Daily Herald opinion: Turning to chemicals to combat weeds takes a toll on the environment

  • Dandelions can be unsightly, but attacking them with chemicals comes with risks to the environment.

      Dandelions can be unsightly, but attacking them with chemicals comes with risks to the environment. Rick West | Staff Photographer

Updated 5/11/2022 11:44 AM
This editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Daily Herald Editorial Board.

Suburban homeowners take great pride in their lush, green lawns and lovingly tended flower beds. Getting that look -- and keeping it -- involves a lot of work and, in some cases, a lot of chemicals.

But those chemicals do more than just kill weeds: They have a ripple effect on our environment.


In part, that's because the chemicals we use on our lawns don't always stay there.

They can wind up on patio furniture and in the pools our kids swim in on hot summer days. They can come into our homes on the soles of our shoes. Runoff can get into lakes and ponds, harming fish and wildlife and affecting drinking water.

Over time, exposure to those chemicals could pose health risks to people, pets, pollinators and other wildlife.

Avoiding harmful weedkillers, however, doesn't have to mean conceding defeat to dandelions and other garden foes, according to the experts quoted in our Alicia Fabbre's recent story on eco-friendly tips for fighting weeds.

Your battle plan should start with identifying your yard enemies -- and ripping them out.

Pulling weeds takes work, but it's easier to do now than in midsummer.

There's a No Mow May movement afoot, and it's about more than just freeing up your weekends. Letting the grass grow creates habitats and resources for bees and other early season pollinators. That, in turn, helps flowers. Plus, you save lawn mower gas, fertilizer and free time.

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Win, win and yet another win.

When you do get back to mowing, leaving clippings on the lawn also saves you time and gives your grass a nitrogen-rich snack that doesn't come with a side of chemicals.

To deter weeds in garden beds, lay down a layer of mulch. Or invest in ground covers that add beauty to the beds while blocking out unwanted visitors.

If weeds are still disrupting the look of your garden, turn to natural remedies first.

Experts in Fabbre's article say corn gluten meal, for example, can deter weed growth when sprinkled on the lawn early in the spring, and horticultural vinegar is great as a spot treatment -- but you'll need to use caution because it will also kill plants you want to keep. Boiling water, meanwhile, can take care of weeds in the cracks of walkways or patio pavers.

And if you do eventually opt for chemical-based weed killer, do so sparingly. Ditto for fertilizers.

A lush lawn is nice, but protecting our planet is far more important.

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