Did you know that as much as 10% of contributing pollution comes from gasoline powered lawn care equipment? Those noisy mowers do more than hurt your hearing. They emit harmful gas into the air. High levels of air pollution mixed with a hot sunny day is the recipe for dangerous ozone levels. Ground-level ozone affects the respiratory system, causes scarring in the lungs, impairs breathing and damages vegetation. Children and adults of all ages who are active outdoors, and people with existing respiratory diseases air particularly sensitive to ground-level ozone. Adopting air-friendly lawn care practices can help improve the air quality in Kansas City.
One push mower can emit as much harmful gas in an hour as eleven modern cars. A riding mower can emit as much as 34 cars! By making the switch from gas powered lawn equipment to a more air-friendly machine, you can help prevent another Ozone Alert day in Kansas City. Also, prevent spilling gas when you fuel up your equipment by using a funnel or a spill-proof gas can. Mowing after 7 pm, especially on Ozone Alert days can prevent ground-level formation. Right from your front yard you can impress your neighbors and show them that you care about the health of your community by practicing natural lawn care.
Take Steps to Reduce Emissions
Mow Late in the Day
To reduce the amount of ozone that will form, mow after 7 pm. Avoid mowing altogether on Ozone Alert days. The harmful ozone causing fumes emitted by mowers are nitrogen oxide (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). These are more likely to form harmful ozone when the weather is hot and sunny. Mowing in the evening will help reduce the amount of ozone that form, not to mention make it easier on you.
Keep Your Equipment Well-Tuned
Well-tuned equipment runs more efficiently, uses less fuel, and emits less pollution. Keep your blades sharpened, too. Regular maintenance will not only benefit your lawn, making it more resistant to disease, but the mowing will go quicker and that means less air pollution and less wear and tear on your body.
Avoid Gas Spills
Save money and protect the air we breathe by using a funnel or a no-spill can. Americans spill an estimated 17 million gallons of gasoline each year while refueling small engines such as lawn care equipment. The vapor from gasoline spills is also a cause of air pollution.
NO-SPILL© gas cans are manufactured in Missouri and are available in the Kansas City area. Check your local hardware store. Or visit their website at www.nospill.com to find a dealer near you.
Practice Natural Lawn Care and Proper Mowing Techniques
The following is a maintenance guide for a lush, healthy, green lawn sourced from the K-State Extension Office. There are more thorough publications available on their website at www.ksuturf.com. There are also natural ways to sustain the ideal yard that suppress weeds, pests, and pollution as well as save water and reduce ground-level ozone.
Mow High - 3 to 3.5 inches
- This is crucial to natural lawn care. The grass will shade the weeds and suppress them as well as absorb more sunlight, lengthening their roots and thickening your turf. A deep root system will also lessen the amount of watering necessary.
- Be sure to let your grass grow out to 4.5"- 5" which follows the 1/3 rule: cut one third off the top, leaving 2/3 of the grass blade.
Mulch Your Grass Clippings
- The clippings act as a free natural fertilizer, returning the needed nitrogen to the soil as well as building depth to your topsoil.
- Mulching your grass clippings can account for 25-50% of the nitrogen needed per year.
Water Less Frequently
- Water when the grass begins to wilt or turn bluish-green in color. Less frequent watering encourages deep root growth of grass and reduces weed competition.
- It takes about 1" of water per week, however some soils require more or less. A good method to follow is to soak your soil to a depth of 6-8". Use a screwdriver or a rod to measure the depth of water penetration.
- Water early in the morning to prevent mildew disease and minimize evaporation.
- Collect rain water from your roof for watering! To purchase or build a rain barrel visit Bridging the Gap.
- Most natural yards do not need heavy amounts of fertilizers. Building up your top soil and the soil life is the best remedy to preventing problems. It is also important to fertilize at the correct rates and times.
- Natural compost adds high levels of nitrogen fertilizer without the NOx emissions that are formed from the production of synthetic fertilizers. It is best for your lawn and your pocketbook to not over-fertilize. The idea, "if you add more fertilizer, you will see more of the result" is incorrect. Excess fertilizer actually gets washed away with storm water and has adverse effects on the environment. When synthetic fertilizer builds up in water systems, it causes dead zones where the marine life cannot survive.
- See what you need before you add anything! First test the soil. The Johnson County K-State Extension Office will perform a soil test for just $10. Call 913-715-7000.
- Only add fertilizer/compost in the spring or the fall. The recommended application is in September, November, and May, in that order.
- Chemical pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, if not properly applied, can be dangerous to the environment and sometimes expose the lawn to more infestation problems. Chemical applications affect more than just the target organism, they also affect non-target organisms that are beneficial to the soil. By building up your top soil with the above suggestions, your lawn may be less susceptible to pest and weed infestation.
- If you decide to apply chemical pesticides, it is important to use the proper amount and apply them at the proper time. Avoid overuse of pesticides and apply per label instructions.
- There are several options for organic pest control depending on the specific problem. Here are some suggestions for common problems:
Grubs, ants, chiggers, fleas, ticks: Nematodes are a beneficial biotic organism that live in healthy soil. Adding nematodes will eliminate these pests by eating them! You can order a solution containing nematodes online, further instructions included.
Crab Grass (Digitaria) and other weeds: Corn Gluten Meal is an organic herbicide that inhibits the growth of roots in germinating plants, but does not affect established grass or bulbs. Do not apply the corn gluten for three weeks after planting new grass seed.
Natural Professional Lawn Care Services
If you use a professional lawn care provider to tend to your lawn care needs, consider hiring a natural professional lawn care service. Several companies in Kansas City specialize in natural lawn care. Here are some that we found using Google and Yahoo:
- Evolving Landscapes, Lee's Summit, (816) 694-5534
- True Green Lawn Care, Shawnee, KS, (913) 441-5122 – Note: This company uses chemical lawn treatments too, so be sure to specify that you want their organic program.
Johnson County Health and Environment does not endorse these lawn care companies, nor is criticism implied for those businesses and products not listed.