26 March, 2020

Pets vs Lawns

For me, this is Day 12 of self-quarantine, although walking the dog today, I got closer to people than I would have liked. I guess it's a phenomena that when you're young, you are not subject to the laws other humans live and die by. The problem, of course is, you are subject to those laws. I got myself away from everyone I could and, on the whole, it would have to be one lucky little virus that would have caught me today.

I have to walk the dog a good deal more than I did before quarantine because he had plenty of things to do when we would go to work together and he was blessed lots of joy from all the people around him. I am walking him twice a day (most days) and much longer distances. And as I do this, I realize we are walking on a lot of lawns of varying quality, with many of them so green they could hurt your eyes.

That green is not "natural." It is coaxed to life with a lot of chemicals; fertilizers, weed killers and other additives modern man adds to his lawn. These scare me and the fact my dog is romping in them is even more stressful, especially since he is a cancer survivor! Following are some of the ways I try to help my buddy to avoid chemicals. Please know, your mileage may very and chemicals are chemicals. That means: a.) your pet might respond to the chemicals more or less than mine to the chemicals and b.) some animals may show their response much different than my pet.

Several lawns on our walk have fake grass. I can't really tell until we are right up on it. I think, for the most part, fake grass is not a large problem, besides being somewhat tacky. The chemicals are fairly bonded together, although I predict, as they age they will be losing cohesion and then could be more of a problem. And another big load of plastic gets hauled off to the dump.

We have several lawns that are poorly maintained, with bare patches of earth and a lot of weeds growing in them. These are my favorites! The residents don't care and presumably therefore do not waste their money on things like grass, weed-killer, fertilizer and all the other goodies that are for sale in the garden aisle of a big box store.

Taraxacum officinale, easily IDed with it's yellow
flower. It is also a medicinal herb and I'm going
to be excoriated for not telling you what a magnificent
herb it is, but that's not my expertise. 
Most of the weeds I see in gardens are broadleaf weeds - like dandelions, Taraxacum officinale. A broadleaf plant is easily identified as "not a grass." These broadleaf plants in a lawn usually boast incredibly tough roots. These are the lawns I allow my pup to romp on. There are also grass-like weeds that are much harder to see. Look for a minority of plants with grey-green foliage, or slightly larger/smaller than the majority of grass. Nature, as a rule, hates monoculture and that is exactly what a lawn is. It's a provable fact should you wish for a garden with no lawn, that's where grasses will thrive and where you wish to plant a lawn, the grasses will be most stubborn about growing.

The lawns that are lush and green need to be carefully examined before your pet plays there. The grasses in these lawns are incredibly green, but the most important identification as far as you and your pets go, is the presence of weeds. If the lawn has weeds, it means that weed-killer has not been used and therefore is less hazardous to your pet

 A plant to love and encourage, while most lawn purists will
want it out, a savvy gardener sees 'free N' as well as food for
honey bees from those flowers..  
One plant you'll see is clover - with it's lovely little white flower. These plants are nitrogen fixers and they bring nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil to be used by plants. Nitrogen (N) makes  up a huge portion of the atmosphere and to plants, Nitrogen is the most needed element by plants and makes up 78% of the atmosphere, but that N is not obtainable by most plants. Clover takes N from the atmosphere and chemically changes that N to and N plants can use (to cover the whole thing is another blog post). So the clover actually makes your grasses grow better. And without chemicals to boot!

Happy playing in the grass with your pets! Hope you can use some of this enforced time off to grow some food and joy.


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