Tuesday, June 21, 2011

London lawns more than grass

A pesticide-treated lawn in London, Ontario.
Recently I watched a very enjoyable video on lawns in London. It was well written, nicely shot and well edited. Unfortunately, it missed the story.

According to this reporter/videographer team, Londoners have started letting their lawns be. Why? They have no choice, London banned pesticides for lawn care and soon after the province followed suite. Lawns in London "have become … less perfect, more wild."

There are more weeds than before.
It's true that lawns in London and throughout Ontario have suffered in recent years. With 2, 4-D banned, weeds grew quickly and soon invaded lawns right across the province. The once popular herbicide was feared by many Ontario residents despite being declared safe at the time by Health Canada. Still, the stuff had a checkered reputation and banning it wasn't unreasonable. Read the Toxipedia entry on 2, 4-D.

Personally, I wasn't sad to see 2, 4-D go. Treated lawns stunk and the odour ruined an otherwise pleasant walk.

But, the chemists fought back. They fought back against the provincial ban and against weeds. Now, there is a new chemical on the block and on London lawns and on lawns across the province: iron.

According to Nutri-Lawn, a company that boasts they provide ecology friendly lawn care:

An excessive uptake of chelated iron (FeHEDTA) is toxic to broadleaf weeds. They absorb the iron differently than turf. Turfgrass is not affected by the application of  FeHEDTA but weeds die. So Killex (2, 4D) is out and Fiesta (FeHEDTA) is in.

Scotts Weed B Gon contains FeHEDTA.
I've noticed a number of lawns in my neighbourhood sporting signs advising folk walking by that the grass has been treated professionally. But this iron stuff is readily available at garden centres and many more lawns are being treated than posted.

Many lawns in London and other communities throughout the province are weedy now but this may be a short term thing. Fiesta, and weed killers like it, are gaining in popularity and the reviews of these chemicals are very positive at this moment. Read this release from the University of Maryland on iron-based herbicides.

What I love about lawns in my area of London is that many are not lawns at all. More and more home owners are choosing to plant trees and flowers and shrubs in place of grass. One neighbour has removed the lawn completely and replaced it with a rock garden.

A grassless "lawn" in London, Ontario.
Many others have simply reduced their use of grass. In extreme cases the grass is less lawn and more accent colour. Grass is just part of an overall look. Whatever approach has been taken, it looks great and gives my London neighbourhood the appearance of a well kept park.

Is any of this unique? I doubt it. A lot of home owners love gardening — young and old. You don't have to be a so-called baby boomer to love getting your hands dirty.

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