Birding Observer Summer Supplement: A Guide to Organic Lawn Care By Anne Greene

Have you ever wondered how to have a beautiful lawn without using pesticides and chemical fertilizers that harm birds and other wildlife? The non-profit Grow Safe: Non-Toxic Missoula has just published a guide that shows you how.

Grow Safe is a small group of volunteers dedicated to reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers in Missoula. With the support of Missoula’s Parks and Recreation Department and Missoula County Extension, the group has written A Guide to Organic Lawn Care that gives clear instructions for achieving a safe and beautiful lawn by building healthy soil.

The guide is full of useful information, that I’ll admit, I didn’t know before I began reading it! For instance, healthy soil is full of trillions of microorganisms – bacteria, fungi, protozoans, and invertebrates. These microorganisms provide nutrients to plants by breaking down organic matter in tiny air spaces around the roots. You can encourage these microorganisms by aerating your soil and adding organic amendments. The result, over time, is a lawn which is not only attractive and safe, but compared to conventional lawns, more resilient to drought and capable of out-competing weeds.

Many common lawn care products are highly toxic to soil microorganisms and wildlife, as well as to you, your family, and pets. Roundup® and TruGreen® contain the herbicide glyphosate. Glyphosate harms birds, bees, and fish; it is an endocrine disrupter, and a probable carcinogen. Another product, Weed and Feed™, contains the herbicide 2,4-D, a key ingredient in Agent Orange.

If you are interested in transitioning away from chemicals and toward organic lawn care (or know someone who is), there are plenty of resources in Missoula listed in the guide that can help. You can find physical copies of the guide at Currents Aquatic Center, Missoula County Extension, Montana Natural History Center, Caras Nursery, and Ace’s The Garden Place. Digital versions and additional resources can be found on the Grow Safe website.

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