Thursday, June 10, 2010

My Dear Neighbor Letter Regarding Lawn Care

The letter below was published in the Free Press.  It also got published in the Portland Press and Bangor Daily News.  Gary Fish of the Board of Pesticide Control corresponded with me via Facebook about the article. 

Dear Neighbors, About Your Lawn Care-

When you're outdoors this spring working on your lawn and garden, you can protect your family's health by choosing organic products and avoiding pesticides. Toxic chemicals applied around your home are hazardous to humans and other animals. One study showed that dogs exposed to chemically treated lawns were four to seven times more likely to get cancer than those on untreated lawns. If you have pets or children who enjoy playing on your lawn, it's particularly important to minimize their exposure to toxic pesticides. Runoff from pesticides also gets into groundwater, rivers and - ultimately - the ocean.

You can maintain a healthy and attractive lawn without using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. If you care for your yard yourself, visit for actions to take - simple measures like setting your mower on a high setting and leaving grass clippings to act as a natural fertilizer. If you prefer using a lawn care company, hire one that only uses organic methods. You'll be doing your health and the environment a big favor, and you won't have those ugly white warning signs marking your lawn!

Camden's parks and lodging establishments boast beautiful lawns and gardens which are maintained without use of toxic chemicals. If they can do it, so can you!

Laurie Wolfrum, Citizens for a Green Camden
Here's Gary's letter =

Gary FishJune 8, 2010 at 7:45pm
Subject: BDN Letter to the Editor

Hi Laurie,

I saw your BDN letter and it made me think about my concerns that just going organic is not the answer. Organic is not pesticide free and it is not non-chemical nor non-toxic. Runoff happens whether a product that you apply is organic or synthetic. Just because something is synthetic doesn't make it more likely to runoff or leach or for it to be more toxic. Many organic products are very toxic, very broad spectrum and susceptible to leaching and runoff.

I think it is very misleading to just say go organic and all the problems go away.

It is better to say, why do anything and if you must do something do it sparingly and with the most specific action rather it be a nutrient or a pest control product.
Hi - Passing this along. Any thoughts?

My first thought (and this is just an initial thought) is that this sounds like something pesticide applicators typically say to negate and/or discredit organic products or to bring them down to the same level as pesticides. Yes, both organic and synthetic products can be toxic - but so can almost anything - even certain flowers and foods - even excess water can be harmful. However, corn gluten IS safer than weed n feed products and organic fertilizer is a better choice than synthetic fertilizer for several reasons. Spot treating with vinegar is better than roundup.

The ltr to the editor was referencing pre-emergent applicatons for aesthetic reasons. Not particular pests or problems. I get his point though...everything flows to the ocean and organic doesn't mean safe. But to the average person who might dump too much weednfeed on their lawn, organic fertilizer or compost tea is a better choice. Laurie
Marina's thoughts:

My reaction was similar to yours, Laurie. We can worry about the details of organic best practices when people get there but the key first step is to get them off reliance on toxic additives...
Hi Laurie,

I don't get his quibble about organic- your letter is excellent. I think that, rather, he should have thanked you for helping to get out the word. (snip)


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