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57 Ways To Protect Your Home Environment (and Yourself)
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1. Aim For A Healthy Lawn Rather Than A Perfect Lawn

Integrated pest management

You’ll save yourself a lot of work if you concentrate on creating a healthy lawn, rather than the manicured, Wrigley Field look. You may also be able to cut down on pesticide and fertilizer use because they are often overused in the quest for a perfect lawn.

One of the best ways to create a healthy lawn is to practice integrated pest management, better known as IPM. The goal of IPM is not to eliminate all pests but to maintain them at a tolerable level. Pesticides are not used unless other control methods are not able to produce the desired results. Here are some key points in an IPM program.

Heavily shaded area If you are about to establish your lawn or reseed an area, evaluate the site. Heavily shaded areas do not offer good growing conditions for turf, and pest problems can result. Severely sloped areas are often difficult to establish from seed, and they can be difficult and dangerous to mow. Ground covers other than turfgrass are better suited to these areas.
Carefully select turfgrasses based on the use, soil type, sunlight availability, moisture, desired appearance, pest resistance, and management level required. A low-maintenance lawn, such as tall fescue, may not be as attractive as a high-maintenance turfgrass, such as Kentucky bluegrass, but you may not notice the difference unless you see the lawns side by side.
nitorgen application chart A properly fertilized lawn will maintain good color and density, and will grow rapidly enough to discourage weeds and other pests. For low- to moderate-maintenance lawns, you can get by with two nitrogen applications per year, whereas higher quality lawns require three or four applications. Leaving grass clippings on the ground to decompose is also a way to provide nutrients, especially nitrogen.
thatch diagram Thatch is the intermingled layers of living and dead stems, leaves, and roots that exist between the soil and green vegetation. Excessive thatch— 1/2 inch or more—can provide a protective home for some insect pests and disease-causing fungi. It can also intercept some pesticides, making them ineffective. The best way to prevent excessive thatch buildup is to avoid overwatering and overfertilization.
core aerification Another good way to prevent thatch is core aerification, a process in which you insert hollow tines into the soil and remove soil plugs throughout the lawn. It also helps to improve the soil's condition.
mechanical dethatching To remove thatch, try mechanical dethatching, These mechanical methods use a series of spinning vertical blades or spring teeth that pull thatch from the turf. However, there is a risk that you will pull out some of the turf with the thatch.
mowing height

According to industry research, 70 percent of homeowners cut their lawns too short. If you cut turfgrass too short, the lawn becomes sparse, inviting problems with weeds. Likewise, lawns that grow too tall between mowings can become weedy and shaggy. The rule of thumb is to never remove more than one-third of the grass blade at any one mowing.

Water lawns deeply (to the depth of the root system) and infrequently (on an "as needed" basis) at a rate no faster than the soil can absorb. To maintain green, actively growing turfgrass throughout the entire season, most lawns require 1 to 1½ inches of water per week—no matter whether the water is coming from rain or irrigation.
less toxic alternatives If you wind up with a pest problem, you don't have to reach automatically for a traditional, synthetic (human-made) pesticide. Less-toxic alternatives include microbial insecticides, botanical insecticides, and insecticidal soaps.
applying pesticide Apply pesticides only when other corrective methods do not do the job. Select pesticides that target specific pests, do not remain in the environment for a long time, and are of low toxicity. Make spot applications only to areas where pests are a problem rather than broadcast applications on an entire lawn. Read, understand, and follow label directions for the safest and most effective use.

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