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Going Organic

Required warning signs for outdoor use of pesticides on school property. Conservation commissions charged to regulate spraying within 100 feet of wetlands. Boards of Health worried about wells. Lengthy debates resulting in Massachusetts’ Toxic Use Reduction Act and its institute, TURI.

Everyone wants a healthy environment. We just got into the habit of using some chemicals that turned out problematic, and now need to learn how to do without.
IPM — Integrated Pest Management — minimizes pesticides through understanding the life cycle of the pest and finding weak points. For example mechanical barriers and traps, biological adversaries and natural repellants, removing attractions.

Important methods — our main resources for many situations. But with plants, we have a significant additional advantage: healthy biological systems resist pests. If we cooperate with the needs of the lawn and garden, they will thrive without chemicals. For example deep-rooted grasses withstand drought stress, and thus also fall prey less to opportunistic infection.

Some people think of IPM as an intermediate step, easier than going all the way to organic. This is a dangerous fallacy, because without healthy plants, IPM alone will fail.

Most pesticides around here are applied to lawns. If we can grow healthy grass, we can significantly improve our own health as well as that of our lawns. (Children who live where pesticides are used get leukemia 6.5% more often!)

On March 8 when “Lawn Care Tips and Tricks” was snowed out, I enjoyed the quiet and the time-out the storm gave us — but I was glad there’s another free presentation on organic lawn care coming. Funded by The Groton Commissioners of Trust Funds; and sponsored by The Groton Garden Club, The Groton Board of Health and the Groton Conservation Commission: on April 10 at 2 pm, Pat Beckett and Chip Osborne — co-chairs of the Marblehead Pesticide Awareness Committee and their Living Lawn Project — will speak at the McNeill Lounge at Lawrence Academy, on “Simple Steps Toward Organic Lawn Care.” (For more information call 978-448-6600.)

Marblehead’s PAC is one of many citizens’ groups springing up to raise awareness on this issue. Most recently, a TURI grant has launched Healthy Lawns for Healthy Families — in Acton, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Concord, Littleton, and Westford.

Elaine Major, Environmental Compliance Manager for the Westford Water Department, who wrote the grant, says ultimately, towns can’t do this top-down; There is no way to legislate this kind of change and enforce it. We need the grassroots (pun intended!).

© Copyright 2005 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, March 25 2005

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For more information
  • The Green Decade Coalition in Newton - one of the first of Massachusetts' environmental activist groups. Extensive activities, including their Committee for Alternatives to Pesticides