Love Your Dog? Then You Have To Love Your Weeds, Too!
It’s springtime and in the Northeast the lawns are just beginning to green up — a time when everyone who has been housebound through this long, cold winter is eager to get out and clean up the garden. Our dogs are running around doing Snoopy cartwheels, enjoying the emerging plant life and warmer days with us. We also have a burning desire to encourage our lawns to turn a fast, bright green, as if to erase all memories of the harsh white winter gone by. I myself was at the garden supply store yesterday, buying grass seed to fill in some bare patches on the lawn. Then I reached for some fertilizer, thinking “I should feed this lawn, give it a boost.” However, then I pulled my hand back as if touching a flame, because the fertilizers were all weed killers at the same time. Poison! Plant killers! Chemical destruction of weeds means polluting the ground, endangering the health and lives of children, dogs, birds and other wildlife. Lacing the earth with chemicals: for what? To have a thicker, greener lawn? Greener than what? When did we all get caught up in some supposedly Norman Rockwell version of the white picket fence and green lawn, and believe that the ends justify whatever means it takes to get you pursuing that golf club expanse of green carpet?
I was remembering an enlightening interview I had a few years ago on my radio shows with Paul Tukey, the guiding light behind the non-profit Safe Lawns, a non-profit that educates about the unnecessary risks of using weed-killing fertilizers and advocates for non-toxic lawn care. I won’t ever forget Paul Tukey’s catch phrase about the American dream including an immaculate lawn as part of the picture — however, using fertilizers with weed killers is like having “rugs on drugs.” His reasoning against weed killers is so clear and the downside of using them is so low, both for people and the planet.
Just this week I got an email from a listener, Carey, who wanted to know which weed-killing fertilizers I would recommend. None of them!
“I have been having an awful time trying to find good fertilizer and weed killer that won’t hurt my pets. Do you happen to know of any? The ones we found said that they were okay for pets to be on the grass after the weed killer dries — however my pets EAT the darn grass! We cannot get answers about whether they will be poisoned if they eat the grass after the weed killer is dry. Any advice we are open to. We have foxtails growing and need them gone.”
I really am glad he values my opinion and took the time to ask before spreading poison on his property, but his innocent request set my hair on fire. It serves as a reminder to all pet owners that they should completely avoid any weed killers: While these products are busy killing weeds, they can sicken and even kill dogs that are in close contact with the grass, too. There is no free lunch: to achieve an emerald green, immaculate lawn with the uniform growth promised on those bags, you are introducing toxic chemicals on your property and into your pet’s life through her paws, nose and lips. Is that really a trade-off worth making? If there are weeds or plants you don’t want, you cut them down, dig them out or pull them out by the roots. Avoiding all chemicals in your pets’ environment is an important part of assuring a long, healthy life — which gives me peace of mind. And inspires me to look with great affection at the dandelions and other weeds that grow naturally, along with grass on my lawn.