APPEARANCE OF GUESTS: In the middle of winter, it’s time to think about your lawn | Environment

Humans may be ancestrally drawn to savannah-like grasslands dotted with trees and shrubs. In a spin on the question of exactly who controls whom, essayist Michael Pollan suggests that the lawn reaps the benefits. We spend 40 billion dollars a year and countless hours feeding it with food and water, killing its enemies and intruders, pruning it and keeping it in such optimal condition that it covers a significant portion of the area of ​​the United States and 11% of New York State.

In exchange, we are comforted by its appearance and can wiggle our toes on a hot summer day. It also filters and purifies water, sequesters carbon, reduces fire hazards, and provides space for recreation, among others. But how to get that perfect lawn and what “perfect” means are important questions. We might ponder how we answer these questions as – snowbound and dreaming of warmer days – we peruse garden catalogs and lawn care contracts.

Perhaps the most important question is whether we want a safe lawn. This would be for our children and our pets, as everything that enters your garden is tracked inside; safe for birds since the EPA reports that lawn care chemicals are the leading cause of wildlife poisoning; safe for bees and other pollinators since how you grow your weed affects them; safe for the watershed since lawn care products are major pollutants; safe for air quality since a two-cycle lawn mower running for an hour produces the same exhaust as a 350-mile car trip.

Consider the lawn you want. Does it have to be a flawless green carpet and if so, for whom? Several research studies looking at homeowners’ decision-making regarding lawn maintenance have concluded that peer pressure is the determining factor in how well we maintain our lawns. You are an influencer.

Your first step would be to consult the experts at the Cornell Turfgrass Program (https://turf.cals.cornell.edu/lawn/) and the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Lawn Blog (https://blogs.cornell.edu/nysipm?s=lawn). IPM has four steps: setting action “thresholds” defining when you take action against a pest or environmental condition; continuous monitoring to identify problems and identify the cause; prevent problems; and address issues with the least risky controls first.

Some local lawn care specialists advertise themselves as following IPM protocols and some even offer “pollinator friendly” packages that presumably follow IPM approaches. Following IPM guidelines means soil testing to determine your lawn’s needs, spot pest control applications rather than whole yard applications, fertilizing only when your lawn needs it, using “release” products slow” or “natural” and applications only in case of rain. is not expected for 24 hours.

Other recommendations include:

• Sharpen lawn mower blades at the start of the season and every 12 hours of use.

• Cut high and with a mulching mower. Longer top growth means deeper roots, fewer weeds and more drought resistance. Let the grass clippings remain. They can reduce the amount of fertilizer your lawn will need by up to 25%.

• Postpone this first mowing. Let grow in May. Your lawn will be healthier later.

• Don’t be in a rush for spring cleaning. Many beneficial insects overwinter in the debris of your flower beds.

• Plant grass only where needed for walking or playing or for visual accent.

• Plant short, slow-growing native grasses like Pennsylvania sedge that are drought and pest resistant and require less mowing.

• Plant native trees and shrubs instead of grass to attract birds and beneficial insects.

You and your lawn can work together to make it less time-consuming, cheaper, healthier, better for the environment and more beautiful.

This test was provided by the Geneva Green Committee.