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Gardens and Lawns

Ideally, during warm weather, you and your baby will spend time outdoors. You'll want to introduce her to the delights of nature and its cycles, the smell of spring blossoms, and the chirps of crickets and songbirds. But as much as the great outdoors offers a curious infant, the way we treat our lawns and gardens make them treacherous places for children. If you're like most Americans, you'll have dumped chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides on your grass to maintain a manicured carpet of green. About 67 million pounds of pesticides are dumped on American lawns every year. One-fifth of the total volume of pesticides applied to lawns and gardens are considered potential human carcinogens by the EPA.

Pesticides used outdoors, on agricultural crops, golf courses, parks, and residential lawns, are having a tremendous impact on the environment. Populations of wild bees, which can pollinate just about anything, are on the decline. Some wildland habitats have lost up to 70 percent of their wild honey bees. The songs of birds on spring mornings are also disappearing. Pesticides like chlorpyrifos, the active ingredient in Dursban, have been implicated in large bird kills. Golf courses and sod farms were largely responsible. Now, the use of this insecticide is banned on these commercial grounds, but we are still allowed to use them at home. As much as half of the ground- and well-water in the United States is at risk of being contaminated by farm pesticides.

Even use of pesticides exclusively outdoors does not guarantee that the indoor environment will not be affected. A study in Environmental Science and Technology found that residues of popular lawn herbicides, such as 2,4-D and dicamba, may be tracked into homes and left on carpets or in household dust. Pesticides can persist longer indoors than outdoors because they are protected from degradation by sun, rain, and microbes. There isn't even a compelling reason to use chemicals to make your lawn a lush green carpet; regular use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides makes your lawn chemically dependent and more susceptible to disease, drought, and insects. Chemical fertilizers kill soil organisms and promote shallow root development.

Integrated Pest Management, discussed earlier in this chapter, can also be used to manage pests in your lawn and garden. Promoting a healthy lawn is the best preventative measure; healthy grasses naturally crowd out weeds and resist disease. So, plant varieties of grass that are known to grow well in your region. Fertilize twice a year with organic fertilizer. Aerate your lawn. Don't mow low; instead mow frequently. Water deeply and in the morning to prevent growth of fungi. Consider alternatives to grass for landscaping that provide habitats for birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects (which will keep destructive insects at bay), such as wild meadows, native groundcovers, trees, and gardens. Two good books to consult are Redesigning the American Lawn: A Search for Environmental Harmony, by F. Herbert Bormann, Diana Balmori, and Gordon T. Geballe, and The Chemical-Free Lawn from Rodale Press.

Eliminate pesticides in the garden by practicing organic gardening. Ladybugs and lacewings can be released to control destructive caterpillars and beetles. Insecticidal soaps and oils are some least-toxic insecticides. Weed by hand and learn to accept a few weeds in your garden. Rodale Press publishes a number of excellent books and the magazine, Organic Gardening, that discuss alternatives to pesticide use in the garden. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden also publishes good gardening guides with least-toxic alternatives for pest control.


Excerpted from: Guideto Natural Baby Care, by Mindy Pennybackerand Aisha Ikramuddin,


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