When our natural doctor first suggested that some of our son’s health problems could be linked to pesticide exposure in our lawn, I was mortified. How could that be possible? Don't most people treat their lawns in some way or another? Don't children everywhere play in the grass on a daily basis?
When we decided that changes were in order, we were sure that saying “goodbye” to our beautiful lawn was unavoidable.
I reached out to a landscaper for advice and was pleasantly surprised when he not only didn’t cringe when I spoke the words “chemical-free yard,” but he actually embraced it! In fact, this very man had spent years on researching the countless benefits of a healthy, balanced soil.
In the process of killing what you do not want, you are also killing the powerful, beneficial microorganisms that your soil needs to survive!
After time, and repeated use of chemicals destroying these needed microorganisms, the health of your entire soil can be seriously compromised just as the health of your body could be compromised with long-term use of serious antibiotics.
I’ve been picking this man’s brain for a long time. Together, we’ve made some significant changes to my family’s lawn. We pull weeds instead of covering them with chemicals. We treat unwanted insect pests naturally.
The surprising results? Our lawn is gorgeous! People everywhere ask us what we use.
Soil is misunderstood by many in our country. When you think of the reputation of something that is “dirty” you get a negative connotation. This happens whether it is reading material, children or dishes in your sink.
If we can learn about the soil that supports our life here on earth and how it works, we will all benefit. You may argue you aren’t a gardener, so this doesn’t pertain to you, but many of us don’t consider that most of the products we eat and use contain ingredients that came from the soil at some point.
We all view dirt differently. Some of us embrace it while others try their best to avoid it. But, regardless of your opinion on dirt, a very important fact exists—healthy soil is alive and the Soil Food Web demonstrates it.
Healthy soil is full of living microorganisms, such as nematodes, protozoa and many other things I won’t try to pronounce or spell. When native soil, in its unaltered state is kept out of harm’s way, it does not need additional inputs that nature is not already providing itself for plants to grow and thrive.
Healthy soil is like a micro-kingdom of sorts with checks and balances set up to work beautifully. Then we come along and disturb the situation with grading, gardening and other worthwhile endeavors.
One man’s weed is another’s flower. We try to determine what we want growing in our gardens, yards and golf courses by chemically altering our properties to disallow certain varieties of plants to grow such, as dandelion or crabgrass. The best analogy for what we do in our landscapes is seen in the medical world where we have used antibiotics to kill off certain diseases in our bodies. Antibiotics, by definition are “anti” which means “against” and “bio” which means “life”.
When we want a pathogen killed to preserve our lives, antibiotics can be a literal lifesaver, but they still indiscriminately kill off beneficial living organisms in our gut. This throws off our gut balance. Considering our gut health is a significant part of our immune system, when we throw off our gut health, we can compromise the health of our entire bodies!
This balance of life is very similar in the soil world. Beneficial microbes live in healthy soil and keep disease at bay by forming symbiotic relationships with plants to keep them healthy. When we apply herbicides and pesticides, we indiscriminately kill off beneficial organisms that help keep certain “bad” microbes from hurting, maiming or otherwise killing off existing plant life.
By eliminating pesticides, such as Sevin, and herbicides, like Roundup, you will see “weeds” or “bugs” in your lawn or garden if you don’t physically pick them or provide other deterrents to their proliferation. This natural balance can be achieved if you are open to an imperfect world where some “weed” plants or “bugs” are acceptable and perfection is not demanded. The organic approach is making strides toward mainstream understanding and is being embraced by more people across the U.S.
When people realize the organic approach takes more labor, it sometimes takes a back seat to the traditional approach. This is the same choice we must make in the grocery store when it comes to purchasing produce free of pesticides, and meats and dairy free of antibiotics, growth hormones and other pharmaceutical drugs.
Working with nature instead of against it in farming, gardening and landscaping can yield benefits many are not aware of and will help you create better yields, gardens and landscapes long-term. If you'd like to learn more, authors such as Elaine Ingham, Jeff Lowenfels, and anyone who writes about the "soil food web" are great resources.