The Lawn Ranger

I despair when I see the lawn care chemical trucks start rumbling through town in early Spring. The little flags go up to warn folks to stay off the grass… I nervously check the wind, call my barefoot children in from outside, sometimes have to close the windows on the side of the house sharing frontage with a neighbor out to murder their weeds.

We have been on a journey, removing toxic chemicals from our foods, our home environment, our lives. Despite my always having believed instinctively in the concept that an organic garden was a healthier, happier place for me to while away my time, I had no idea that I would be so “crunchy” about so many other aspects of life once I became a Mom. But first the boy, then the girl, came to change the way I thought about consumption, being a consumer, and being a participant in the world at large.

Seven years into this journey, I now grow a greater portion of our family’s vegetables. I grow enough to do some major preserving come harvest time – from dehydrating to canning to freezing. My canning total in 2011 was 353 jars. I scaled back (due to a better idea of what we used and when) in 2012 with less than half that, but increased the amount I dehydrated and froze. The theory is simply to grow what we will eat, and to eat what we can grow.

Somewhere along the line of our Urban Organic Farmer growth, my eyes turned to the lawn. From this article at (

  • “researchers reporting in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that exposure to garden pesticides can increase the risk of childhood leukemia almost sevenfold. Contact with low levels of pesticides increases miscarriage rates, and a study recently published in the American Journal of Epidemiology documented a link between residential pesticide use and breast cancer risk in women. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that frequent exposure to pesticides increased the incidence of Parkinson’s disease by 70 percent.

OK, so pesticides applied to lawns – and these can range from our personal front- or backyards to those surrounding businesses, churches, parks and sports fields – can seriously increase the potential for harmful and even deadly disease. Besides the pesticides and herbicides themselves lie danger in the “inert” ingredients, which are not even required to be labeled. Heavy metals, anyone?

Here’s a very informative site about easy organic lawncare. Wait, EASY? I thought anything organic meant a lot harder to accomplish? Not really. Honestly, what grows a healthy lawn is the same thing that grows a healthy garden (which grows a healthy person), and that is healthy soil. Natural, God-given, nutrient-rich, earthworm-active, biologically-exploding soil!

From sites like and Organic Lawn Care, I find that the reasons my grass tended to struggle a bit in the summer are twofold: first, we mowed too low. Setting the mower higher, the grass is sturdier, stronger, takes up more nutrients and fights off the bad guys (aka weeds). And second, we were bagging our clippings. Now, in our defense, we were either feeding the clippings (remember, these are untreated, natural grass with no chemical dressing) to our small flock of urban hens, or using them as a mulch in the garden, or using them to make compost. They were not going in the dumpster to drive on down the road… however, even alternating mowings and leaving one to self-fertilize the lawn and taking the next for the abovementioned activities, the lawn still benefits.

So… there are my thoughts about urban lawnkeeping! I have to admit that a bigger chunk is retrieved from our front lawn every year as I keep expanding my gardens. Even in a front yard, with graceful lines edging the beds, and the beds themselves a lovely cottage-garden style of mixed flowers, herbs, and attractive vegetables, I find no reason to make a garden look like a mini-farm. A birdbath here and there, some foundation flowering or evergreen shrubs, attractive woodchip mulch, and you have a front yard that feeds the senses as well as the body, helps along the avian wildlife that keep bugs minimized, and reduces the amount of water and energy that are strictly for “show”… ie, an American front lawn. But there is a place for most everything, and if it is integrated well and has a purpose, and we are good stewards of the land under our care, even a lawn can be healthy, attractive, and easy!


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