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I Am Not the Master of My Backyard


When I was a kid, I remember my dad wheeling around the fertilizer dispenser several times a year.  Afterwards, we kids were repeatedly reminded not to walk on the lawn for a while.  I thought this was because we would mess up the lawn.

I have since learned about the toxins in fertilizers and what they might do to young developing brains.  And now that I'm a parent, I find I'm not comfortable with the use of conventional fertilizers and weed killers on my lawn.  But we are renters and the owner pays for the gardening service.
 

Since in the summer we practically live outside, I asked the owner of my home, do you fertilize the lawn?  She said she had the gardeners fertilize four times a year.  When I explained my concern about the chemicals, she offered to have them fertilize just twice a year.  Then I asked if they could use natural fertilizer, if we buy it ourselves.  She talked to the gardener, and they said we could.  So far, so good. 

Then a few days ago, the gardeners were here.  I had my husband go outside and ask about what kind of natural fertilizer we should get.  Language was an issue, and the gardener got the impression that we wanted the lawn fertilized immediately and almost started doing it right then!  Near disaster averted.  Then as I'm closing all the windows to keep the gasoline smell from the leaf blowers (I hate them) out of my house, I notice someone with a tank on his back squirting stuff around the perimeter of the house with a little hose.  I make my husband run out and ask him what that stuff is.

It's weed killer.

Awesome.  When you've spent a lot of time and energy avoiding toxic chemicals in your cleaning products, personal products, furniture, toys, clothing and food, it can be a bit disheartening to see someone spraying toxic chemicals a few feet away from where your children play 4 hours a day.

My husband tells me they probably use the weed killer in parks and school yards anyway.  This does not make me feel better.  He reminds me that they are only using it around the perimeter of our yard.  I remind him that chemicals do not always stay right where you put them.  We ask the gardeners not to spray it in our yard at all ever.  I still need to ask the owner if she's OK with that.  I'm not sure if she'll agree, because while I want my kids to be safe, the owner just wants a nice-looking yard.  Even if the owner agrees to all my requests, with the third-party communications and language barriers at play, I have my doubts about the gardeners honoring my wishes.

This is when I really wish that I owned my own home.  Or lived in Canada.
On the other hand, the owner of our home has been quite accommodating, even though I'm not sure she actually shares any of my concerns.  At the very least, I am probably exposing my children to fewer toxic chemicals than if I had done absolutely nothing.  It's wonderful that there are actually natural alternatives to conventional fertilizers out there.  And if I mark in my calendar when the gardeners are coming, and hover around for the 30 minutes when they are actually in my yard, I can probably get them to fulfill most of my green wishes.  And maybe someday, if enough of us speak up, we won't even have to worry about chemicals in the back yard, in our parks or in our kids' schools.

So, fellow renters, remember, it doesn't hurt to ask.

Want to see how the story ends?
I Am Not the Master of My Backyard, Part 2 (Fertilizer)





This post is part of the Healthy Child Blog Carnival, an effort by Healthy Child Healthy World to help inspire a movement to protect children from harmful chemicals.  Check out more posts about avoiding chemicals in the great outdoors HERE

A few of my favorites from the carnival:
Rookie Moms' $700 chicken egg (I want my own chickens!)
Adventures with Three Girls uses a turtle and no chemicals to combat weeds
Farmer's Daughter has lots of tips for a green lawn (plus, I like her blog's name)
Mommy Goes Green has green lawn tips too (including chicken manure -- do you think my owner will go for that?)
Almost All the Truth has fabulous photos of kids and dirt