Beyond Pesticides (formerly national Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides) was established nearly 40 years ago to raise public health and environmental concerns in order to counter the pressures of the chemical industry to shape and control local, state and national pesticide policy. The nonprofit organization describes its goal simply: to protect healthy air, water, land and food for ourselves and future generations.
In its Vision for the Future described in its Mission Statement, Beyond Pesticides seeks to enable the public to make informed choices and adopt practices that protect themselves and their families from unnecessary exposure to pesticides. It provides what it calls “hands-on services” by (i) identifying and interpreting hazards and (ii) designing safe pest management programs.
In spring, Beyond Pesticides’ Lawn Pesticide Fact Sheets is particularly relevant for homeowners. It offers alternatives for safer lawn care with a Simple Guide to Creating a Healthy Lawn as well as the Least Toxic Control of Weeds factsheet.
Other guides and factsheets include 8 Steps to a Toxic-Free Lawn and if you know what pests are plaguing your lawn, it offers a ManageSafe Choose-a Pest page, with information on 38 various pests (photos included) including chiggers, ants, bees, emerald ash borers, Japanese knotweed, ticks, and more.
With many homeowners utilizing lawn care companies, guidance on finding, in the organization’s words, a safe lawn care company that utilizes the least toxic products is detailed in Safety Source: Identify Least Toxic Products & Lawn Care Companies. It notes that of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 16 are linked with cancer or carcinogenicity, 12 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 25 with liver or kidney damage, 14 with neurotoxicity and 17 with disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system).
Most useful for this homeowner, who has not used any chemical pesticides on his yards for decades, is the organization’s guide Read Your Weeds which includes a chart with drawings helpful in identifying weeds in the lawn. And most important is the reminder in the guide to remember, many plant that are considered weeds, have beneficial qualities.
For example, clover, considered a typical turf weed takes free nitrogen from the atmosphere and distributes it to the grass, which helps it grow; crabgrass provides erosion control; the deep roots of dandelions return nutrients to the surface; and plantains, like dandelions, are edible. The website, Live Science, in addition to dandelions and plaintains, also includes purslane, lamb’s quarters and stinging nettles in an article, The Five Healthiest Backyard Weeds by Christopher Wanjek (7/31/11), with photographs that make it easy to identify all five of these backyard weeds.
In short, a lawn can have weeds and still be green, and ecological as well, with the added benefit, in writer Christopher Wanjek’s words, of certain common lawn weeds being tasty powerhouses of nutrition.
In particular, Wanjek notes that dandelion is one of the healthiest and most versatile vegetables on the planet. The entire plant is edible. The leaves are like vitamin pills, containing generous amounts of vitamins A, C and K — far more than those garden tomatoes, in fact — along with calcium, iron, manganese, and potassium. Wow. (Check out the photo of the wonderful salad made with dandelion greens illustrating this post.)
(Frank W. Barrie, 5/29/20)