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Letter to the editor: This year, keep your lawn natural and diverse

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Yards for Kids sign shown in a front lawn. — Lauren Shotwell/Little Village

By Linda Quinn, Iowa City; 100 Grannies and Good Neighbor Iowa

Is your lawn safe enough for your kids to play on? If you do the “weed and feed” routine, it’s time to rethink. Current lawn culture encourages the use of chemicals, with deceptive descriptions like “healthy lawn.” But don’t be fooled, because pesticides and fertilizers have many risks. Children are especially at high risk of exposure which, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, has been linked to prenatal and childhood cancers, neurodevelopmental delays and behavioral disorders. The Iowa Department Of Public Health recommends child care centers omit pesticides. There’s even a state-wide public education campaign from University of Northern Iowa, called Good Neighbor Iowa.

Thanks to our local leaders, we can see what a natural and diverse lawn looks like. Iowa City Community Schools and City of Iowa City Parks have no-spray policies for turf grass. The rare application of pesticide is reserved for the dangerous plants like poison ivy. Isn’t it nice to know that a colorful mix of grass with violets, clover and dandelions means a safe place for kids to play?

People are realizing the many benefits of diverse lawns. They protect water quality. They provide pollinator habitat for the bees, butterflies and insects we need. Even our pets are healthier without pesticide exposure. A sprayed mono-culture of turf grass is no longer being viewed by as many as a desirable norm. Rather it is being seen as an unnatural space that endangers health and ecosystems.

Natural lawn care is as easy as it was for your parents and grandparents. 1) Omit chemical pesticides & fertilizers. 2) Mow it high and let it lie. 3) Over-seed bare spots. And count the time and money you saved. Be glad you’ve made a difference. It’s a positive impact on your neighborhood.


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