Archive for Thursday, April 24, 2008

Saving the earth, one yard at a time

Program certifies eco-friendly lawns

April 24, 2008


Related document

Green Yard Certification Checklist ( .PDF )

Reader poll
Do you use pesticides on your lawn?

or See the results without voting


Today, your lawn is your little slice of heaven. Soon, it also may be a billboard for how environmentally friendly you are.

Lawrence is in the process of becoming the first city in Kansas to create a program that allows area residents to have their lawns certified as an environmentally friendly "green yard."

"One yard really can make a difference," said Crystal Miles, the city's horticulture manager who helped develop the program with the Douglas County Extension Service.

Here's how the program will work: Area residents can go to a Web site - - to download a yard certification checklist. The checklist has approximately 55 categories for participants to check. Each category - they range from controlling the output of your sprinkler system to your use of organic mulch - that is met gives the participant a certain number of points. If you get to 36 points or more, you have a certified "green yard."

People can send the completed checklist - along with a photo of the yard - to the Douglas County Extension Service to receive a sign to place in the yard.

"That's meant to show your neighbors that you understand what you do in your yard affects them and that you care about that," said Jennifer Smith, the horticulturist with the extension service. "It is easy to think what you do is your own little bubble."

But when it comes to yard fallacies, that one ranks right up there with the grass always being greener on the other side of the fence.

Case in point: Smith said many area residents routinely add pollution to the Kansas River without even knowing it by partaking in one of the more common of spring rituals: fertilizing the lawn.

Smith and Miles said many people fertilize at this time of year despite evidence that suggests lawns don't absorb much fertilizer in the spring.

"A lot of it is washing off and going into the storm drain and right into the river," Smith said.

The better time to fertilize is in September, Smith said. Other tips include letting your lawn grow to a taller height before mowing. Smith said 2.5 to 3.5 inches is the optimum height for most fescue grasses. The less you mow, the less gasoline you use and the less carbon emissions you emit into the atmosphere.

Also, Smith and Miles suggest just leaving the grass clippings on the ground. Smith said they help the lawn absorb water, and the idea that the clippings will create a thatch problem that will suffocate the yard is overblown.

The Lawrence program - dubbed Green Yards and Communities - is modeled after a statewide program in Florida and city programs in Columbia and Springfield, Mo.

"People here have really been receptive to it," said Frank Gordon, a stormwater outreach coordinator for Columbia and Boone County.

He said that 90 to 120 people attend a series of workshops the city sponsors three times a year and that follow-up surveys showed many people were sticking with the practices.

People can begin signing up for the Lawrence program anytime, but a major push will be made in May when information is included in all city utility bills.


introversion 10 years ago

Man, if Lawrence wants to set the pace for Kansas and green lawns, lets see some folks plow that grass under and plant some vegetables. Small-scale farming in a yard is way greener for lots of reasons than even the greenest lawn keeper. Surely there's a local farmer somewhere willing to do that, and people ought to think about leasing their yards out for it as well.

George_Braziller 10 years ago

It has taken me a long time, but I have been slowing getting rid of the grass in my yard with a mixed combination of perennials, free-seeding annuals, and decorative but edible vegetables and herbs. What grass is left I can mow in less than ten minutes.

gr 10 years ago

"your use of organic mulch""Organic" mulch? Lowell !!!!"That's meant to show your neighbors that you understand what you do in your yard affects them and that you care about that,"Bragging rights - 'My hummer gets better mileage than your hummer.'"This program is feel-good garbage."I'm coming to know that this is also known as liberalism - summed up as, 'I feel good at the expense of others'.

jumpin_catfish 10 years ago

I idea of growing food in your yard makes so much sense but sadly many folks today are far more interested in how their yard looks than its usefulness.

cowboy 10 years ago

looking at the condition of the lawns in most of the city I think the program is in full force already. The cost of our city water is so high most can't afford to water a lawn anyway.

nobody1793 10 years ago

The greenest thing to do is neglect it and let the weeds take over.

oldvet 10 years ago

Hey blue... don't forget Diazinon and Malathion

jafs 10 years ago

I don't understand the anger whenever someone suggests that what we do individually can make a difference.If this gets people to stop watering, fertilizing, and mowing their lawns unnecessarily, it is a good thing.If we all were more mindful of our use of resources and generation of pollution, it would make a difference - there are a lot of individuals in this country.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 10 years ago

I hate lawns. I hate mowing. I like perennials. I like to grow food. I like critters. I eat mice. I have three eyes. My ear is bright red. Sometimes I disappear, turn into a fish and swim to the gulf of Mexico. I like the stink of the dead zone. I'm crazy. some crazy is better than some same old same old same old same old same old same old same old same old same old same old same old same old same old same old same old same old same old same old...

Frederic Gutknecht IV 10 years ago

Thank god Shatt's tax dollars are being spent on "Lawn Certifications"!~)

Deja Coffin 10 years ago

Atleast when my mother-in-law complains our lawn is too high I can just say I'm doing my little part to help the eco-system.

budwhysir 10 years ago

Yep Im going green, have been for years. going green, yep this is what im doing yes yes yes, green green green, going going going,

Deja Coffin 10 years ago

Anyways. About those collection systems, I think that sounds like a really great idea but wouldn't it just be a pool for mesquitos?

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 10 years ago

We have a net over our rain barrel, but occasionally we add a little cooking oil that floats on the top and doesn't allow mosquitos to lay eggs. We're able to water our veggies last year, until Aug when it finally went empty, then didn't rain again for awhile.

Deja Coffin 10 years ago

Do people always go so far away from the actual topic to bashing one another or am I coming in on the boiling over of something more. You all really know a lot about eachother. BTW, thanks autie and dorothyhr

RedwoodCoast 10 years ago

I don't remember who it was, but some fertilizer manufacturer in town got in trouble for dumping loads of humic acid down the drain. I think the company should be promoting humic acid for green lawns. It's good stuff.Wow, I haven't heard people talk about permaculture since I lived in California.

mom_of_three 10 years ago

My grandparents used to have a rain barrel on their patio and also composted. They also had a big vegetable garden, and a chicken coop. They did those things because it was what they always had done, (and saved money). Wish he was around so I could ask him more questions about why and what they did.

Alison Smith 10 years ago

Harderfaster - your argument holds water about as well as a bucket with a bunch of little holes in the bottom....Bee stings are like nano-pricks(?) on the surface of your body but they can really muck up your entire system.

BigPrune 10 years ago

Does this mean that in order to qualify you have to have a yard infested with weeds?

RedwoodCoast 10 years ago

BigPrune: I doubt it. If your yard grows up in ragweed, I'm sure someone will complain.

Godot 10 years ago

The greenest action this city can take would be to eliminate the "stuffers" in the water bills.

vpete69 10 years ago

Godot, I just burn those in my grill with the styrofoam cups I get every day from BP.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 10 years ago

You really don't need a goat, which is illegal for most of us. You need CHICKENS, which are illegal for most of us. Confined chickens scratch and peck enough to keep grass, weeds and bugs from growing. I wish I could have chickens. I'm probably moving to a street that has TWO houses keeping chickens, but my understanding of the law is that I can't have any...unless they live indoors! Crazy. I'm going to fight for the RIGHT to free-range eggs and cute little stinky chickens! they are worse that herbicides and pesticides...RIDICulous!~)

Frederic Gutknecht IV 10 years ago

Of course, autie. No problem. I will fight for chickens any day of the week...especially on Tuesdays!~)

George_Braziller 10 years ago

This is absolutely pathetic. The article was about being envrionmentally responsible with your lawn maintenance and it ends up being total slathering stupidity with a small group using a public forum to trash each other.

George_Braziller 10 years ago

Repeat ---- The article was about being envrionmentally responsible with your lawn maintenance and it ends up being total slathering stupidity with a small group using a public forum to trash each other.

vpete69 10 years ago

I believe we should use our grass clippings to make salad, and use our feces to fertilize said grass. Instead of lawnmowers, we can use flowbees! ask about burning coal for the electricity used to power the flowbee? NO! We rig up a little 'power plant' made of batteries and force grandma to sit on the bike and pedal. If we have to work, so does she. All she does is take and take. Its about time she puts a little bit back in.Now THAT'S eco-friendly.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.