I am trying to get info on alternatives to chemical weed killers to present to my apt manager. He has hired an „organic” lawn care company that apparently is going to use the same chemical weed killer he used last year that made my chemically sensitive 5 year old very, very sick all summer. I live in Portland, OR. Does anyone have any info at all on safe alternatives to present or on anyone in this area who truly knows how to do completely nontoxic organic lawn care? All the co’s I have spoken with that tout themselves as „organic” offer chemical weed killers as an option and tell clients that they are „safe” — so of course they are going to opt for it, as my landlord did, to make their lawns look weed-free. I cannot risk my son getting so ill again and am hoping someone might be able to help me come up with something viable to present to my landlord. Can anyone help?

For all practical purposes, there’s no way to maintain a mono-culture, weed- free lawn without a lot of manual weeding (not something any lawn care business is gonna do). And this the very reason why I hate traditional „lawns”. They’re water hungry, wasteful and (to my mind) ugly as sin. You can try things like corn gluten, a pre-emergent, but I’m told it doesn’t work particularly well (esp. In the rainy PNW)–and you still have to remove the established weeds before using it.

In all of my years of trying to be a gardener, I probably have spent less than five minutes total worrying what the grass looks like. I am just not a „lawn person,” As far as I am concerned, if you have seen one blade of grass, you have seen them all. Every spring tons of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and God-only-knows-what-icides are poured into our local environment just so people can feel good about the greenness of their grass. Green grass is okay with me, and I have to admit that it does look far better than pavement, but I do not feel very good about the use of toxins to achieve this result.

So, for all of my friends who sincerely believe that having the greenest grass in the neighborhood is some kind of status symbol, I offer an organic recipe for a weed-free, green lawn; Mix five cups of seaweed extract with five gallons of water. Spray this on the lawn using a hose-end sprayer, (covers about 5,000 square feet). Apply once in the spring, and once in the fall. This recipe works by making your grass so healthy that it crowds out the weeds. This concept of making the grass healthier as a means of getting rid of weeds was developed by an organic lawn care service in Michigan. They use it every year, with great results. This recipe probably won’t work very well if weeds are already in charge of the lawn, so if you have more than 25% weeds, you should probably start your lawn over before trying to go weed free. Another way to make your grass green is to spray it every spring and fall with a mixture of 50% water and 50% pure (non-sudsing) ammonia. This concoction will virtually wipe out your slugs and snails, and because the ammonia converts to nitrogen, it will make your grass greener. Of course, I still believe the most beautiful lawn is one
covered in dandelions.

And if you, and your near neighbors, do not use poisons, dandelions can be a wholesome spring treat.

We have a great local resource at Metro’s recycling information center in downtown Portland. You can call them at (503) 234-3000 and ask them for their pamphlet on natural alternatives to pesticides. They also have a pamphlet on less hazardous solutions to cleaning problems in your home. (I believe it is called the „Hazardless Home Handbook,” or something similar.) They’ll mail them both to you for free, so it couldn’t be more convenient! Or you could pick them up – their office is located a couple of blocks from the Oregon Convention Center, in the old Sears building.