Eco-Landscaping Guide - Northern Cook County, Illinois


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Eco-Landscaping Guide - Northern Cook County, Illinois

  1. 1. Eco-Landscaping Guide
  2. 2. This document has been created by the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County(SWANCC). The Agency was formed in 1988 to provide a regional approach to the solidwaste management needs of its twenty-three member communities, representing over 800,000residents in northern Cook County. SWANCC provides a number of recycling programs, eventsand resources for its members. The Eco-Landscaping Guide provides residents with an alternativeto commercial gardening products using chemicals.For more information, visit, call (847) 724-9205 or email Patriot Boulevard, Suite 110Glenview, IL 60026SWANCC has not tested the products or methods described in this guide. SWANCC makes norepresentation about the completeness, accuracy or usefulness of the information provided orthe safety or effectiveness of those products or methods. SWANCC is not responsible for anydamage or injury that may occur as a result of use of any product or method described in thisguide. Moreover, the listing of any product, method, technology, corporation, company, personor facility in this guide does not constitute an endorsement, approval or recommendation bySWANCC.The resources contained in this guide were obtained through a variety of sources includingbooks, periodicals and websites. SWANCC does not assume responsibility for third partycontent or websites and no attempts were made to independently confirm the resources used.It has been reproduced to provide SWANCC member communities and their residents withinformation on and resources for “green” living.Website information is current as of April 2012. Please contact SWANCC at info@swancc.orgwith incorrect links or information.Copyright © 2012 SWANCCPublished on April 6, 2012.Photo Credits by:Istockphoto.comBook Design by:Cameron RuenEditing by:Kathy ClarkSpecial Thanks to:Diane Bolash, Arlington Heights Master GardenerSteve Pincuspy, Midwest Ecological Landscape Association
  3. 3. Table of Contents 1 Why Choose a Natural Lawn? Develop a Plan 5 Determine Lawn Use 7 Turf Selection 9 Soil Biology Basics11 Plant Selection13 Lawn Care Calendar Caring for Your Lawn15 Cultivation19 Compost23 Pest Management Additional Resources27 Water Conservation Methods29 General Resources31 SWANCC Programs and Resources
  4. 4. Healthy From the Ground UpNurturing soil is the groundwork for a healthy yard.
  5. 5. Why Choose a Natural Lawn?The Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) provides the Eco-Landscaping Guide to assist home owners,municipalities and businesses with alternative lawn care techniques for maintaining outdoor green spaces.The guide presents resources to encourage people to use alternatives to conventional lawn care methods and chemicals. The wayone cares for an outdoor space is a choice that has effects far beyond property lines.Yards are our outdoor homes and provide great spaces for playing and relaxing. Over the years, lawns have been managed in areactive or conventional way of applying fertilizer and weed killer. Decision makers now have choices for cultivating and maintainingtheir property with organic or natural methods - a proactive approach to managing lawns and turf.The benefits of a natural lawn care system include: • Reduced exposure to chemicals for people, pets and plants • Improved ecosystems for birds, insects and bugs • Improved water quality and reduced storm water runoff • Long-term savings compared to conventional methods Conventional Lawn Care vs. Natural Lawn Care Methods Conventional/Product Approach Natural/Systems Approach Objective is to have a weed-free, green lawn Objective is to create and establish healthy soil • Synthetic fertilizers • Natural, organic products • Chemical pesticides • Product application is based on benefit • Product approach for quick fix to soil health • Treats symptoms, not problems • Soil testing is the basis for all inputs • Multiple applications based on time of year • Solves problems as opposed to symptoms • Generally low mowing heights • Higher mowing heights Why Choose a Natural Lawn? | SWANCC 1
  6. 6. About Woody Plants: What is a Pesticide?• The roots of a single mature Pesticides are made to eliminate or repel insects, plants and animals that are undesirabletree may extend 60 feet or or that threaten human health. According to Beyond Pesticides, of 30 commonly used turfmore into your landscape or pesticides: 19 are linked to cancer, 13 to birth defects, 21 to reproductive effects, 15 to neu-flower beds. rotoxicity, 26 to liver or kidney damage and 11 to endocrine (hormone) disruption. For case• Allow at least one-foot studies, resources and more information, visit Beyond Pesticides at between theexterior wall and mature The American Medical Association (AMA) recommends limiting pesticide exposure and usingplants for maintenance and the least toxic chemical pesticide or non-chemical alternative (AMA, Council on Scientificto prevent damp, stagnant Affairs, 1997).conditions that can bedamaging. General environmental hazards linked to pesticides can include:• Shrubs and small trees near • Water contaminationyour home’s foundation • Air pollutionprovide shade, windbreak, and • Pollinator death and Bee Colony Collapse Disorderadditional insulation. • Wildlife deformities• Using a trimmer too close to • Ecological imbalancethe base of a tree may actuallykill the tree over time. It’s General health hazards of pesticide exposure can include:important to be mindful of • Eye irritationtrees and shrubs when caring • Skin irritation and rashesfor your lawn. • Asthma and other respiratory problems• Because perennial woody • Headache, fatigue, dizziness and lack of coordinationplants increase in size • Nausea, cramps and diarrheaeach year, they require • Long-term illnesses and certain forms of canceradditional space over time.The landscape design should Due to the potential harm that pesticides can cause, it is prudent to use alternative productsprovide adequate space for whenever possible.these plants to mature.• Increasing the amount of A growing number of companies provide environmentally-friendly lawn care products, buttree cover in a community can beware of “green washing” – companies whose names or products sound “green”. Somemitigate the “urban heat island companies claim their products are nontoxic or all natural when they are not. A companyeffect,” the tendency of settled can say that they use natural products but still use pesticides with chemical ingredients, forareas to absorb and retain example. This guide illustrates how to care for a lawn without the use of chemicals andheat that makes them5-9 degrees hotter than focuses on the health of the soil below to create a living, breathing system that will be ablesurrounding landscapes. to ultimately care for itself. You will learn what makes up healthy soil and how to maintain it using environmentally-friendly practices. See page 23 for more information.• The US Forest Servicereports that three optimaland well-placed landscapetrees can reduce the annualcosts of heating and cooling awell-insulated northern Illinoishouse by about 6.5%.• Nitrogen in organic matter isnot usable by plants. Bacteriaand fungi first have to convertthe nitrogen for plants.2 SWANCC | Why Choose a Natural Lawn?
  7. 7. About Soil: • Learn about the soil food web at The Interconnectivity of Soil Health • First test the pH of your soil. This will allow you to identify 3 Factors for Three Factors deficiencies and help plan for Optimal Soil To reach optimal soil health, the structural, chemical and problems that may happen Health biological components of the soil need to be balanced. throughout the year. This provides an environment suitable for a thriving underground life. • The Boston Natural Areas Network provides a list of the ten most important insects at • Spring is a crucial time to Structure Biology fertilize because it replenishes Soil Health the food reserves your yard draws from while dormant in the winter and fuels grass’ rapid growth phase. Chemistry • Seaweed is loaded with trace elements like iron, magnesium and zinc which support plant Structure Structural health and root development, Structure refers to the physical characteristics of the soil and help fight off fungal and how it sticks together. Organic matter is the glue that diseases. holds the soil together, including fungi and bacteria. Soil pores allow air and moisture to reach plant roots. • Growing grasses and other plants in healthy, living soil Chemistry Chemical will make the plants more The chemical nature of the soil refers to the nutrient drought-tolerant, disease- content and the acidity or alkalinity (pH) of the soil, which resistant and require less impact the fertility or toxicity of the environment. maintenance. Biology Biological • Compact soil will most likely The biological component includes insects, bacteria, fungi, be anaerobic and acidic with worms, nematodes and other life underground that break a low level of microorganisms down organic matter, provide nutrients to plants and present and lack of diversity. aerate the soil. • Highly acidic or alkaline soilIn 1 Teaspoon Soil Biology at a Glance may lead to decreased plant of Soil The following are found in one teaspoon of soil: growth. Decomposers • Pesticides impact the soil Bacteria: 100 million to 1 billion organisms which contribute to Fungi: 6-9 foot fungal strands put end to end a healthy lawn. Predators • Soil erosion is a threat to Protozoa: Several thousand flagellates and amoeba biodiversity, leading to a loss Nematodes: 10-20 bacterial feeders, a few fungal feeders of topsoil, organic matter, Arthropods: Up to 100 nutrients, water storage capacity and fertility. Aerators Worms: 5 or more • In nature, almost all organic material is processed on Sources: Osborne Organics,; University of Minnesota or very near the surface by Extension,; Safter Pest Control Project, numerous macro- and micro- organisms. Why Choose a Natural Lawn? | SWANCC 3
  8. 8. Right Size Your YardYour yard serves a variety of purposes. Grass may not be the answer forevery area of your property.
  9. 9. Determine Lawn UsePlan It Out that reduce the need for watering. It is worth the time to planThe following points outline some considerations when thinking out your lawn so you are only growing and maintaining asabout the amount and type of lawn care at your home. much lawn as you really need. If there are areas available for substituting other options for grass, you may save yourself time,Time Assessment money and effort in keeping those areas maintained.If you are a do-it-yourselfer, it is important to consider howmuch time you wish to devote to lawn care. Some alternatives to grass include: • Beehive • Ornamental GrassTraffic • Bioswale • Patio or DeckIn areas that have frequent high traffic, think about applications • Bushes • Parkingother than grass to accommodate your outdoor space, perhaps • Edible Flower Garden • Permanent Edginga gravel lot for a parking area or stones for a footpath. It is likely • Foot paths • Permeable Paversthat grass in high traffic areas will suffer from severe compaction, • Ground Cover • Rain Gardenleading to weed growth. • Ivy Vines • Tree Cover • Moss • Vegetable GardenSoil Characteristics • Meadow • Wildflower GardenWhen planning what to do with your lawn, it is best to know • Mulched Beds • Xeriscapeexactly what you are dealing with underneath the grass line interms of chemical composition. This point is expanded upon in Diversitythe Soil Biology section. Diversity in nature is what allows for the ecosystem on a large scale to handle detrimental effects on a smaller scale. LandscapesIrrigation and Drainage that have a monoculture will suffer during stretches of time thatProviding ample amounts of water to a landscape can be a are not conducive to the particular greenery. Diversity providescost-intensive task. To best use this resource, water deeply and a sustainable environment less prone to one type of problem.infrequently in the morning. Less evaporation occurs by wateringin the morning than in the heat of the day. A natural lawn that When determining what type of plant life to include in youris properly aerated, has adequate soil depth and deep roots is landscape, selecting plants native to the region is an importantable to store water for use when needed, which may result in choice. In addition to aesthetic qualities such as color, height,reducing the frequency of watering the landscape. blooming season and variety, native plants have many advantages including the ability to withstand the elements. They are oftenIn areas that cannot handle a large amount of water, lawns may drought resistant and fare better than foreign plant species toeasily flood or soil may erode. In cases of flooding, it may be pests in the region.necessary to install a drainage basin or ditch to divert water andprevent pooling on the surface. Animal-Friendly Anything that is added to your lawn is introduced to your petsTurf Alternatives as well. Because of their exploratory nature and penchant forThere may be areas of your yard that you do not use frequently. mistaking products in pellet form for food, pets are especiallyConsider transitioning those areas into low-maintenance areas vulnerable to chemicals and fertilizers. In addition to pets,of your yard such as ground cover, wildflowers or shrubs to there is the surrounding wildlife to consider such as squirrels,add interest and to reduce mowing. Other alternatives to grass rabbits and birds. Pets can also be at risk from chemicals thatinclude mulched beds, pathways or a patio to enjoy the view. In are brought or used inside. These chemicals can be inhaled orthe Water Conservation section, you will learn about strategies absorbed through the skin. Develop a Plan | SWANCC 5
  10. 10. Strategic SelectionChoose a type of grass seed that will work best with the conditionspresent on your property.
  11. 11. Turf ConsiderationsGrass Varieties Transition-Area GrassesThere are many varieties of grass seed available on the market. Sandwiched in between cool-season grasses and warm-seasonIt is important to observe the specific conditions present in your grasses is a climate in which one or the other type of grass maylandscape to determine the best type of grass or blend of grass not stand up well to the varying temperatures of the apply. Grass requires many hours of sun each day and not Consider planting native grasses which may be more resilient inall lawns receive the needed sunlight. This is another instance transition-area climates.where knowing the chemical composition from a soil test ishelpful in determining a complementary grass for your lawn. Warm Season Grasses Warm season grasses do well in the lower portion of theSome considerations when purchasing a grass best-suited for United States where it is relatively hot. These grasses do wellyour lawn include: in heat because of their low water needs, but do suffer with dry periods. These grasses are not generally blended. Warm season • Climate conditions grasses begin their growing cycle only in the summer. • Deep roots vs. shallow roots • Nutrient and water holding capacity To maintain green turf throughout the year, some people in • Low-traffic vs. high-traffic areas the South seed with rye grass in the fall, also known as winter • Poor soils vs. healthy soils overseeding. • Access to a water source • Shade tolerance • Temperature tolerance • Drought resistance • Ability to fill in open space • Required maintenance time • Disease and insect resistance • Soil drainageThe best time to plant grass seed is at the beginning of itsgrowing cycle.Cool Season GrassesThe upper half of the United States is in a cool-season grassclimate. These grasses do best in temperatures of 50-80 degreesand can go into a dormant phase in the summer and winter inextreme temperatures. Cool season grasses begin their growingcycles in the fall and spring.It is common for these grasses to be sold in a blend, which aidsin increasing stress and disease resistance. Develop a Plan | SWANCC 7
  12. 12. Feed the Soil to Feed the TurfWhen the soil underneath is properly maintained, the results will manifestin a beautiful blanket of green.
  13. 13. Soil BiologyA Look Underground If you need of advice on how to proceed, a good resource forAt the heart of lawn care in general is the health of the soil questions is the local state extension office, such as extension.beneath the grass. There are many factors involved in creating or soil including proper nutrient levels, mowing, watering,fertilizing, diversifying, reseeding, weeding and plant selection. Turf Health Turf health includes factors such as depth, drainage, texture,The health of the soil is dependent upon the combination of structure, pH and nutrients.these variables, all of which are important. When these needsare met, your lawn will take care of itself. Healthy soil will be Depth refers to how deep into the soil roots can develop. Anat least six inches deep. appropriate depth for healthy plants to grow is between six and twelve inches. Typically, newly constructed homes, or lawnsOrganic Matter that have been synthetically treated have low soil depth. This isOrganic matter is defined as carbon-based materials that are usually the first challenge in creating a sustainable or dead. Examples include compost and decaying leavesand roots. Nutritionally healthy soil enables it to feed the above Drainage refers to the space available for water and air to passground grass, plants and trees. through the soil. Drainage is also critical for the health of the lawn. Without proper drainage, water can be trapped in the soilSoil Testing with no place to go and may cause harm to plants. In soil withExperts recommend conducting a soil test to know what the too much drainage, water and nutrients are not able to be usedlevels of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus (NPK) and other by plants because they have nowhere to collect for later use.minerals are in your soil. There are several different types of Organic matter increases the soil’s ability to hold water.soil tests available for purchase. Texture and structure can be confused. Texture refers to theSoil testing involves taking samples from various areas of your physical characteristics of the soil and structure refers to howproperty to fully represent the soil. Dig three to six inches well the soil sticks together. Organic matter helps hold the soilbelow the grass line to obtain the material for your sample. together. Anything you add to the soil adds to the structure.Remove any plant material, combine all samples and let air drybefore being tested. (It is important to let the sample dry prior PH levels indicate whether your soil is acidic or alkaline on ato sending it off because the chemistry of the sample could scale of 0 -14, with ideal levels in the 6-7 range. A proper pHchange from prolonged moisture.) level is required for nutrients to be delivered to plants. These levels can change by adding lime or sulfur to the soil. A soil testDo not take samples from areas of the property that look visibly will give you the proper information on what your soil needs.different. In this case, the soils should be tested separately dueto possible chemical differences. Store bought fertilizers typically only indicate the nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus nutrients contained in the product.Upon receipt of your soil test, you will be able to ascertain the These are the main nutrients found in soil along with manycurrent levels of pH, nutrients and minerals. This information others such as hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, calcium, magnesium,will allow you to determine how to best create a balanced soil sulfur, boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenumsystem. A soil test helps reduce the use of unnecessary fertiliza- and zinc.tion, which can save money. Develop a Plan | SWANCC 9
  14. 14. A Plant is a Plant is a PlantNot so. There are countless varieties of plants, each with its owncompatibility for nature’s elements. Choosing native plants will assist inlower maintenance and greater survival rates in your yard.
  15. 15. Choose the Right PlantsStrategic SelectionVarious plant life thrives in particular regions of the worldbecause of the habitat and the conditions of the environment.Plants require differing amounts of sunlight, water, temperature IL Regional Native Plant Species Listand nutrition. Plants for Full SunThe same is true for grasses. In Illinois, the natural landscape is Big Bluestem, Butterfly Milkweed, Compassthat of prairie grasses and plants. You can incorporate some of Plant, Culver’s Root , False Dragonhead/the native species into your yard to invite birds and beneficial Obedient Plant, Indiangrass, Ironweed,insects into the space to naturally care for itself. Leadplant, Little Bluestem, Marsh Milkweed, New England Aster, New Jersey Tea, PaleDiversification Purple Coneflower, Path Rush, Prairie BlazingBy diversifying the plant life in your yard, you are basically Star, Prairie Coreopsis,Prairie Dropseed, Prairiehedging your bets that if something goes wrong during the Phlox, Prairie Smoke, Purple Lovegrass, Purplegrowing season, there will be a better chance to have a minimal Prairie Clover, Rattlesnake Master, Showyeffect on the entire yard. Also, fewer pest problems occur when Goldenrod, Shrubby Cinquefoil, Side-Oatsa variety of plants have been introduced. Grama, Smooth Blue Aster, Spiderwort, Switch Grass, Wild Bergamot, Wild Quinine, YellowRotating plants each year may also help ward off invading pests Coneflowerand disease. Plants for Partial ShadeNative Species Alumroot, Blue Flag Iris, Bottlebrush Grass,For a low maintenance lawn, experts recommend using plants Cardinal Flower, Foxglove Beardtongue, Greatthat are native to your region. They are a good choice because Blue Lobelia, Heartleaf Golden, Jacob’s Ladder,they are proven to withstand the elements in your backyard. Kalm’s St. Johns Wort, Nodding Wild Onion, Purple-Sheathed Sedge, Shooting Star,Short’sA list (right) of native species in Illinois can be found at Aster, Sweet (Vanilla) Grass, Sweet Pyeweed,Tall Bellflower, Wild Columbine, Wild GeraniumPest ManagementPests and weeds can take over plants that are not suitable for Plants for Shady Areascertain applications. Plants not meant for a shady spot will not Black Cohosh,Blood Root,Blue Phlox,Cinnamonthrive and may not be able to fight off encroaching weeds. Fern,Elm-leaved Goldenrod, False Solomons Seal, Great White Trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit,Some types of plants attract beneficial insects and provide Lady Fern,Maidenhair Fern,Marginal Shielda natural defense against unwanted pests. The lacewing, for Fern,May Apple, Prairie Trillium,Side-Floweringexample, is attracted to the prairie sunflower, Queen Anne’s Aster,Virgin’s Bower, Virginia Bluebells,Virginialace, dill and fennel plants. The lacewing feeds on mites, small Waterleafinsects and insect eggs. Mother Earth News has a list of plants toattract beneficial insects. Find the list and other information at Source: Governor Quinn website, Develop a Plan | SWANCC 11
  16. 16. Timing is EverythingThere is a time and place for everything, including when to schedulemaintenance to best take care of your lawn.
  17. 17. Lawn Care CalendarStrategic Actions Produce Results JuneOnce you understand the way that soil works and how to • Begin irrigation as needed. Apply 1 to 1½ inches of water,maintain the turf, all you need to know is when to do it. once a week in the morning • Recycle grass clippings on your lawn or in a compost binThe following information is taken from the Safer Pest Control • Hand pull or spot spray weedsProject’s Natural Lawn Care Calendar for Homeowners guide • Apply compost tea to entire lawnand can be sourced online at • Insect problems – tolerate some; use natural controls, organic insecticide or least-toxic pesticide optionsMarch• Sharpen mower blades July• Clean up winter debris – leaves, twigs, pine cones • Fertilize (1st through the 15th) • Look for signs of weed, disease or pest problems – addressApril underlying soil or turf health issues• Mowing – remove only 1/3 of the leaf blade or less at a time First mowing – grass height of 2 inches August Regular mowing – grass height of 2½ to 3½ inches (or • Look for signs of weed, disease or pest problems – address taller) underlying soil or turf health issues• Apply corn gluten before the forsythia bloom (early weeks • Continue irrigation or allow lawn to go dormant of April) to prevent weed seeds from germinating • Overseed entire lawn (after the 15th)• Hand pull or spot spray weeds with an organic herbicide• Fill in bare spots with a 50/50 mix of compost and soil, and September seed with grass • Limit irrigation• Apply compost tea to entire lawn • Aerate as needed (grass should be actively growing) • Fertilize (1st through the 15th)May• Test soil for pH and nutrients (see Safer Pest Control October Project’s “Soil Testing for Homeowners” factsheet) • Late season fertilization – generally one week before final• First fertilization - top dress with a compost/soil mix OR mowing of the year fertilize with a natural organic fertilizer (see Safer Pest Control Project’s “Products for Your Natural Lawn” November factsheet) • Mow until lawn goes dormant• Aerate - core aeration removes soil/grass plugs, reduces Last mowing – grass height of 2 inches compaction • Apply compost tea to entire lawn• Overseed entire lawn when soil temperature reaches 50 degrees using hardy grass types or mixtures December• Grub control - apply beneficial nematodes or milky spore • Reduce lawn traffic - let it rest through February (Japanese beetle grubs only) Lawn Care Calendar | SWANCC 13
  18. 18. Use the Right Tools for the JobWhen you understand and work with nature to maintain your lawn, it willtake on a life of its own.
  19. 19. CultivationGetting Your Hands Dirty FertilizersAt some point, you have to stop learning and start doing. This is The main reason for confusion about fertilizers amongwhat the cultivation aspect of lawn care is all about. consumers is the way traditional fertilizers work. Traditional fertilizers bypass nature’s way of providing nutrients to the soilAeration and living organisms underground. These synthetic productsPlant life requires oxygen and room to grow for survival. By simply feed the grass and nothing else and quite often containaerating your lawn 3-6 inches deep, you allow oxygen into the much more nitrogen than the lawn can use. Results aresoil to break down organic matter and provide room for root achieved very quickly due to the streamlined nature of thegrowth and water storage. Soil compaction can stifle growth and traditional fertilizers. This system does not take into account thelead to dead patches. Athletic fields are a good example of this environment in which grass grows.due to their heavy foot traffic, which can lead to a high degree ofcompacted soil, not sustainable for turf grass. Natural decomposition of grass clippings, leaves and other materials consistently feed the living organisms and soil. OverAerating in the fall is recommended because there will not be a long period of time, nutrients are continually released andas much weed seed to compete with compared to the spring. absorbed by the organisms and transferred back to the grassAfter aeration is an appropriate time to add compost, fertilizer plants to start the cycle again.or grass seed. This can be described as the “soil food web”. This termAfter several years of a natural lawn care system, you will most describes a complex food chain system that is woven inlikely be able to count on earth worms and microbes to aerate an interconnected way among plants, insects, worms andthe lawn naturally for you. microscopic life instead of the top down approach you may think of for larger animals. In the soil, balance sustains a healthy foodAmendments chain that can easily be made unstable. As the food web growsSoil amendments refer to any type of material added to the more complex, the productivity of the soil increases.lawn. Examples would be compost, fertilizer, etc. There aremany types of natural soil amendments, both plant-based and Natural organic fertilizers help restore organic matter to theanimal-based. These include alfalfa meal, corn gluten, cottonseed soil which is broken down slowly. This allows grass and plants tomeal, seaweed products, soybean meal, wood ash and plant use the nutrients when they need them, not only when they areby-products. Blood meal, bonemeal, feather meal, fish products applied. Fertilizers should be used for specific nutrient needs.and manure are animal by-products that have nutrients that arebeneficial for your lawn. Irrigation It is best to water in the morning. Watering in the middle of theDethatching day results in much of the water evaporating. Watering at nightThatch is dead grass material such as stems and roots that increases the risk of fungal problems arising.accumulate at the grass line. Dethatching allows water and soilamendments to reach the soil more easily. Over the winter For best results water infrequently but deeply. Deep wateringmonths, thatch may become dense. aids in root growth, which can allow for absorbing more nutrients and storing more water for later use. Watering timersMinimal amounts of thatch are not bad. Thatch can protect the can be effective for proper irrigation.soil from heat and drought and can shade weeds, depriving themof sunlight to grow. When thatch is a half inch or more, it is During times of drought, you may opt to let your grass gotime to dethatch your lawn. dormant instead of watering to preserve resources and the Caring for Your Lawn | SWANCC 15
  20. 20. About Mowing: funds that go along with watering your lawn. Natural lawns require less water in general.• Gas lawn mowers contribute Because natural fertilizers break down more slowly and release nutrients over time, theup to 10% of the nation’s air grass will receive continual nourishment and will not rely on an occasional water sourcepollution in the summer. to provide water for photosynthesis compared to a synthetically treated lawn. Healthy soil retains water longer.• According to the USEnvironmental Protection MowingAgency, a gas-powered push There are certain strategies for mowing that can improve the health of your lawn. The initialmower emits as much hourly step is to make sure that your blades are sharp. Dull blades will yank the grass blades uppollution as 11 cars, and a instead of cutting through them. This is a special concern if you have recently seeded. Sharpriding mower emits as much blades can also decrease the risk of disease by tearing grass 34 cars. Keep your lawn at least three inches high. Never cut off more than one third of your grass•Human-powered push (reel) at a time. Cutting off more than this will result in brown grass underneath as the uppermowers are quiet, so you can portions of the blade are where the photosynthesis happens. Also, longer grass can shadecut the lawn anytime without possible weeds underneath, preventing sun exposure. When water is less available, grass willdisturbing the neighbors or also grow slower. Leave your grass a little longer during dry periods.the wildlife. Leave grass clippings on the lawn to return the water and nitrogen to the soil. This is also• Use an electric mower or known as nutrient cycling or grass cycling. It is not necessary to bag grass clippings and payreel mower to cut down on for removal with yardwaste since they are beneficial to the soil, may be used as mulch orbackyard air pollution. able to be composted. It is recommended, however, to bag grass clippings if you see many weed seeds to prevent them from spreading.• Don’t mow unless there israin in the short-term forecast. To reduce compaction, mow in varying patterns each time you mow. Change it up from parallel, perpendicular and diagonal line patterns.• Keep your mowing bladessharp to reduce the risk of For the last mow of the season, keep the length of grass only a couple of inches high. Thisturf disease. will result in less work in the spring to reinvigorate your lawn. Taller grass provides a haven for small animals that can damage your lawn and result in lots of extra work in the spring.About Grass:• For a list of the best grasses Overseedingfor your area, check out This practice is typically repeated in the spring after you have assessed the status of lawn from the winter. Overseeding improves density and crowds out weeds. Be sure to aerate and dethatch the grass prior to overseeding. You may also want to spread finished• Ground cover may be a compost. You will need to have good seed to soil contact for best results.better option than grass insome areas of your lawn that Make sure that you purchase grass seed that is appropriate for the climate in which you live.are not utilized often or that Factors include temperature, shade, fertilizer and water requirements.struggle with grass growth. Spread the seed evenly on your lawn. Check for any bare patches to make sure enough seed• Different types of grasses has been applied. Be sure to water the seeds generously after spreading. It is important thatrequire varying amounts of the seeds are constantly provided with moisture for the first two weeks after seeding towater and nutrients, shade properly germinate.tolerance and type of climate.Research which grasses aremost suitable for your area.• Grass clippings do not causethatch on your lawn.• Overseeding helps to crowdout weed growth.• Carefully spread salt inbetween patio bricks, thensprinkle with water to killgrass or weeds.16 SWANCC | Caring For Your Lawn
  21. 21. About Gardening: • Vertical gardening is a great choice for small spaces. Benefits of Greywater Recycling •Smart Gardener helps Greywater is non-potable water previously used for consumers set up a garden washing that is still usable elsewhere. Also, see page 27. plan based on your plants, layout and growing conditions Lower Fresh Lower fresh water use at Water Use Greywater can replace fresh water in many instances, saving money and increasing the effective water supply • Gardening centers and in regions where irrigation is needed. Residential water extension services are great use is almost evenly split between indoor and outdoor. sources for improving the All indoor water except toilet water can be recycled health of your lawn. outdoors, achieving the same result with significantly less water diverted from nature. • Calcium-based ice melt is an alternative for lawns to Less Strain Less strain on septic tank or treatment plant traditional ice melt. on Water Greywater use greatly extends the useful life and capacity Treatment of septic systems. For municipal treatment systems, • Additional information decreased wastewater flow means higher treatment on landscaping for energy effectiveness and lower costs. efficiency is available from the US Department of Energy at Highly Highly effective purification Effective Greywater is purified to a spectacularly high degree in Purification the upper, most biologically active region of the soil. This About Water: protects the quality of natural surface and ground waters. • Studies have shown that many lawns are watered Less Energy Less energy and chemical use twice as much as necessary,and Chemicals Less energy and fewer chemicals are used due to the according to the National reduced amount of both freshwater and wastewater that Wildlife Federation. needs pumping and treatment. For those providing their own water or electricity, the advantage of a reduced • A rain gauge can easily burden on the infrastructure is felt directly. Also, treating measure how much rain your your wastewater in the soil under your own fruit trees lawn gets each week. definitely encourages you to dump fewer toxic chemicals down the drain. • Buy a lawn moisture meter to make sure you’re not over-Groundwater Groundwater recharge watering your lawn. You will Recharge Greywater application in excess of plant needs recharges conserve water and also cut groundwater. down on the water bill.Plant Growth Plant growth • Rain barrels often fit onto Greywater enables a landscape to flourish where water your gutter and come with a may not otherwise be available to support much plant spout that can be attached to growth. the common garden hose. Reclamation Reclamation of otherwise wasted nutrients • Water slowly — too fast of Wasted Loss of nutrients through wastewater disposal in rivers or and the water will be lost as Nutrients oceans is a subtle, but highly significant form of erosion. runoff, often carrying fertilizer Reclaiming nutrients in greywater helps to maintain the and pesticides with it into fertility of the land. storm drains and ultimately into our rivers and waterways. Increased Increased awareness of natural cycles Awareness Greywater use yields the satisfaction of taking • Watering in the evening may responsibility for the wise husbandry of an important lead to fungal disease. resource. • Be mindful not to waste Sources: Oasis Design, water on sidewalks, driveways or streets. Caring for Your Lawn | SWANCC 17
  22. 22. The Rotten TruthFood scraps make up a significant portion of our everyday waste. Whencomposted, this waste becomes a valuable part of a healthy soil system,providing needed nutrients to feed plants and grass.
  23. 23. CompostBlack Gold for Your Outdoors HumusCompost is decomposed organic matter full of nutrients and Humus refers to organic matter that cannot be broken downmicrobes and improves soil structure. Finished compost is a further. Compost that has finished decomposing is called humus.beneficial soil amendment and should be an integral part of a It is highly rich in nutrients and feeds microorganisms in the soil.natural lawn care system. In nature’s life cycle, nothing is wasted. It is also able to hold a large amount of moisture, allowing soilEverything serves a purpose. What was once alive, now feeds to withstand droughts.the earth and life on it. This is an important lesson that we canlearn from nature. Outdoor Composting If you are interested in developing an on site compostingCompostable Material program, first check with your local community or countyAlmost all natural, organic material will compost, but not waste and recycling coordinator to identify any restrictions oneverything belongs in a compost pile. The following can be outdoor composting. A properly constructed compost pile iscomposted: grass clippings, leaves, fruit and vegetable waste, needed to minimize nuisances (such as odors) and achieve astraw, wood, sawdust, pine needles, cornstalks, alfalfa hay, coffee quality finished compost.grounds, brush and shrub trimmings, flowers, bread, wood ashand paper. You will need space, a bin, oxygen, water, leaves, grass and organics. Commercial bins are typically square or cone-Generally speaking, meat, bones and fish should not be shaped. Some are open and some have lids. Each type of bincomposted because they can attract rodents, raccoons and has advantages and disadvantages, so choosing the type that isother pests and can cause odors in your compost pile. Dog and best for your space and complies with local requirements iscat manure should also not be composted, as it contains harmful important.pathogens that are not always killed by the heat within thecompost pile. Making an outdoor composting bin yourself is inexpensive and relatively easy. You can construct your own outdoorCompost Tea composting bin from scrap material or from materials purchasedThis is compost in a liquid form. You can apply one quart from a local hardware or home improvement store:of compost tea per 1,000 square feet per month during thegrowing season. • Use an old metal or plastic garbage can. Puncture numerous holes throughout the can to provide air flow andCompost tea can be made by placing finished compost in a oxygenation and allow excess moisture to drain. The canbreathable bag into a bucket of water. This will allow nutrients may be placed in a discrete corner of your yard. Raising itfrom the compost to seep into the water. Compost tea can off the ground will provide added made simply by letting the bag sit in the bucket of water • Old snow fencing can be used to enclose the sides of a bin.and mixing often or by adding oxygen to the batch with a • Spare wood can be used to build a crate-like structure.motor for around 36 hours. Aeration speeds the growth of • Wire mesh or chicken wire can be used to enclose the bin.microorganisms in the compost tea, which are beneficial to yourlawn. With a siphon system, you are able to use the compost When selecting a location for your bin, choose a site that istea with your sprinklers. level, well-drained and easily accessible. By placing the bin over bare ground rather than concrete, worms and other beneficialCompost tea provides many of the same benefits as compost, organisms can more easily make their way into the pile. It is abut is able to feed the soil much faster in liquid form. good idea to remove any grass or plants under the bin and turn the soil to a depth of 6 - 8 inches. Caring for Your Lawn | SWANCC 19
  24. 24. • Composting your leaves, When gathering materials to compost, keep in mind that a good mix of carbon and nitrogengrass clippings, garden waste nutrients are needed. An ideal mix is approximately 2 parts of carbon (brown matter,and food scraps reduces the such as leaves or brush) to one part nitrogen (green matter, such as food scraps or coffeeamount of garbage a person grounds). A proper moisture content is necessary as well; the material should feel damp, butgenerates. should not drop much water when squeezed by hand.• Composting mimics nature’s Pile yard trimmings, leaves and selected food scraps into the compost bin. The smaller therecycling plan. pieces, the faster the material will be composted. It is best to cover food scraps with leaves or other brown material to deter pests. Keep the pile moist like a wrong out sponge, but• By turning the compost not soggy. You may have to water the pile occasionally if you find that it is dry. Turn the pileregularly to incorporate air, every 10 to 14 days to circulate the air, which is needed to perpetuate the decompositionyou should make compost in process.3-6 months. Finished compost can take anywhere from two months to one year. Compost is generally• A healthy compost pile is done when it becomes dark, crumbly material that is uniform in texture and has a pleasantlike a lasagna – a layer of earthy smell. The time frame varies depending on the combination of materials added,greens buried by a layer of temperature and moisture content of the pile.browns. This ensures thatdecomposition will proceed You may need to sift out unfinished materials that have not broken down completely. It isat a timely rate, avoiding odor common to have some recognizable pieces of leaves or twigs remaining.or pests. Finished compost is a good soil amendment and fertilizer for:• Meat and fish scraps, cheeseand dairy products, fats and • House plantsgrease, and animal feces don’t • Flower and vegetable gardenscompost well and will almost • New planting areascertainly attract awful smells • Existing trees and bushesand bad pest infestations. • Lawn top-dressing• Keep seed-bearing weeds It is best to add a small amount of compost to the top of the soil for house plants orand diseased plants out of the vegetable gardens. Too much compost can damage plants.compost heap so you don’treintroduce the seeds back Top Dressinginto your soil. Top dressing with compost will provide much needed nutrients to the lawn. Spread mature compost, also known as humus, over the grass so you can see the grass tips poking through.• For questions on what can A proper thickness would be up to a quarter inch placed in the compost pile,visit A helpful hint is to use a lawn roller to achieve good seed to soil contact and to even out any patches that you may have after top dressing.• Newspaper or plain whitepaper from the computer is It should be noted that applying a top dressing of compost to your lawn will not result inexcellent for composting - just immediate greening of your grass. The nutrition in compost is broken down over time. Thisremember to shred it first to is beneficial to your lawn because an application of top dressing will provide your lawn withspeed up the process. the nutrients it needs for a longer period of time.• According to the EPA, only Worm Composting2.8 percent of food waste was Composting with worms, also known as vermicomposting, is similar to outdoor compostingcomposted in 2010. except executed with worms in a bin. Another difference is that the compost does not heat up to decompose, as the worms would not be able to survive in such high temperatures.• The US CompostingCouncil (USCC) launched Vermicomposting breaks down food waste through composting by using red wiggler worms.its Consumer Compost Use Their scientific name is Eisenia Fetida, which is not the same type of worm as earthworms orProgram for the three most nightcrawlers which live underground. Red wigglers eat lots of fruit and vegetables.common homeowner uses:trees and shrubs, flower and This method is beneficial for small spaces. It is necessary to place your worm compostingvegetable gardens and the bin in a place it will not freeze or overheat. Worm composting can continue into the winterlawn. Find this information at months easily by placing the bin in a pantry, laundry room, basement or heated garage or A worm bin can be made out of plastic or wood and must be at least 10 inches deep. It will need holes in the bottom, sides and top for ventilation. The top will need to fit tightly, so worms do not crawl out.20 SWANCC | Caring For Your Lawn
  25. 25. Worm bedding can be made from shredded newspaper moistened with water. Do not wet • Compost needs oxygen toto the point of dripping. break down the materials you add to the pile.Worms can digest about a quart of food scraps per square foot per week. You will needto bury the food scraps under the bedding to prevent fruit flies. Always keep fresh bedding • Rinse egg shells beforeover the worms and food. Plastic bins may need more bedding to absorb excess moisture. adding them to your compost pile to prevent salmonellaAbout three months after you set up the bin, some of the soil will be ready to harvest. This poisoning.compost may be added to plants or garden soil. Harvesting the worm compost bin aboutonce per year is recommended. • Adding brown material such as leaves to the top of aIf you have a bin that drains liquid at the bottom, you can also use the “worm tea” in your compost pile helps keep thehouse plants, garden beds or on the lawn. Dilute the tea with one part tea to four parts fly population down in thewater before use. summer months. • A series of backyard compost piles works best to easily switch out compost that is ready to be harvested. • Keep a lidded container in your kitchen for convenience and empty a few times a week. • Compost bins should be small enough to aerate properly, but also large enough to maintain internal heat. Minimum dimensions should be 3 ft by 3 ft by 3 ft. Compost Troubleshooting Tips • The smaller the organic pieces you place in your compost, the less surface area Generally, simply turning the pile can take care it will have and the faster it of most issues that arise during composting. The will decompose. way your compost bin smells or acts can indicate various problems. • Plants that have been treated with pesticides and/or Rotten-egg odor means your bin is too wet – herbicides should be avoided. make sure to turn the pile and add browns. About Vermicomposting An ammonia odor means there is too much green, nitrogen-rich material. • Red wiggler worms can eat Slow decomposition means there is a lack of air, moisture, or an improper half or as much as their body balance of green and brown. weight every day. A low pile temperature (decomposition naturally produces heat) indicates • Shredded newspaper can that the pile is too small, there is insufficient moisture, poor aeration, a lack of reduce moisture in worm bins nitrogen, or that the weather is cold – a problem remedied by insulating with that are too wet. straw or increasing pile size. • The microbes and fungi A high pile temperature means the pile is too large, or is not being that are present in a worm aerated enough. composting system are the ones that are working to Pests arrive when there are inappropriate materials in the pile, greens are break down the organic scraps not fully covered by browns, or the bin isn’t rodent-resistant. into finished compost. Source: Green Depot • A worm bin with multiple tiers makes harvesting compost much easier. Caring for Your Lawn | SWANCC 21
  26. 26. Get at the Root of the ProblemCritters can be a nuisance, but some insects and microbes are an importantpart of developing a healthy lawn care system. These small bugs aerate soil,pollinate flowers, eat pesky insects and fight pathogens.
  27. 27. Pest ManagementProtecting the Fruits of Your Labor to eradicate and you will be left with a damaged landscape.After all the work that you have put into preparing your lawn Although symmetry and consistency can be pleasing to the eyefor success, it is disheartening to see weeds appear or bugs in terms of design, nature is not designed to successfully protecteating at your beautiful plants. Don’t dismay though. To some itself without, this is just part of nature that we can learn to embrace. In addition, vegetation can attract beneficial insects as well asAfter prolonged use of synthetic chemicals, the soil under your pests. It is important to know more about the plants on yourlawn can become barren of life, the same life that is necessary property and what type of insects they naturally aerate the soil, to naturally break down organicmatter and to naturally feed the soil. With synthetically treated Educate Your Neighborslawns, only when you choose to apply fertilizer will nutrients be Reducing exposure to pesticides does not end in your home,brought into the soil. One of the main problems in this scenario but continues in the larger community. Schools, apartmentis that the soil is not able to capture more nutrients than it can complexes, parks and other recreational areas are just a fewabsorb at that moment. The rest will be washed away until you places where pesticides are used. For example, while communityapply more at a later date. officials are generally given the task of education, you can also help your friends and neighbors understand how to reduce theA sustainable lawn is one that can care for itself. Within a few chance of mosquito bites through the elimination of breedingyears of switching to a natural lawn, you will see the difference. sites and the proper use of repellents. Try to organize a forum at your local community center, school or place of worship toBeneficial Insects discuss the use of pesticides in your community.Identify the problem before you spray, squash or stomp! TheUSEPA states that only about 5 - 15 percent of the bugs in your It may be beneficial to research the following:yard are pests. When insects feed they chew, suck or bore. Thedamage that you see will help determine what insect you are • Who is responsible for pest control, what local ordinances,dealing with and help to target an appropriate treatment. if any, govern pesticide use and how well are they“Good bugs”, like the ground beetle and the ladybug, help implemented?control pests, while bees aid in pollination. Professionallandscapers sometimes bring in beneficial insects to assist • Collect details, including the insects, rodents and weeds thatin an overpopulation of a pest; this is called Integrated Pest are identified as problems, chemicals being used and theirManagement. For example, ladybugs and green lacewings eat toxic effects, and pest control costs.aphids, predaceous mites feed on pest mites, rove beetles eatthe eggs and larvae of insect pests. These beneficial insects can • Educate yourself on alternatives through research on thebe ordered and released to control problem pests. internet or at the local library.Additionally, birds eat insect pests. Provide shelter for them to Once you have all this information, involve your neighbors andward off harmful insects and enjoy their beauty. the community groups in your area to advocate for alternative pest control techniques.Diversity and Complementary Plant LifeProviding diversity in your landscape is a critical component in For more information on how to organize in your community,creating a healthy environment. A variety of species protects visit landscape from disease and pest infestation. If you haveonly a few species, and a problem occurs, it will be difficult Caring for Your Lawn | SWANCC 23
  28. 28. • Between 30 and 40 million Mulchingacres of land in the US are Laying down a bed of mulch will further protect the soil. It helps retain moisture by reducingdevoted to turf grass, and evaporation, reducing erosion, providing nutrients and warding off weed growth. Mulch helpsAmericans collectively spend keep soil warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.big bucks - about $40 billionannually - on seed, sod and Mulching is popular around trees. Mulching helps mirror what happens in a naturalchemicals. environment. In a forest, a tree receives nutrients from leaves and other organic matter in the forest. In a landscaped area, the soil tends to provide a fraction of the nutrients that are• You can make your own provided in a forest environment.non-chemical weed killersusing clove oil, vinegar and There are many types of mulch including wood chips, pine needles and cocoa hulls. Be surelemon juice. to only apply two to four inches of mulch. Excess mulch can cause rotting of the tree due to built up moisture, homes for rodents to burrow or become compacted and prevent water• Before synthetic weed killers and nutrients from reaching the soil.for the lawn were created inthe late 1940s, most American Overseedinglawns contained white Applying new grass seed is a tactic used to outcompete weed growth. The thicker andclover. Since the weed killer denser the grass, the harder it is for weeds to thrive.eliminated clover, it was laterassumed to be a weed. Weeding If you see a few weeds popping up, do not be alarmed. You will want to identify what• If you have excess plantain, the weed specifically is to determine if the weeds are indicating specific soil needs. Thisyou almost certainly have information may include issues such as compaction of the soil, pH imbalance, drainageheavily compacted clay soil. issues, etc.• An excess of dandelions There are two kinds of weed eradicators. Pre-emergent controls inhibit weed seeds fromshows your soil probably germinating. Post-emergent controls eliminate weeds on contact. Only use products that areneeds more calcium and less needed in pest management. Where weeds are sparse, you can pull them by hand.magnesium. Corn gluten is a pre-emergent weed controller. It prevents weeds from surviving by drying• 18% of municipal solid waste out the seeds. It also contains nitrogen which will be converted and nourish the grass. Thereis composed of yard waste. is a waiting period after overseeding before corn gluten can be used, as it will dry out the grass seed just as dries out the seeds from weeds. Corn gluten is a good way to keep annual• According to the US weeds away.National Wildlife Federation,the average suburban lawn In instances where weeds are sparse, natural products such as vinegar or rock salt can bereceived 10 times as much used to eradicate weeds as a post-emergent product. There are also several organic formschemical pesticide per acre of weed control products available farmland. If you see weed seeds, use a bagger when mowing to prevent seeds from spreading. Do not• Making a chart showing place weeds into your compost pile, as seeds can be transported into new areas.where various types ofweeds have infested yourlawn is useful in planning carestrategies for the next season.• When removing weedsmanually, be sure to capturethe root to prevent the weedfrom re-emerging.• Weeds appear as conditionsallow. Stimulating plant growthwill naturally eradicate weeds.• Controlling weeds is critical,because once established, theyrob desirable plants of waterand other nutrients.24 SWANCC | Caring For Your Lawn
  29. 29. • Spot-treat individual weeds with household vinegar rather than applying a broadcast Mosquitoes and Your Health treatment of an herbicide over the entire lawn. Mix 5 parts white vinegar, 2 parts water, 1 Standing Eliminate breeding sites part dish soap, and apply with water is Hundreds of mosquitoes can breed in as small an area as a hand pump sprayer. breeding a bottle cap of water. Get rid of old tires and maintain ground gutters and ditches to prevent standing water. Empty • Boiling water is another water from backyard temporary pools, toys, buckets, organic weed killer. Essentially, birdbaths and clean up unnecessary debris. the weeds are cooked when boiling water is poured on Protect Protect yourself their roots.yourself from If your community officials spray pesticides, there are pesticides steps you can take to minimize exposure. • Earthworms are important for soil health. Lawn chemicals • Close windows can impact them. • Turn off the air intake on window unit air conditioners • Most living pathogens take a • Take toys and patio furniture inside relatively long time to spread • Remove shoes before entering homes to avoid throughout an area, so if a tracking in residues large percentage of plants • Do not let children play near or behind truck- becomes diseased virtually mounted applicators or enter an area that has just overnight, a pathogen is been sprayed. probably not involved. Personal steps to avoid biting mosquitoes • Dead leaves at the top of the Avoid • Wear protective clothing, like long sleeves and pants tree are usually the result of mosquito in light colors, if going outside when mosquitoes are environmental or mechanical bites most active, usually in the early morning and evening. root stress. Twisted or curled • Ensure that window and door screenings are properly leaves may indicate viral maintained. infection, insect feeding, or • Be cautious of using mosquito repellents containing exposure to herbicides. the chemical DEET. • Use botanical skin repellent alternatives containing • Uniform damage that occurs citronella, lemon and oil of eucalyptus, geraniol and once and does not spread, other essential oils. especially if it’s occurring across a multitude of kinds of For more tips, visit plants, is usually caused by a non-living issue such as poor drainage or salt damage. Sources: Beyond Pesticides, • Put a couple of tablespoons of cornmeal in a jar and lay it on its side. Slugs will eat the cornmeal and die. • Place small bowls of beer where slugs are active, they are attracted to yeast and barley and will drown. • The best method for weed control in the garden is to keep undesirable plants from sprouting in the first place. Caring for Your Lawn | SWANCC 25
  30. 30. Every Drop CountsWater is a valuable commodity for the health of soil, grass and plants, notto mention worms, birds, bees, children and pets. Treat it with the lifegiving respect that it deserves.
  31. 31. Water ConservationLife Giving Water uses, assessing how much water the targeted soil can accept andWithout water there would not be life. As such, we need to what type of greywater pollution prevention system would workmake sure that we are using this resource respectfully and best at your home. Check with your municipality for restrictionsresponsibly. When consuming water for outside use, only use and information on the application process. For examples ofwhat you need and be mindful of water runoff. When runoff greywater irrigation systems, visit, the wasted water enters into the stormwater systemand is then treated and processed. Healthy lawns do a better job Rain Barrelsof holding on to water than traditional lawns. This is beneficial to Rain barrels come in a range of different sizes, shapes, andyou because you will not have to water as frequently. designs. They are placed at the corners of buildings under downspouts so that overflow from the rain barrels may beCollecting rain showers conserves the amount of water we use dispersed onto surrounding green space. About a half inch offrom our municipalities for watering plants, lawns and gardens rain from an average roof will fill a rain barrel. The water isor washing the car. It also reduces water pollution, stormwater tapped from a spigot near the bottom of the barrel and, whenrunoff and soil erosion. According to the Environmental elevated, will create more water pressure than sitting directlyProtection Agency (EPA), outdoor watering consumes up to 40 on the ground. Manually collecting rainwater runoff with apercent of tap water use during summer months. This amount container is another method of reducing runoff. Using raincan be significantly reduced by using rainwater instead. barrels can improve local water quality and lessen the stress on water treatment facilities to meet residential demand for potableAs rain falls it picks up dirt, sediment, pesticides or other water. Locally, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation Districtcontaminants and then carries them to various water systems. hosts rain barrel sales. Information can be found at mwrd.orgLawns, trees, shrubs, and other plants naturally reduce water or your local home improvement store or garden center.runoff by absorbing it for growth. Rain GardensBioswales Rain gardens are landscaped areas designed to soak up rainwaterBioswales are commonly used around parking lots to filter water from your roof, driveway and/or lawn. Native plants soak upor gasoline and other pollutants and reduce runoff after a rain rainwater runoff and filter and slowly release it into the ground.shower. These vegetative ditches slow down the runoff from A rain garden typically can retain 30% more rainwater than aentering the sewer system. They are also useful for areas that conventional patch of lawn. By reducing the volume and velocityhave flooding. The thicker the grasses and native plants, the of stormwater runoff, rain gardens help reduce soil erosion,better the bioswale can filter out pollutants. filter fine particulates and capture fertilizer and excess nutrients that can pollute rivers and lakes. They are typically found in lowGrass Cycling areas of the lawn where water tends to gravitate. The size of theGrass cycling is simply the act of leaving the grass clippings on rain garden should be proportional to the amount of water thatthe lawn instead of bagging them. The clippings contain mostly is accumulated.water and nitrogen that can be brought back into the soil. XeriscapingGreywater Xeriscaping is a landscaping method that makes routineGreywater is non-potable water previously used for washing irrigation unnecessary by using drought-resistant and low-waterthat is still usable in another way. You may be able to transfer plants, as well as soil amendments such as compost and mulcheswater from your washing machine, dishwasher or shower to an to reduce evaporation.outdoor area to use in your lawn or planter bed, for example.A greywater system does need to be engineered for success, By substituting a lawn that is resource intensive with a nativetaking into account how many gallons of water the household xeriscape, most of the natural lawn takes care of itself. Additional Resources | SWANCC 27
  32. 32. Learn the Lay of the LandA natural lawn care management system takes some initial education, butafter learning a few key points, your knowledge and turf will flourish.
  33. 33. General ResourcesResourcesBeyond Pesticides Maryland Pesticide Network Physicians for Social psr.orgCenter for Children’s Health and the Midwest Ecological Landscaping Safe LawnsEnvironment, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine Association Safer Pest Control ProjectEnvironmental Working Group “Shopper’s Midwest Permaculture spcpweb.orgGuide to Pesticides in Produce” Sea Grant-Great Lakes Network Morton Arboretum Botanic Gardens Trees Are Good National Gardening Association treesaregood.comChicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning University of Illinois Extension Office National Turfgrass Evaluation Program extension.illinois.eduEPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative US Composting Council Natural Sustainable Agriculture compostingcouncil.orgIllinois Landscape Contractors Association Information attra.orgIllinois Organic Growers Association Organic Materials omri.orgInternational Society of Arboriculture Pesticide Action Network North panna.orgBooks and MediaA Chemical Reaction (Documentary) Making the Organic Lawn Care Transition Teaming With Microbes: A Gardener’ By Paul Tukey Guide to the Soil Food Web By Jeff LowenfelsDirt! The The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Weeds and Why They Grow Natural Insect and Disease Control By Jay McCamanThe Illinois Lawn Guide: Attaining and By Barbara W. Ellis and Marshall BradyMaintaining the Lawn You WantBy Melinda Myers The Organic Lawn Care Manual By Paul Tukey Additional Resources | SWANCC 29
  34. 34. Reduce Reuse RecycleSWANCC offers programs, events and resources to its residents in aneffort to promote waste reduction and recycling practices within theregion. Visit for details and additional resources.