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Timely tips for green-minded lawn care

Q: I want a nice lawn but don’t want to use a lot of chemicals and gas-powered tools to maintain it. What’s the alternative?

Lou Manfredini

A: Let’s face it: At the end of the day, we all want a green lawn, and we haven’t always cared how we got there. The good news is that there are lots of natural ways to maintain turf and not harm the environment.

Responsible lawn care starts with natural fertilizers, which cost more than chemical fertilizers but do not contain harsh ingredients; they’re available at hardware stores and nurseries. One of my favorites, Milorganite, is Milwaukee-area sewage sludge turned into pellets for lawn and garden. It sounds gross but it really works, and doesn’t smell. It was once described to me this way by a listener on WGN radio: “After I apply it, I swear I can hear the grass grow.” Another organic option is Ringer Lawn Restore, which is made of soybeans, feathers, and bone meal. Of course, a healthy lawn is its own best defense: To control weeds naturally, overseed!

If you need pesticides, natural and organic options abound. Garlic-and-oil spray keeps some bugs away, but for serious issues, Pharm Solutions (pharmsolutionsinc.com) offers a line of USDA-certified organic insecticides and weed killers. Made with gentle natural ingredients such as vinegar and organic soap, these sprays control grassy weeds and keep mealybugs and other pests at bay. Snag a liter of Weed Pharm or Oil Pharm for $12.95—they’re available at many independent lawn and garden centers.

This is the year to get rid of your gas mower and transition to a cordless electric unit. Cutting your lawn with a gas-powered mower for an hour can create as much pollution as driving a car a couple of hundred miles. Cordless mowers use no fuel and no oil and do not emit pollution when operating. You charge them like any other cordless tool; they run for about 45 minutes when fully charged, even longer if you buy an additional battery. Options to consider include models by Black and Decker ($479), Neuton ($469), and WorxECO ($450). If you have a small city lot, consider a manual rotary mower. It’s easy to maintain and can replace your weekend gym workout—talk about feel-good lawn care.

Lou Manfredini is host of the Mr. Fix-It show on WGN Radio and House Smarts on NBC5.

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