Prevention. Pesticides 700-K-92-005

                         And Toxte Substances June 1992

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 Caring for Your Lawn in an Environmentally Friendly Way
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             for Your   Picture a healthy green lawn: perfect for lounging, great for ball
                        games and cookouts, a real asset to your home. But did you know
                        that your lawn— and how you take care of it— can also help the
                                   Healthy grass provides feeding ground for
                                  a rich source of insects, worms, and other food.
                        Thick grass prevents soil erosion, filters contaminants from
                        rainwater, and absorbs many types of airborne pollutants, like
                        dust and soot. Grass is also highly efficient at converting carbon
                        dioxide to oxygen, a process that helps clean the air. ^ Caring
                        for your lawn properly can both enhance its appearance and
                        contribute to its environmental benefits. You don't have to be an
          Printed on Recycled Paper   expert to grow a healthy lawn. Just keep in mind that the secret
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                   ^irds> who

  is to work with nature. This means creating conditions for grass to
  thrive and resist damage from weeds, disease, and insect pests. It
  means setting realistic goals for your lawn, whether you or a
  professional lawn care service will be doing the work. And if you
  choose to use pesticides, it means using them with care so as to get
  the most benefit and reduce any risks. £j^ Caring for your lawn in an
  environmentally sensible way can have a bigger impact than you
  might think. Your lawn is only a small piece of land, but all the lawns
  across the country cover a lot of ground. That means you and your
  lawn care activities, along with everyone else's, can make a difference
  to the environment. And that's why taking care of the environment
  begins in our own backyards.

Working With  Nature:  A Preventive Health Care Program For Your Lawn
To start, think about lawn care as a
preventive health care program, like
one you would use to keep up your
own health.  The idea is to prevent
problems from occurring  so you
don't have to treat them.  As
they say, an ounce of pre-
vention is worth a pound
of cure.   A healthy
lawn can out-com-
pete most weeds,
survive  most  insect
attacks, and  fend off
most  diseases—before
these problems ever get the
upper hand.
   Your lawn care program should
be tailored to local conditions—the
amount of rainfall you get, for ex-
ample, and the type of soil you have.
The sources listed at the back of this
  brochure can help you design a lawn
    care program that suits both local
      conditions and your own par-
        ticular needs. But no mat-
        ter where you live, you can
        use the program outlined in
       this brochure as a general
       guide  to growing a healthy
A preventive health care
program for your lawn
should have the following
 1. Develop healthy soil
2. Choose a grass type
   that thrives in your
3. Mow high, often, and
   with sharp blades
4. Water deeply but
   not too often
5, Correct thatch  build-up
6. Set realistic goals

   1. Pevalop Healthy Soil

   Good soil is the foundation of a healthy
   lawn.  To grow well, your lawn
   needs soil with good texture, some
   key nutrients, and the rightpH, or
   acidity/alkalinity balance.
      Start by checking the texture of
   your soil to  see whether it's heavy
   with clay, light and sandy, or some-
   where in between. Lawns grow best in
   soil with intermediate or "loamy" soils
   that have a mix of clay, silt, and sand.
   Whatever soil type you have, you can
   probably improve  it by periodically
   adding organic matter like compost,
   manure, or grass clippings. Organic
   matter helps to lighten a predomi-
nantly clay soil and it helps sandy soil
retain water and nutrients.
    Also check to see if your soil is
packed down from lots of use or heavy
clay content. This makes it harder for
air and water to penetrate, and for
grass roots to grow., To loosen com-
pacted soil, some lawns may need to
be aerated several times a year. This
process involves pulling out plugs of
soil to create air spaces, so water and
nutrients can again penetrate to the
grass roots.
    Most lawns  need to be fertil-
ized every year, because
they need more nitro-
gen,  phosphorus,
'and  potassium
than soils usually contain. These
three elements are the primary ingre-
dients found in most lawn fertilizers.
It's important not to over-fertilize—
you could do more harm to your lawn
than good—and  it's best  to use a
slow-release fertilizer that feeds the
lawn slowly.  It's also  important to
check the soil's pH. Grass is best able
to absorb nutrients in a slightly acidic
soil, with a pH of 6.5 to 7.0. Soil that
is too acidic can  be  "sweetened"
with lime; soil that's not acid
enough can be made  more "sour"
       by adding sulfur.
             Have your soil tested
           periodically   to  see
           whether it needs more

organic matter or the pH needs ad-
justing. Your county extension agent
(listed in your phone book under
county government) or local nursery
should be able to tell you how to do
this. These experts can also help you
choose the right fertilizer, compost,
and other "soil amendments," and they
can advise you about aerating if your
soil is compacted.  If a professional
service takes care of your lawn, make
sure it takes these same steps
to develop good soil.
There's no getting
around it:   your
lawn's health is only
as good as the soil it
grows in.
2. Chooee A Graze Type That Thrives  In Your Climate
The right type of grass—one that
suits your needs and likes the lo-
cal weather—will always give
better results. Grasses vary in the
type of climate they prefer, the amount
of water and nutrients they need, their
resistance to pests, their tolerance for
shade, and the degree of wear they
can withstand.
      If you are putting  in a  new
   lawn, it will be worth your while to
    do some research to identify the
    best grass type for your needs.
        If you're working with an
      established lawn that fails to
      thrive despite proper care, you
       might consider replanting
       with a different type of grass.
   Why struggle to grow grass that's
susceptible to fungal disease if you
live in a humid climate? Or a water-
loving species if you live in an area
with  water shortages?  Grass that is
well-adapted to your area will grow
better and resist local pests and dis-
eases better.
   New grass varieties and
   mixtures come out on the
   market every year.
   Ask your county extension
   agent or another one of the
   sources listed in this brochure
   for recommendations.

3. Mow Hf0h. Often and With Sharp Blades
Mowing high—that is, keeping
your lawn a bit long—will pro-
duce stronger, healthier grass
with fewer pest problems.
    Longer grass has more leaf sur-
face to take in sunlight. This en-
ables it to grow thicker
and develop a deeper root
system, which in turn
helps the grass survive
drought, tolerate insect
damage, and  fend  off
diseases. Longer grass
also shades the soil sur-
face keeping it cooler, help-
ing it retain moisture, and
making it difficult for weeds to germi-
nate and grow.
   A lawn's ideal length will vary
with the type of grass, but many turf
grass species are healthiest when kept
 between 2-1/2 and 3-1/2 inches. The
   ruler at the back of this brochure
    will help you judge the best mow-
      ing height for your grass vari-
      ety. You may have to readjust
       your mower—most are set
       too low.
         It's also important to mow
      with sharp blades to prevent
        tearing and injuring the
            grass. And  it's best to
mow  often,  because  grass adjusts
better to frequent than infrequent
mowing. The rule of thumb is to
mow often enough that you never
cut more than  one-third of the
height of the grass blades.  Save
some time and help your lawn and the
environment by leaving short clip-
pings  on the grass—where they re-
cycle nitrogen—rather than sending
them in bags to the landfill.
    You don't have to grow
    a foot-high meadow to
    get good results. Just
    adding an inch will give
    most lawns a real boost.

  4. Water Deeply 3ut Not Too Often
  Watering properly will help your lawn
  grow deep roots that make it stronger
  and less vulnerable to drought. Most
  lawns are watered too often but with
  too little water. It's best to water
  only when the lawn really needs it,
  and then  to water  slowly  and
  deeply. This trains  the grass roots
  down.  Frequent  shallow watering
  trains the roots to stay near the sur-
  face, makingthe lawnless able to find
  moisture during dry periods.
      Every lawn's watering needs are
  unique: they depend on local
rainfall, the grass and soil type, and
the general health of the lawn. But
even in very dry areas, no established
home   lawn  should require  daily
   Try to water your lawn in a way
that imitates a slow, soaking rain, by
using trickle irrigation, soaker hoses,
or other water-conserving methods.
It's also best to water in the early
morning, especially during hot sum-
mer months, to reduce evaporation.
Apply about an inch of water—enough
        that it soaks 6-8 inches into
the soil. Then let the lawn dry out
thoroughly before watering it again.
   The best rule \s to water
   only when the lawn begins
   to wilt from dryness--when
   the color dulls and footprints
   stay compressed for more
   than a few seconds.

5. Correct That-ch B>uiW-Up
All grass forms a layer of dead plant
material, known as thatch, between
the grass blades and the soil. When
thatch gets too thick—deeper than
one-half inch—it prevents water and
nutrients from penetrating to the soil
and grass roots. Some grasses tend to
form a thick layer of thatch. Overuse
of fertilizer can also create a
heavy layer of thatch.
   You can reduce thatch by raking
the lawn or using a machine that
slices through the thatch layer to
break it up.  Sprinkling a thin
layer of topsoil or compost over
the lawn will also help.
In a healthy lawn, microorgan-
isms and earthworms help keep
the thatch layer in balance by de-
composing it and releasing  the
nutrients into the soil.
Setting realistic goals will allow you
to conduct an environmentally sen-
sible lawn care program. It's probably
not necessary to aim for putting-green
perfection. Did you know that a lawn
with 15 percent weeds can look prac-
tically weed-free to the average ob-
 server? Even a healthy lawn is
  likely to have some weeds or in-
   sect pests. But it will also have
    beneficial insects and other
      organisms that help keep
       pests under control.
           Also realize that grass
       just can't grow well in certain
      spots. Why fight a losing battle

with your lawn, when you have other
options? At the base of a tree, for ex-
ample, you might have better luck
with wood chips or shade-loving orna-
mental plants like ivy, periwinkle, or
pachysandra. If your climate is very
dry, consider converting some of your
lawn to dry-garden landscaping. It
could save  time, money, and water
What Is IPM?

Integrated  Pest Management is es-
sentially common-sense pest control.
IPM is not a new concept; some forms
of it have been practiced for centuries.
    IPM involves the carefully man-
aged use of three different pest con-
trol tactics—biological, cultural, and
chemical—to get the best long-term
results with the least disruption of
the environment.  Biological control
means using natural enemies of the
pest, like lady bugs to control aphids.
Cultural or horticultural control in-
volves the use of gardening methods,
like mowing high to shade out weeds.
Chemical  control involves the judi-
cious use of pesticides.
   IPM is a highly effective approach
that  minimizes the use of pesticides
and  maximizes the use of  natural
processes.  Lawn care professionals
who use IPM should have a sophisti-
cated understanding of the ecosystem
of your turf and the  available pest
control tactics. Home gardeners can
also  practice IPM by following the
steps outlined in this brochure.
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                                     good bugs you will
                                      not want to kill!

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 Tips For Using Pesticidas
 Sometimes, even with good lawn care
 practices, weather conditions or other
 factors can cause pest problems  to
 develop. Pesticides can help control
 many lawn pests. But pesticides have
 risks as well as benefits, and it's
 important to use them properly.
    The chemicals we call pesticides
 include insecticides, herbicides, and
 fungicides. These products are de-
 signed to kill or control pest insects,
 weeds, and fungal diseases.  Pesti-
 cides can be very effective. But don't
be tempted to rely solely on pesticides
as a quick-fix solution to any lawn
problem. Serious, ongoing pest prob-
lems are often a sign that your lawn is
 not getting everything it needs.
 In other words, the pests may be
 a symptom of an  underlying
 problem.   You need to correct
 the underlying problem to re-
 duce the  chance that the pest
 will reappear.
    All pesticides are toxic to
 some degree.   This means
 they can pose  some risk to
- you, to your children and
 pets, and to any wildlife
 that venture onto  your
 lawn—especially if these
 chemicals are overused or
 carelessly applied. Pesticides can also
 kill earthworms and other beneficial
          Store pesticides out of children's
          reach in a locked cabinet or
          garden shed.
organisms, disrupting the ecological
balance of your lawn.

    When Spraying, Protect
Before Ueing Any Peetlclde, Be Sure To Review Tneee Basic Ru)es
                     your lungs
                                     1.  Take safety precautions. Never
                                        assume apesticide is harmless.

                                     Q  Read the entire label and follow its
                                        instructions. Use only the amount
                                        directed, at the time and under the
                                        conditions specified, and for the
                                        purpose listed.
                                     Q  Be sure to wear any protective
                                        clothing—like gloves, long sleeves,
                                        and long pants—indicated on the
                                        label. Wash this clothing sepa-
                                        rately before using it again.
                                     Q  Keep children and pets away from
                                        pesticides, and make sure no one
                                        goes on a treated lawn for at least
                                        the time prescribed by the  pesti-
                                        cide label.
                                     3  Remember to follow any state or
                                        local requirements for posting your
                                        treated lawn or  notifying your
                                        neighbors that a pesticide has been
                                     Q  Store  and dispose  of  pesticides
                                        properly, according to the label di-
                                        rections and any state and local
Wash this clothing separately
before using it again.

2. Use pesticides to minimize pests,
   not eradicate them. The latter is
   often impossible and unnecessary.

3. Be sure you have accurately iden-
   tified the pest so you can choose
   the best pesticide for the job and
   use it most effectively. Obtain pro-
   fessional advice from your county
   extension agent or a local expert.
4.  Spot treat whenever possible.  In
   most cases, it isn't necessary to
   treat the whole lawn with pesti-
   cides if the problem is confined to
   certain areas. Spraying more than
   necessary is wasteful and can be
   environmentally damaging.
If you have /questions about
a pesticide, call EPA's toll-
free National Pesticide
Telecommunications Network
(1-&00-S5&-737S).  For
general Information on    :
minimizing pesticide risks,
call or write EPA for a free
copy of the Citizen's Guide
to Pesticides. The number
to call Is 703-305-5017; the
address Is: EPA, Office of
Pesticide Programs,
Field Operations Division,
H7506C, 4(9? M Street, 5.W.,
Washington, D.C.  20460.

Chooeing A Lawfi  Cave Service
Many people choose to hire a profes-
sional company to help maintain their
lawn. Lawn care companies offer a
range of services, from fertilizing and
pest control to aerating, mowing, and
   Lawn care companies should fol-
low the same healthy lawn program
outlined in this brochure. They should
also follow the same precautions for
minimizing pesticide risks.
   How can you be sure that a service
will do these things? Start by asking
questions like these:
    Is the company licensed?

f\ • Nearly all states require lawn care
companies to be licensed. The qualifi-
cations for obtaining a license vary
from state to state, but having a license
is one indication that the company is
reputable and operating legally.

v-X« Does the company have a good
track record?

/\. Ask neighbors and friends who
have dealt with the company if they
were satisfied with the service they
received.   Call the Better Business
Bureau or the state or local consumer
protection office listed in your phone
book; have they received any com-
plaints about the company?  Deter-
mine from the state pesticide regula-
tory agency if the company has a his-
tory of violations.
    Is the company affiliated with a
professional lawn care association?

/\. Affiliation with a professional as-
sociation helps members to stay in-
formed of new developments in the
lawn care field.

Cx« Does the company offer a variety
of pest management approaches? Does
it apply pesticides on a set schedule or
only when they are really needed?
Does it use integrated pest manage-
ment, or "IPM" — an approach that

 often reduces pesticide use by combin-
 ing it with other, non-chemical meth-
 ods of pest control?

 /\.  More and more lawn companies
 are offering integrated pest manage-
 ment (IPM) in response to public con-
 cern about pesticides. Be aware that
 IPM is a general term and that compa-
 nies may use  it to describe a wide
 range of activities. Find out exactly
 what a company means if it says it
 uses IPM.
understand your lawn's problems and
the solutions?

A. Lawn services generally apply fer-
tilizers andpesticides. Butyoumay be
the one who mows and waters — and
poor watering and mowing practices
can lead to disappointing results.  The

company sHcyuld tell you. how it plans
to take care of your lawn, and advise
you about the work you need to do to
keep your lawn in good shape.

Cx. Will the company tell you what
pesticides it applies to your lawn and
why, and what health and environ-
mental risks may be presented by
their use?
/\ • You have a right to this informa-
tion.  If asked, the company should
readily supply it.  All pesticides sol d
legally in the United States are regis-
tered by EPA, but such registration is
not a guarantee of safety. Ask to see
a copy of pesticide labels to make sure
they bear an EPA registration num-
ber, and to review the directions that
should be followed.  If the company
can't answer your questions about the
chemicals it uses,  call NPTN (1-800-
858-7378) for more information.

For Mora Information

   Affiliated with the Land Grant uni-
versity  in each state is a system of
County Cooperative Extension Of-
fices. Usually listed in the telephone
directory under county or state govern-
ment, these offices often have a range of
resources on lawn care and landscape
maintenance, includingplantselection,
pest control, and soil testing.
   State agriculture and/or envi-
ronmental agencies may  publish
information on pests and pest manage-
ment strategies. The state pesticide
regulatory agency can provide informa-
tion on pesticide regulations, and may
also  have information on companies
with a history  of complaints or viola-
tions. NPTN (see below) can identify
the agency responsible for pesticide
regulation in each state.
   The National Pesticide Tele-
communications Network is a toll-
free , 24-hour information service that
can be reached by calling 1-800-858-
7378 or by FAX at 806-743-3094. The
operators can provide a wide range of
information about the health effects
of pesticides, and provide assistance
in dealing  with  pesticide-related
   Libraries, bookstores, and gar-
den centers usually have a wide se-
lection of books that discuss lawn
care and other aspects of landscape
management.  Garden centers may
also have telephone hotlines or ex-
perts available on the premises to
answer your gardening questions.
   The Environmental Protection
Agency can provide information on
integrated pest management strat-
egies  for lawn care. Write EPA's
Office of Pesticide Programs, Field
Operations Division (H7506C), 401
M St., S.W., Washington, B.C. 20460.
   Some suppliers of lawn care
products can provide helpful tips,
answer questions, and help identify
problems. Look for information/hot-
line numbers on product packaging.
   The  Bio-Integral  Resource
Center (BIRC), a non-profit organi-
zation formed in 1978 through an
EPA grant, has information on least-
toxic methods for lawn care. BIRC's
address is: P.O. Box 7414, Berkeley,
CA 94707.



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United States
Environmental  Protection
Washington. DC 20460
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