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Tips for an organic yard

Much of Northeast Ohio has been turned into a managed landscape. So what are we managing for? The perfect, weed-free lawn that's dependent on chemicals? Or a more sustainable landscape that integrates our yards back into nature?

This section will cover efforts to restore the ecological health of the land in our own backyards.

Food not lawns<br />Cleveland Heights resident Mari Keating replaced a front lawn with this beautiful garden that includes perennials and food plants.Storm drain<br />Lawn chemicals can wash off into storm drains.Storm outfall<br />Storm sewers empty in to streams and lakes, not wastewater  treatment plants.Impacts on water quality and health<br />Pollutants that runoff lawns and streets end up in our streams and lakes.

Your yard as habitat

Each of us can play a part in managing a yard that restores the ecological integrity of the landscape. You can start by re-imagining your yard as part of a continuous habitat, connected to larger natural processes in the region. Your guiding star should be to work with what's native to Northeast Ohio.

Tips for a sustainable yard

  • At home, avoid potentially dangerous pesticides that promise a "quick fix" to your problems. Adopt organic methods—a holistic approach that aims to prevent problems before they happen and treats those that do occur with biological rather than synthetic products.
  • Learn cultivation techniques that minimize weed growth, such as mowing high, using an autumn application of organic fertilizer, and watering infrequently but deeply in the early morning. Pull out occasional weeds by hand.
  • Learn traditional ways of foiling garden pests—keep plants mulched and stress-free to resist insects, rotate crops, plant a diversity of vegetables, use trays of beer to lure slugs.
  • Plant a garden and cultivate hardy native plants instead of a chemically addicted expanse of grass.
  • Stop fussing so much about weeds in general. Learn to think of your lawn as a meadow and appreciate the biodiversity of Mother Nature.
  • Request to be notified of your neighbors' pesticide applications. State law requires licensed applicators to provide 24-hour notification of lawn pesticide application to abutting property owners who request such notification in writing. Applicators also have to post warning signs on properties where pesticides have been applied.
  • Work to reduce use of lawn chemicals at your workplace, child's school, community park or local golf course.
  • Most importantly, don't base your lawn care decisions on mass advertising by the chemical companies. Think for yourself: How can you best contribute to the ecological balance in today's risky world?

Lawn and garden resources

Biological pest controls

  • Diatomaceous earth: Ask for garden grade; found at most gardening centers.
  • Boric acid solutions: At hardware stores and home centers.
  • Soapy solutions: Ask for products by companies such as Safer or Shaklee.
  • Organic fertilizer: Ask at garden centers, for products such as Ringer Restore.
  • Organic herbicide: Ask for corn gluten products such as Garden's Alive (812) 537-8650 or Sharpshooter.
  • Alternatives to Roundup: See discussion about Roundup here.
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