We all want a great looking yard that our family can enjoy, but did you know that lawn chemicals may actually increase the risk of cancer for some dogs? Specifically, research has shown links between Transitional Cell Carcinoma and Lymphoma, and common lawn chemicals, including one called 2, 4-D. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, 60 percent of herbicides are considered carcinogenic. And, don’t count on lawn care companies to tell you if their products pose any risks to you and your family. By law, they are only required to tell you about the “Active Ingredients” in their products. Unfortunately, most lawn treatment products include many “Inert Ingredients” that may be known carcinogens.
Why are dogs at greater risk than humans when it comes to lawn chemicals? Part of it has to do with the fact that they have no barriers to exposure — they don’t wear shoes or clothes so any chemicals in their environment are easily transferred to their fur and skin where they can be absorbed. Also, how do dogs explore? They bury their noses in the ground and sniff, they mouth objects that have been sitting in the yard, they chew on sticks, plants, grass, etc., and often dig which can stir up chemicals in the lawn. All this increases their chance of being exposed to harmful levels of toxins.
Of course, you and the rest of your family may also be exposed to increased levels of toxic lawn chemicals as a result of living with a dog. Dogs are great at tracking dirt and debris from the yard inside, and unless you religiously wash their paws off when coming in from outside, whatever they’ve been walking in will quickly be tracked into your house too. And, how often do you pet, hug and touch your dog? Do you wash your hands after every single belly rub or pat on the head? Does your dog ever sit or lay on your furniture? Are you starting to see the big picture?
So what can you do to protect your family and your dog while still maintaining a green, healthy yard? Here are just a few tips for natural, non-toxic lawn care.
General Lawn Care Tips:
- Reduce the amount of grassy area in your yard by adding native or competing plants that require less maintenance but will still add beauty to your landscape. This can be especially helpful in areas where it is more difficult to grow healthy grass.
- Choose locally adapted grass as it will be more hardy and require less intervention to keep it healthy.
- Mow often, but not too short. If your grass is too short, more sun can get to the weeds and help them to grow.
- Water early in the day, deeply, but not too often. A rule of thumb is to put a measuring cup in your yard when you water and stop when the cup is filled with about 1″ of water. Most lawns do not need more than 1 inch per week.
Natural Weed Control:
- Learn to manage, or even LOVE your weeds. Some “weeds”, including Dandelion are actually incredibly healthy plants with widespread benefits for you and your pets. A weed is usually just a plant growing somewhere you don’t want it to. It doesn’t mean it has to be wiped out entirely from your yard.
- Pour boiling water directly on weeds to kill them if they are not widespread.
- Spray weeds with vinegar — the acidity in the vinegar will kill many common weeds.
- Pull weeds by hand when possible — great exercise and about as natural as you can get!
- Use weed barriers such as newspaper, or weed control fabric from your local garden supply store around plants and then cover with mulch to reduce weeds in areas with plants.
- Use corn gluten on your lawn to reduce weeds and add valuable nitrogen to your yard. Do not add to new grass seed though as this will kill young grass.
- Corn Meal. Use corn meal on your yard (can be purchased in large bags at feed supply stores). Use approximately 20 lbs per 1000 square feet.
- Epsom Salts & Ammonia. Mix one cup of Epsom salts mixed with one cup of ammonia and then add water to make a quart. Use a lawn sprayer to cover your yard. Should cover approximately 2500 square feet.
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