Land access is important for good health and in the United States, it can be easy to take for granted.
We have a lot of land.
According to the World Bank, there are about 7 acres per person in the United States. While we all benefit from this national resource, most of us own or rent a relatively small piece of land. In Sheboygan and many other cities, this spare land often comes coated in grass lawn. Researchers at NASA helped conduct a study in 2005 that estimated the area of grass lawns in the United States to be greater than the area of corn fields. Corn is our nation’s largest crop.
Perhaps even more shocking is that, according to the Lawn Institute, American’s spend more than $30 billion on lawn care every year. Lawns are clearly an important matter in our country.
That being said, lawn reform is needed if we want to maximize the health benefits of our land.
Lawns have several desirable traits beyond the obvious attribute of visual appeal. They are excellent at preventing erosion, they are fun to run around on, and they have potential to reduce carbon in the environment, to name a few.
That’s awesome, let’s plant lawns everywhere!
Well, we kind of already did but before we give lawns a national holiday, there are a few things to make note of. The benefits of lawns are only worthwhile if we use good lawn-care practices, try the following suggestions as you rule over your lawn empire.
Lawn space could also be garden space.
Access to fresh, healthy produce. If you have not already, incorporate garden beds into your lawnscape and reap a seasonal bounty of inexpensive food.
Leave the grass clippings after you cut your lawn. They will break down and feed the grass roots. If you collect them and bring them to the dump, the matter will be composted and then sold as compost at local companies.
Try going without lawn fertilizer or use sparingly as needed.
Water runoff from your lawn will leach into nearby water systems, bringing fertilizer with it. This can lead to algae blooms and poisoned fish. Too much fertilizer can also weaken soil and root health, leading to a stressed lawn that is more susceptible to pests.
Consider letting flowers, including clover and dandelion, be part of your lawn. Accepting some variety in your lawn could be the key to saving bees. Letting flowers grow and bloom in your lawn creates a great food source for pollinators that we depend on for our own food production. Clover also helps add nitrogen to your soil which will save on your fertilizer costs.
broad-spectrum pesticides. They are harmful to bees and other pollinators. Pesticides and herbicides contaminate your yard and the surrounding environment, leading to the unwanted death of beneficial insects and native plants.
If you are looking for more direction on organic garden and lawn care, sign up for a Nourish Garden Workshop, posted monthly our Facebook page.
Jonathan Ribich is the education coordinator at Nourish, a nonprofit that provides community education on healthy eating and gardening in Sheboygan County.