Environmentally Friendly Yards
Can your child roll in the grass? If your lawn is a potpourri of fertilizers and pesticides, you might not feel good about letting your kids turn cartwheels in the back yard or learn how to whistle with a blade of grass. A great organic lawn or garden is not only possible, it can actually require less care than a chemically maintained lawn.

Here’s how to make the switch from a chemically dependent lawn to one that’s organic and child-friendly. You’ll be doing the right thing for the earth and for your kids.div>
First a Few Dirty Words …

The key to a great organic lawn is great soil. There are many ways to improve your lawn and garden’s existing soil – ways that won’t endanger the environment or your kids.
One of the best ways is to add compost. Start a compost pile in the corner of your yard. It’s a great way to recycle your lawn and kitchen waste, while giving your dirt healthy nutrients.
In addition to food, soil needs air. If you remove the excess thatch that can build up under the blades of grass (raking will do this) and aerate regularly, your lawn will breathe easier.
Encourage birds to visit your yard too. Birds eat hundreds of insect pests every day and will be happy to visit if you provide a feeder, birdbath and a few bushes where they can rest.
Remember, long grass is happy grass. By mowing only every one to two weeks, you will improve the strength of your grass and its roots. Healthy grass improves the quality of the soil, and the clippings from the occasional mowing can be left to return from whence they came.h1>

Watering is key to developing strong roots and disease-resistant plants, but it has to be done right. Organic matter retains moisture. Healthy soil with a lot of organic matter needs less watering and can stay green through a drought. Check the roots of your grass. A healthy lawn has roots that are 4 to 6 inches long. Stunted 2- to 3-inch roots require frequent watering and are more susceptible to weeds, insects and disease.h1>

The essential nutrients for a healthy lawn are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. These are found in nature, as well as in chemical fertilizers. Natural sources for these nutrients are:

• Nitrogen: bonemeal, dried blood, fish meal and soybean meal.

• Phosphorus: colloidal phosphate and rock phosphate.

• Potassium: granite dust, kelp meal and wood ash.

If you buy a pre-blended organic fertilizer, read the label carefully. The label on fertilizer bags lists the percentages of these three primary nutrients as a series of three numbers called the fertilizer grade. For example, if the label has “
23-3-6” on the label, the fertilizer contains 23 percent nitrogen, 3 percent phosphorous and 6 percent potassium.

Recycle Yard Waste

Composting is one of the best ways to get great soil and to use your garbage. You’ll need:

• a sturdy container

• compost starter mix

• metal pipe

• a garden fork