It just wasn’t summer when I was a kid unless you were running around barefoot outside in everyone’s lawns all day until your parents called you inside for dinner once the street lights came on. Man, I miss that. But how safe were we running around barefoot on everyone’s lawns? Living in Georgia, I know at least for our current backyard, it’s almost impossible to get rid of weeds and other shrubbery because the seedlings just blow everywhere. How do we get rid of weeds (and those damn mosquitoes) while successfully having a kid-safe lawn? Can you have both a beautiful, weed- and insect-free yard filled with lots of grass without using weed killer, fertilizer, and bug sprays that are filled with chemicals?
One way to keep your lawn safe for kids is to be very particular about the types of fertilizers you’re using. According to Coulter Lewis, father and founder of non-toxic lawn product brand, Sunday, “Lawn care products typically include active ingredients that can be harmful to children and pets. Two of the most common compounds, 2,4-D and glyphosate, are chemicals that have been linked to a range of physical and neurological symptoms such as asthma, severe skin rashes, and even some cancers.” Lewis tells Romper that kids and pets are most at risk to these effects from fertilizers because they’re simply closer to the ground and track everything inside.
And weed killers? Forget about it. Those are really toxic as well. Coulter says, “The thing is, a healthy, thriving lawn is actually the best weed control there is. Think about the lawn aisle at a typical home improvement store. It’s filled with that unique potent smell and every label describes what it kills, instead of what they grow.” I have definitely never thought of it that way and he’s absolutely right. Also, can you smell that smell right now? Me too. Coulter adds that there are studies that show how the toxic chemicals in these products end up back in your home, whether on your shoes, clothing, skin, etc.
Coulter suggests in order to have a healthy (and safe) lawn for your kids, “Feed your grass and soil to promote growth and density which will choke out unwanted weeds. When applying fertilizer, do it when the grass is actively growing, but not in heat stress. If you see weed problems in your yard, it’s probably a sign that the soil beneath your grass needs some immediate TLC.” And the fertilizer he suggests is Sunday, the non-toxic lawn brand he founded because he wanted to protect his pregnant wife.
“I came up with the idea for Sunday after buying my first home with my then-pregnant wife. I had little lawn care experience so I drove to the nearest home improvement store and bought a bag of fertilizer off the shelf.” But when he looked for instructions, he immediately just found warnings. He learned he was covering his lawn with “10 times more pesticides than they use on industrial farms, and I refused to use that around my pregnant wife. I needed a product that was safe, easy, and budget-friendly, but there wasn’t one. With the help of experts, including an award-winning soil scientist from Cornell, we built Sunday.”
Sunday is a pretty cool product, in my opinion. They use seaweed, molasses, and iron for the ingredients, and they actually do a soil sample of your yard (in addition to satellite imagery and climate data) to come up with a personalized plan for your yard. “Sunday is shipped directly to your door and you just have to hose the nutrients on. Our customer service team is always available by text for specific questions, such as how to get rid of a stubborn patch or how to deal with heat stress — taking any fear out of DIY lawn care,” Coulter says.
As far as those chemical-laden bug sprays (which also make your yard pretty unsafe for your family — and not to mention bees and butterflies), Coulter recommends using natural options like cedar oil or neem oil, and planting herbs like basil, mint, lemon grass, lavender, and rosemary, which naturally repel insects. Coulter also suggests using products like diatomaceous earth, which kills bugs mechanically by drying out their exoskeleton. It’s also food grade in a lot of instances, and people can ingest the food grade version to get rid of parasites and other stomach issues. We used to sell it at the holistic pet store I worked at to kill fleas and ticks. It definitely works. Additionally, “For bugs and insects, similar to weeds, pest-resistant lawns are lawns with healthy soil. Ants in particular are attracted to stressed-out soil and long, dry grass, so consistent lawn care is key to preventing a bug takeover,” Coulter says.
So make sure you’re not using harsh chemicals found in most lawn fertilizers, weed killer, and bug sprays, and go with more natural options whenever possible. You can also always start from the “soil up” so to speak and prevent having to deal with these nuisances anyway.