The Healthy Lawn and Garden Pledge

Here is the article I wrote for my neighborhood newspaper. My next post may be some of the many things I wanted to include but didn’t have space to mention.

A Pesticide-Free Neighborhood is Safer For All — Take the Healthy Lawn and Garden Pledge!

by Mulysa Melco

Walking around our neighborhood has been my main form of exercise in pregnancy and in the ten months since my baby was born. Fresh air, sunshine (sometimes), and admiring so many pretty gardens and vegetable plots has preserved my sanity. It’s natural to feel protective during this time and my long-held global environmental concerns were starting to take focus on my immediate surroundings.

With pregnancy and a newborn, I was especially concerned about chemical exposure. During our walks I began to notice the brown spots on lawns left by herbicides, lawns that look golf-course perfect, and pellets of fertilizer or herbicide on the sidewalk. Sometimes I saw chemical application notices or even bottles of chemicals lying around.

The chemicals in commercially available pesticides and lawn maintenance products have been shown to increase risk of asthma, childhood brain cancers, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, immune problems and cognitive impairment. Children (and pets) are especially vulnerable because of their lifestyle – close to the ground, putting everything in their mouth – and they absorb a higher concentration of toxins than adults at critical periods of brain development and growth.

On top of all my new mother worries this was almost too much to handle. I started dreaming about our neighborhood becoming pesticide free. Kids and pets could play in the park, touch leaves and smell flowers without increasing their risk of asthma, learning disabilities or cancer. Families would have fewer fertility problems and less chance of having a baby born with birth defects or developmental problems. We would be protecting wildlife and our watershed.

Then I heard about a program sponsored by Metro at a booth at the farmer’s market. It gives homeowners natural gardening resources when they pledge to reduce or eliminate chemicals on their property. I signed up and got a free yard sign (the ladybug, shown above).

Metro’s program emphasizes pest prevention through good gardening practices. For example, choose the right plants for the location and start them off right with compost-rich soil and mulch. Create conditions where pests will be controlled by natural balance by providing habitat for birds and beneficial insects. Finally, when weeds or pests get the upper hand-control them by hand weeding, squashing, or other non-toxic methods. Get advice from the extension service or www.GrowSmartGrowSafe.org

One pesticide-free garden, or a scattering isn’t enough. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water and though I wish I could build a protective bubble for my child, the truth is we are all connected. Let’s work together to make our neighborhood safer. The Metro pledge program is a great place to start.

There are many natural gardening resources available: books, websites, classes, consultants, landscape designers, and even your neighbors! If you see a little sign with red ladybug in a neighbor’s yard, I’m sure the gardener responsible would love to share tips for pesticide-free gardening. And to see more yards using natural gardening methods come on ONeST’s garden tour next year.

In planning your garden for next spring.. take the pledge! www.oregonmetro.gov

For more information about children and the effects of pesticide exposure, visit: www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/kidpesticide.htm or www.panna.org/children

About Mulysa

I love my work as a landscape designer and artist. When I'm not planning homesteads or working in the studio, you'll find me hiking, photographing, gardening, baking, cooking vegetarian meals with friends, reading and working on sustainability issues...with my baby on my hip in Portland, Oregon.
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