About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Chemical-Free Lawn is Bird Friendly

After putting up different bird feeders last fall, I now have various kinds of birds visiting my backyard daily.  Is it safe to use weed killer and fertilizer on my lawn and flower gardens? Thanks, Raleigh, North Carolina

According to the (USGS) National Wildlife Health Center, many birds die each year from landscape pesticides, when they eat pesticide granules or eat poisoned insects. To reduce or eliminate your use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides use disease- and pest-resistant plants, cultivate native plant species, and reduce the lawn area. If you manage your yard naturally, you can increase natural insect predators like ladybugs, praying mantises, frogs, toads and of course birds. Leaf mulches and compost also add nutrients to soil and eliminate the need for weed killers and fertilizers.

Spreading chemicals on the lawn is a relatively new idea that became widespread after World War II. But green lawns existed long before these chemicals were developed and the following are some more suggestions on how to keep your lawn green:

1.  Longer grass - Longer grass has deeper roots, is more drought resistant, and shades the ground, which decreases the amount of weed seeds that can germinate. Mowing it shorter than three inches can stress your turf.
2. Natural fertilizer - Leave the grass clippings on your lawn to break down, add Nitrogen to the soil and fertilizer the lawn naturally.
3. Aerate your lawn - Earthworms do a good job of working against soil compaction, but you can also mechanically punch holes in your lawn in the spring or fall. It’s easy to do and the plugs you remove are left on top to break down and fertilize. Lawn aeration also attracts birds that like to eat exposed bug larvae. 
4. All weeds and bugs aren’t bad - Clover was once a highly desirable lawn plant, until the 1950s when a company launched a PR campaign denouncing clover, and then, predictably, introduced an herbicide that killed it. But clover stays green year round, fixes nitrogen in the soil and may bring you good luck if you see one with 4 leaves. Healthy lawns contain a variety of insects and their relatives and are an important part of the natural balance. Bugs break down leaf litter or become a source of food for other insects, birds or mammals.
5. Corn gluten meal as a natural herbicide and lawn fertilizer - Corn gluten, a by-product of corn processing, suppresses crabgrass and dandelions when added in the early spring, and it also feeds your lawn.

Sources: 
- Pesticides and Wild Birds 
- Natural Organic Lawn Care  
- Audubon Association 
- 7 Chemical Free Fixes For Common Lawn Problems
- Are Fertilizers Herbicides And Pesticides Safe For Your Lawn?

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1 comment:

Clarisse said...

I would love my garden to be chemical free. But my lawn is suffering right now and needs some lawn treatment.