Grow a safe place for kids, pets and wildlife

For most Americans, even here in arid Colorado, grass is practically an obsession. Even if you can easily afford the cost of watering and other costs associated with lawn maintenance, the chemicals most of us add to our lawns to make them “perfect” are bad for our pets, wildlife, the environment, and our families. 

Many of us have inherited our lawns and the idea of completely xeriscaping them can seem quite daunting. And, even though lawns consume an enormous amount of resources, they still do a lot of good. They muffle traffic and other noise pollution, and like all green plants, they help reduce carbon dioxide levels. They act as filters by removing pollutants from the air we breathe. And, let’s face it: nothing beats grass as a place for kids to play.

Brad Wolfe, Owner of Organo Lawn, says the biggest mistake homeowners make with their lawns is not watering properly. Unfortunately, those whom homeowners rely on most—those who install and maintain sprinkler systems—also don’t always know.  He says, “Most people have 7 or 8 sprinkler zones in their yards and they set each zone to run for 20 minutes, three days a week.” What most people don’t know, Wolfe says, is whether each zone is shaded, in the sun, north-facing, south-facing, and so forth depends on how they should actually be watered. 

Wolfe recommends a 1-2-3-2-1 style. Watering one day a week in the late spring, two days a week in late spring, three days a week when it’s the hottest in mid-summer, two days a week in late summer, and again once a week when fall arrives. It’s essential to find the right amount and schedule: not watering enough doesn’t help grass and plants grow; watering too much as can lead to wasting water and the growth of fungus.

Although making a change can feel daunting, going organic doesn’t mean you must give up your lawn entirely. Instead, it means planting things that will do well in our climate, watering deeply but infrequently, and avoiding the use of dangerous and expensive chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Wolfe says switching from chemical lawn care to organic is easier than most people think, “It requires a combination of proper watering, proper mowing, and proper fertilization. We believe in feeding the soil, which in turn takes care of the plants.”

But what about the cost? Synthetic, chemical-based products are very cheap. But their contents can be dangerous. Most formulas have an ingredient called 2,4-D. It was invented in the 1940s and was one of the main ingredients of Agent Orange. Wolfe says his team and other organic lawn care experts would never use these products because of the health effects associated with 2,4-D. He says, “It can affect other plants, people, pets, and the environment in alarming ways.” 

While organic products can’t compete with those with chemicals in terms of cost, a misnomer is they can’t compete in terms of lawn quality. “It’s just not true,” Wolfe says, “When properly applied, most people are actually happier with the appearance of their lawns in the long term after investing in chemical-free products.” And, we can feel better about our impact on the environment.