20 May 2011

Grass or Weed?

Maryland Governor O’Malley signed the Fertilizer Use Act of 2011.  The law establishes requirements for specialty fertilizers and sets maximum limits for nitrogen and phosphorous in fertilizer.  It’s about time.  Oh, my, we have got to save the Chesapeake Bay!  Mouth and eyes wide open with hands on my cheeks.
Property owners use excessive amounts of lawn chemicals in search of the perfect luscious single color deep green lawn.  It’s past time for these practices to stop.  Most of the chemicals run off into streams and end up in the Bay.  The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in America is suffering ‘cause we want to keep up with the Joneses.  Now, if someone violates the new law, they will be fined.  One or two thousand dollars should be enough for someone to start enjoying the lawn with multiple shades of green and those cute little dandelions.
Okay, what do we do?  Can we make our own?  We’ll yeah, but you won’t hear it from me.  There are many homemade recipes online including ingredients such as beer, soda, syrup, soap, ammonia and some that even include liquid lawn fertilizer.  What?  Unless you are a botanist with a background in soil science, you are highly likely to be wasting your money on these lawn tonics.   It has taken many years for commercial fertilizer companies to come up with a mix for specific geographic areas and most of them will not be right for your particular lawn.  Much of the fertilizer sprayed and spread on lawns gets washed away in the rain, so folks tend to over fertilize hoping some it will stick.   Walk around and look at those hay colored lawns.  Dollars and common sense down the storm drain.  Meanwhile, the Bay is dying under the pressures of excess nutrients and sediments that flow from our houses to the homes for the fish, oysters, turtles and ducks; very lame.
Plants are sensitive and susceptible to burning from misapplied chemicals, be they natural, organic or poisonous.  Your lawn is an ecosystem made up of vegetation, worms, insects and the occasional mole.  Those living organisms do just fine.  It’s us with the problem, well, not me.  How ‘bout that?  My lawn, more like a diverse patch of weeds, vines, flowers, grasses, ants and other species unknown is pretty, to me, and the kids love picking the purple and yellow flowers.  I like it just fine.  My neighbors spend tons of money on chemicals and hired lawn cutters…. and they still have dandelions, clover, and mud.    If we have a bald spot, we scrape the soil, add seeds and water.  Soon enough, grass and weeds fill in the spot.  Done. 
We have got to change our mindset about the aesthetic yard.  Gardens are beautiful.  A small grass lawn area is fine.  Native grasses, various trees and shrubs are even better.  Check out Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation Landscaping in Maryland.  Plants suited for your home environment are less costly; do not require much watering and maintenance; and they provide habitat for the birds, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels and the sneaky cat that roams our neighborhod.  One day, the Bay may recover.  I hope so. 
Let the weeds begin! 

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