“Algae eats the fertilizer. Then there are too many algae, no more oxygen and the fish die.”
“Carbon capture, yes.”
“Do not take away my bees.”
“I’ll leave the bees.”
“I think water has got to stay at the top. Because we in a drought”
“Fertilizer creates sunspills. I feel that could be lower down.”
“I feel that rabbits, themselves, are not . . .”
“There are so many rabbits.”
“Is this even a reason? Leave the grass clippings on the lawn to fertilize.”
“Pollutes ground water is definitely important.”
“Fertilizer kills Nematodes. We don’t have to worry about the nematodes.”
“Stop nutrient pollution and pollutes groundwater that kind of goes with stop harmful algal blooms.”
“I think this one is Biodiversity, that’s a big reason.”
“Save money, in this economy? It should go high. Mm maybe not.”
“I care about the rabbits.”
“I care about the rabbits, too. Nematodes? You do not care about the nematodes?”
“I do care about the nematodes, but the rabbits are more important.”
“I am happy with this.”
“Are you happy with this?”
The five Boston GreenFest participants gathered around the green easel, proud of their accomplishment. The sign across the top said: Top Ten Reasons for not putting fertilizer on established lawns. Into the ten slots, they had managed to place 15 reasons. Some were considered equivalent, tied for second place. Others were subordinate, such as Reason 4b.
Reason number ten, at the bottom of the board, was Rabbits eat lawn plants, especially clover. The reason that when fertilizer is spread on the lawn it kills beneficial did not make the cut, despite at least one person caring for nematodes. Why a 16th card could not be squeezed below the number ten slot remains a mystery.
Reason #9. Insects from natural lawns provide food for birds.
Reason #8 Natural lawns (in Springfield MA) had 36 plant species growing between the blades.
Reason #7 Natural lawns have more mycorrhizal fungi, the wood wide web
Natural lawns may build 1 inch of soil in a year
Reason #6 Improves wildlife habitat
Reason #5 Save water, kept alive by fungi and soil microbes, lawns don’t require watering
Fertilizer creates sunspills, surface dead soil patches
Reason #4 Natural Lawns capture more carbon and store it in the ground
4 b Healthy Soil provides a greater diversity of nutrients and minerals
Reason #3 92 species of bees inhabit natural lawns cut every two weeks (62 bee species when cut every 3 weeks, and no watering. Bees dislike falling water drops.)
Reason #2 Stop harmful algal blooms, tied w Stop nutrient run off and Pollutes groundwater
Reason #1 for not spreading fertilizer on established lawns is Natural lawns have greater biodiversity
Weston Public Library hosted the Ocean River Institute’s Natural Lawn Care for Healthy Soils Challenge on Tuesday August 23. This is a friendly competition with towns competing by pledging to keep lawns natural by not spreading quick-release fertilizer and chemical pesticides and herbicides. Established lawns do not need quick-release fertilizer. As an option the Department of Agricultural Resources recommends just one application of 100% slow-release fertilizer, one half pound per thousand square feet of lawn in the spring or fall.
ORI summer interns Sophia DiPietro (Barnard College) and Ken Stephens (Tufts U) spoke with people about the many benefits of lawns not fertilized. They had prepared on cards 18 benefits when lawns are let to be natural. Kris and Bill Joyce stopped by and prioritized their top reasons for not spreading fertilizer on established lawns.
Reason # 10. Healthy soils provide lawn grass a greater diversity of nutrients and minerals than does fertilizer.
Reason #9. Lawn and other grasses store more carbon in the ground than any other plants, about 50% of what is manufactured through photosynthesis. The other half is plant fiber.
Reason #8. Natural Lawns may build an inch of soil in a year.
Reason #7. Rabbits eat lawn plants, particularly clover
Reason #6. Save water, need not water natural lawns because fungi and soil microbes keep the plants alive.
Reason #5. From natural lawns come insects provide food for birds.
Reason #4. Natural lawns, not watered, (in Springfield MA) were found 36 species of leafy plants and 92 species of bees (bees don’t like falling water drops).
Reason #3. Quick-release fertilizer kills beneficial nematodes
Reason #2. Natural lawns have more mycorrhizal fungi, the wood wide web.
Reason #1 for not spreading fertilizer on the lawn. Leave the grass clippings on the lawn (it’s the equivalent of spreading one pound of fertilizer per thousand square feet).
Boston has the Emerald Necklace. By letting our lawns go natural to be greener, hold more water and wildlife, Weston will have emerald bracelets of connected wildlife corridors.
The Ocean River Institute summer 2022 interns were Anand Fedele (U Mass Amherst), Ken Stephens (Tufts U), Sophia DiPietro (Barnard College), Zeke Cochin (U Mass Amherst) and Aditi Mukhopadhyay. Working twelve weeks we tabled, in chronological order, Sudbury Coffee Works, Brother’s Brew Coffee in Rockport, Morses Pond in Wellesley, Hall’s Pond in Brookline, True North Coffee Bar Burlington, Dedham Farmers Market, Bikeeny Caffe in Malden, Jitters Cafe in Melrose, The Magnificent Muffin Shoppe in Medford, East Boston Memorial Park, Revival Cafe in Somerville, Odd Meter Coffee in Salem, Delphine’s Kitchen in Beverly, Haute Coffee and French Lessons in Concord, and the Weston Public Library. We worked the Boston GreenFest for Friday, Saturday and Sunday seeing about 10,000 people, not counting those in cars passing our table. We distributed about 950 Natural Lawns with Healthy Soils Challenge stickers.
We got the word out recording at Cambridge Community Access TV station, over social media, and published in local newspapers. Paper version only. Wicked Local online News is owned by Gannett. After publishing us once last summer tabling at Zumi’s in Ipswich, the fertilizer industry has prohibited online publication. Their dirty secret is you don’t need them to treat your lawn as well as golf courses treat their fairways. They only use quick-release fertilizer to fill in divots. Unless you are chopping holes in your lawn best to let grass do what it does naturally, symbiotically.
One of the many ways to fight climate change is to walk on the grass. Your steps will stimulate grass to grow to repair itself. When lawn grass pulls down eight tons of carbon dioxide, it will manufacture with photosynthesis one ton of plant fiber and one ton of carbohydrates, liquid carbon, that it pushes out into the soil as “root exudate.” A natural lawn can build an inch of soil in a year. With four inches of soil, the lawn will hold seven inches of rain water to better protect your home from extreme weather events. If we can restore local water cycles, those in our yards, and stop flushing so much water away, research indicates we can diminish sea level rise by 25%. It should come as no surprise that the best solutions are nature-based solutions.
Sixteen residential lawns in Springfield MA that were not fertilized or watered were found by UNH researchers to have 36 plant species and 96 species of bees when cut with mower blade set at 4 inches every two weeks. 64 species of bees when cut every three weeks.
I invite you to learn more at the Ocean River Institute. It would mean a lot to the particular team leader and others on the team, if you clicked here and chose a Greens Team to join.
Let’s get it together for animals below and above the turf, both nematodes and rabbits, springtails and robins, tardigrades and turkeys — one lawn.
“Do not take away my bees.”