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Gardening Without Chemicals

Gardeners making their way to the garden centers will notice the growing and endless array of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides, all commonly referred to as pesticides. Already more than 80 communities have passed bylaws restricting or prohibiting use of pesticides for cosmetic reasons within their boundaries.

Research seems to support that as goes the health of our earth, so goes the health of our children. The Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP) released a comprehensive review of research on the effects of pesticides on human health which the review showed many studies had found associations between pesticide exposure and solid tumors including prostate, brain, kidney and pancreatic cancer among others such as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Also according to the review, "the implication of pesticides in the development of leukemia warrants further investigation". Since many urbanites use pesticides in their personal lawn and garden spaces at concentration levels between five and 10 times used in agriculture, the implications are dire. These applications can add up to a significant impact since urban homeowners use more pesticides per acre than farmers do, according to Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S.

So how do we actually "just say no" to pesticides? First, getting your lawn off grass is the single most important change you can make to manage weeds in our dry climate and not incidentally, significant reduce water use and get off the addictive cycle of chemical dependence. Plant perennials, trees, shrubs, wildflowers, native species and spread mulch along the borders take the place of rambling lawns and gardens.

Weeds thrive in unhealthy soil, so make sure yours is healthy by fertilizing naturally with manure and compost. Over-seed the lawn with a recommended grass mixture. This creates a more dense, drought - and disease-resistant lawn that crowds out weeds. Keep your lawn a bit longer to discourage weeds and reduce watering needs. Mow high, seven centimeters or three inches, and leave your grass clippings on the lawn to return nutrients to the soil.

A typical garden hoe removes shallow-rooted annual weeds, but cuts off deep-rooted perennials which will continue to grow and are best removed using a specialized weeding tool or chemicals if you are so inclined.

Hoeing improves drainage, aeration, and nutrient dispersal and helps condition your soil.