Organic Lawn Care Options: DIY or Hiring a Service
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Dogs & Lawn Care

Organic Lawn Care Options: DIY or Hiring a Service

Growing up where I did, we never cared about having a perfect lawn. In fact, most of our property was heavily wooded and forest-like, which was the whole reason my parents purchased it in the first place. Once a week Dad would mow while I used the hand trimmers around the rock gardens, and that was about it for lawn care.

In fact, my first experience with lawn obsessed home owners was when I moved in with my husband into our subdivision eleven years ago and a woman from our HOA had the nerve to come into our yard and measure our grass with a ruler and then report us for it being too long.

Over a decade later, I now know that suburbanites take their green grass seriously. In past years we have had the streets crawling with lawn care service salesmen, going door to door to try to shame us into hiring them because our neighbors did.

Personally, I don’t care if we have dandelions or clover in the grass or if the yard is one giant weed. As they say on the television show, Once Upon a Time, “Magic always comes with a price, dearie,” and I am not willing to gamble on what that price might be later on. I am not willing to gamble with my dogs’ lives on which studies are correct, those done by the lawn care chemical companies or those done by comparative oncology programs at respected universities.

dogs and lawn careSo how can we all live happily together in suburbia? How can lawn aficionados and dog lovers be at peace with each other instead of glaring at each other from across their 4 foot fences, without the grass being noticeably greener on the chemically treated side?

Fortunately there is an abundance of organic lawn care advice on the internet, and some lawn care companies are stepping up to offer organic lawn care services to people who have a passion for a green lawn and a healthy environment for their children and dogs.

DIY Organic Lawn Care

Organic lawn care focuses on the overall condition of your soil and your grass instead of applying a magical chemical formula (2,4-D or glyphosate) that somehow knows to kill the weeds and leave the grass. According to the various blogs and articles that I have found on this topic, organic lawn care requires more attention, planning and work,  but I personally think it is a fair trade-off when you can watch your dogs rolling around on the grass or having a green leafy snack without worrying about what they are ingesting.

Essentially the way it works is that by promoting healthy soil, watering appropriately, cutting the grass higher than most homeowners do, and letting the trimmings act as mulch, you create a lawn that is so healthy and robust that it naturally chokes out the weeds instead of perpetuating an unhealthy environment in which weeds flourish. It sounds very logical when you think about it, kind of like figuring out why a certain part of your body hurts and fixing it instead of popping Advil every four hours!

Here are some great links I found that are a good starting point if you are going to pursue your own organic lawn care regimen:

6 Steps To Create A Vibrant And Lush Organic Lawn

The Organic Way to Mow Your Lawn

Tips for a Lush Organic Lawn

Organic Lawn Care for the Cheap and Lazy 

Hiring a Service

Good old Google is a great way to find organic lawn care providers in your area. In researching this topic for blogs over the years, I have learned that in addition to companies who offer only organic solutions, some of the more “traditional” big name companies are now offering organic services, too. This makes me very happy because I am not anti-lawn care company, I just want them to offer services with products that are guaranteed to be safe for everyone.

It is important to ask a lot of questions before choosing a service and make sure you know exactly what is being applied to your grass. Here are some questions to ask when interviewing lawn care companies:

  • Do you use the chemicals 2,4-Dglyphosate in your fertilizers?
  • Do you use the chemicals 2,4-Dglyphosate or any other type of broadleaf herbicides for weeds?
  • What do you use as fertilizer? Is it 100% natural?
  • Can you guarantee that your technician will not apply a broadleaf herbicide or fertilizer that contains 2,4-D or glyphosate to my yard without my approval or upon my request?
  • How do you treat insects and other pests?

Personally, I would go with a company who specializes in treating my soil and grass as a whole living ecosystem and who has a passion specifically for organic practices. If nobody like that is in your area, some of the bigger names in the industry are starting to offer more dog and child friendly options, just make sure that you are an educated consumer and know what products to avoid and questions to ask.

 

 

 

 

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Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Dogs
Blogs, Creating a Happy, Healthy Life, Dogs & Lawn Care

Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Dogs

Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Dogs

by Lynn Stacy-Smith

Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in Dogs

Losing a dog is one of the most heart wrenching parts of being a dog lover. Watching them slowly succumb to cancer before their time makes it even worse. Experiencing it twice with two separate dogs within a few years will forever change your approach to how you care for your dogs.

Dutch’s body was still working great at age thirteen. He showed no signs of arthritis and ran and played like a puppy most days. At an age when some dogs were plagued by arthritis and other medical problems, Dutch still jumped in circles like a typical crazy and lovable German Shorthaired Pointer whenever we asked the magical words, “Do you wanna go outside?” He showed not a bit of pain when he jumped onto the bed or raced around the yard chasing rabbits and birds. We thought we might have several more years with our big goofball by our sides.

Within months after being diagnosed with a mass on his spleen that we found by accident while making sure his stomach was not twisting from bloat, Dutch lost his voracious appetite, so we hand fed him hamburger and chicken breasts cooked just for him. He would lay on his bed shaking and we covered him with a blanket and comforted him until he fell asleep. It was the vivid red splashes of blood from his urine on some freshly fallen white snow that told us that it was time to let him go to the Rainbow Bridge. The cancer had spread throughout his entire body and was wreaking havoc through all of his organs.

Dutch enjoying an adventure prior to cancer

Maggie, our rescued Basset Hound, had survived major surgery to her spine, had learned to walk all over again through physical therapy when she was six years old, and we were thrilled that she had a love of life and the energy of a young dog at her advanced age of thirteen. We had read that the average lifespan of a Basset Hound was eight to twelve years, so for her to be thirteen and to have hours of fun playing with her one year old Labrador brother was an incredible gift.

One day we found a lump on her neck and two months after her diagnosis with Lymphoma she also lost her appetite. One night her throat swelled up so much from the cancer ravaging her body and her lymph nodes that we were afraid she would suffocate before we could get her to the vet the next morning. My husband and I stayed up with her all night to monitor her, each of us taking turns laying on the floor next to her. In the morning we lay with her on the floor of the vet’s office while they gave her the two injections that took our Maggie May from our lives.

Maggie going for a car ride

When Jackson was a young puppy, he and I were out on a walk when we came across a lawn care company spraying chemicals on a neighboring yard. Once again, as a result of growing up in the woods in a rural area I didn’t understand the suburban desire to have a perfect expanse of green grass, and so we did not use a service like this. It seemed unnecessary when our grass was just fine in its imperfect natural state. Jax and I made a wide arc around that property and as soon as we got home I started to Google the side effects of those chemicals.

This is an extraordinarily small sampling of the information I found: 

September 4, 1991: Lawn Herbicide Called Cancer Risk for Dogs, NY Times In this article the New York Times shares the results of a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in which researchers found that dogs were two times as likely to develop lymphoma when their owners “sprayed or sprinkled the 2,4-D herbicide on the lawn four or more times a year.” 

2004,Purdue University: CANINE BLADDER CANCER by Deborah W. Knapp, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM Purdue University found an association between herbicide treated lawns and bladder cancer in Scottish Terriers. The risk of transitional cell carcinoma  was four to seven times higher in dogs who were exposed to 2,4-D.

2011,Environmental Research journal: Household chemical exposures and the risk of canine malignant lymphoma The Journal of Environmental Research printed a study that showed that exposure to professionally applied lawn care pesticides resulted in a 70% higher risk of malignant lymphoma in dogs. According to page 176 of the study, “Dose of exposure to environmental chemicals such as lawn care products used at home may be substantial, especially for dogs spending a considerable amount of time outdoors on lawns.”

2013, Purdue University: Detection of Herbicides in the Urine of Pet Dogs Following Home Lawn Chemical Application Purdue University studied dogs from treated and untreated yards and found that untreated grass contained chemicals from drift from other yards and half of the dogs studied who lived in untreated yards still had chemicals in their urine.

This study is perhaps the most troubling to me because it demonstrated that even if owners use precautions and do not treat their own yards that their dogs are still at risk from other homeowners’ toxic pesticides and herbicides drifting onto their grass. It also showed that the 48 hour waiting period in which residents are instructed to keep children and pets off of the grass is insufficient to keep them safe. Once homeowners remove the signs from their yard, assuming that the lawn care company provides signs, there is no way of discerning which lawns have been treated, although because of the drift of the toxins into neighboring yards it may not matter which are treated and which are not.

According to the PuppyUP Foundation, “it is estimated between 4 and 6 million dogs die from cancer each year and recently it was announced that 36 children a day are diagnosed with cancer.” These studies are not new, you just have to Google “lawn care chemicals dogs” and you will find page after page of scientific research and articles linking lawn care treatments to cancer in dogs. Change “dogs” to “children” and the results are similar.

Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in DogsI have neighbors all around me as well as a very large local park who treat their lawns and I live in constant fear of what my dogs are absorbing through their noses and paws, what they are ingesting when they nibble on the grass in our yard or clean themselves after spending time outdoors.

I go through daily routines to wash their paws and wipe down their faces and bodies and I make sure I provide a healthy holistic life to try to keep their immune systems strong and able to fight the carcinogens that so easily drift onto our own grass, onto our own property against our will. There is no way for us to stop this toxic drift other than putting our house in a giant bubble, and so education and awareness is our biggest ally in this battle.

As we head quickly toward warm weather, please reconsider how much that perfect green lawn means in the grand scheme of life.  I implore you to help educate your own friends and neighbors on the benefits of organic lawn care and organic gardening. Push back on your HOA and local park departments that also often use these toxins to ensure that the grass looks healthy.

Lawn Care Chemicals Linked to Cancer in DogsIf not for the dogs themselves, do it for the humans in the house who are walking on the same floors as the dogs, sitting on the same furniture, and petting the fur of the dogs who are out in the world just trying to be dogs but falling victim to the misguided dream of a perfect expanse of green grass. Do it for the children who are playing in the grass, running barefoot and innocently rolling around on a beautiful day. Do it for the bees who need the dandelions that grow when lawns are not treated. What is the point of buying organic at the grocery store, of eating healthy foods and trying to take care of our bodies if we poison our animals, our children and ourselves right in our own back yards?

Here are previous posts that I have written on this topic

No Dogs on the Grass: Studies on Canine Cancer and Lawn Care Products

No Dogs on the Grass Part 2: Post-Walk Paw Wash: I encourage ALL dog owners to perform this after each walk or adventure and once a day during months when lawn care products are likely to be applied.

No Dogs on the Grass Part 3: Promoting a Strong Immune System for Your Dog