this mean that we basically have to give up on a weed-free lawn. Not exactly. Ed Thompson, founder of the Molloy College Sustainability Institute, believes that the same results can be achieved without having to poison ourselves. Here's what he has to say:

Of course, there are other viable options as well. A friend of my, Kathy Reba, has been trying for years to convince me to get rid of my lawn entirely. "Why don't you just plant perennials in place of a lawn?" she is always suggesting. While this might be an option in some places, my neighbors in Nassau County might look askew at such a development.

A better option for me--and something I've been working on for the past two years--is to replace my regular lawn with a zoysia lawn, which requires much less water and care. A zoysia lawn also stands up much better than traditional lawns to the punishing heat of summer, and is so dense a turf that no pesticides are usually needed on it.

But more on the zoysia issue later....

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