Natural Lawn Care for Fall

Fall is the time of year to prepare your lawn for the winter. But before you reach for your bag of weed and feed consider protecting your health, and your kids and pets, by switching to natural lawn care products.

What's the Big Deal About Weed and Feed?

The main active ingredient in weed and feed products, such as Scott's Turfbuilder, is 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxy acetic acid). It is the most commonly used herbicide by homeowners, lawn treatment companies and golf courses. It is in the top 10 most common farming herbicides. And every year 25-29 million pounds of 2,4-D are used in the U.S.


The known health effects of 2,4-D are:

  • It's an endocrine disrupter
  • It interferes with thyroid hormones
  • It is linked to risk factors for acute myocardial infarction and type-2 diabetes
  • It is linked to poor semen quality
  • Occupational exposure greatly increases the risk of birth defects and Parkinson's disease
  • It is associated with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in humans
  • It is associated with canine malignant lymphoma and bladder cancer in dogs

Your Exposure to 2,4-D

You can be exposed to this dangerous pesticide in several ways:

  • Through your skin or inhaling the dust when you apply it in your yard.
  • When you track it through your house after application.
  • By ingesting it through pesticide residues on food and in your drinking water

Drinking Water Contamination is a Big Problem

The USDA's 2012 sampling of pesticides in drinking water found 2,4-D in 87% 0f untreated municipal water and 85.3% of treated water (the water that will come out of your tap). The herbicide was detected in 15% of the well water tested.

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that the reason that 2,4-D was found more often in public water systems was it's frequent use by homeowners. A perfect, green, weed free lawn is a requirement for living in the suburbs.

The EPA is well aware of how easily this herbicide ends up in our water. When Scott's applied for EPA registration of its Turf Builder products it included this statement on environmental hazards:

 “This chemical has properties and characteristics associated with chemicals detected in groundwater. The use of this chemical in areas where soils are permeable … (my note- all soils you can grow things in are permeable)… may result in groundwater contamination. Application around a cistern or well may result in contamination of drinking water or groundwater.”

Want to give natural lawn care a try. There is an easy, non toxic and effective solution to weed and feed.

My Path to Natural Lawn Care

Let me start by saying that I am not a lawn care expert. I don’t even have a lawn anymore. Now I grow moss and ferns. And frankly when I did have a large lawn to take care of I didn’t pamper it much. However, for several years when my mom’s health was failing I took care of her acre yard. And she loved to pamper her lawn.

I remember the day she asked me to apply weed-and-feed to her yard. REALLY? “Never in a million years will I apply pesticides to your yard” I replied. She tried very hard to convince me, her environmental scientist daughter, to comply with her request. 

I ran through a whole list of reasons why synthetic herbicides and fertilizers were bad to convince her to let me try something natural instead. I explained how 2,4-D causes cancer and messes with our hormones.

What finally convinced her was her love for my border collie mix Carson. Once I explained how lymphoma rates are 70% higher in dogs whose owners use weed and feed products, I won her over.

Now that the hard part was behind me I had to find a natural substitute for weed and feed.

Natural Lawn Care Solution

After some research I decided to try Corn Gluten Meal because it is the only organic pre-emergent weed suppressant. In other words, it keeps seeds from germinating. 2,4-D only kills existing weeds, which die back in the fall anyway. 

That took care of the weed part of weed and feed. For the feed part it turns out corn gluten meal is 9% nitrogen, so it also feeds your grass. This was the natural solution I needed to apease my mom.

I got a couple of bags from Eartheasy.com, which sells an organic GMO corn gluten meal in 50lb bags. Their website provides a lot of information on using it so I found the process very easy. And the best part - my mom was happy with the results.

A second corn meal option is Concern Weed Prevention Plus. This comes in 25 lb bags and also has Bone Meal, Potassium Sulfate and Wheat Middlings for an extra fertilizer boost.


Fall is the perfect time to ease your way into natural lawn care. Give corn meal gluten a try. You'll have the convenience and benefits of weed and feed with the added benefit of protecting your health.

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