Changing Up The Lawn

Even though the week started out snow-covered, I am still thinking about fixing my lawn this coming spring.

Along with my natural lawn maintenance plan, I am searching for ways to create low maintenance lawn alternatives.  I want to add some color and texture to my little plot of land, while hopefully creating a place for bees and butterflies to pollinate without being tainted by pesticides.  These are some lawn alternatives that I have found and seem relatively easy to execute.

Groundcover has little to no maintenance, can choke out weeds, create a mulch, and some are nitrogen-fixing.  Examples of high-quality groundcover include: Alyssum, Tapien, Contoneaster, Bishops Weed, and Juniper.  The only drawback to ground cover is that it does not hold up well to a great deal of foot traffic and is better suited for areas that have low human and pet activity.

Clover keeps coming up! It seems to be the wonder healer to all your lawn care issues.  It is nitrogen-fixing, reduces soil compaction, grows quickly, is inexpensive, and requires no fertilizers.  The best variety I hear is Dutch White – make sure it is not covered in herbicide or fertilizer when you purchase it!

grassesOrnamental Grasses
Grasses are low maintenance, they grow well in many soils, and have very few pests.  They are also really good for privacy as some can grow many feet high.

shrubs and plants
Flower and Shrub Beds

Flower and shrub beds require the most maintenance but if you choose only a few native varieties, your maintenance will be minimal. There are many varieties of flowers and shrubs giving you the ability to grow them in sun and shade and in any color imaginable. You can plant these in open bed or raised bed plantings, and are a good option for uneven ground.

seedsI have already talked about my plans for planting clover, but I think I will also dedicate a small piece of my plot to creating a butterfly and bee flower bed. I have the seeds, I just need to sow them! 

All information based on documents published by Beyond Pesticides

Heather works in MOM’s Central Office.

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My Lawn, Your Lawn

cigarette_litterWhy is chemical treatment on my lawn such a big deal?  It’s my grass on my property.  It’s not like I’m spraying all my neighbor’s lawns or the playground or the dog park.

It was presented to me like this- sure, smoking a cigarette directly affects my body.  And sure, who can tell me what to do with my body?  But the truth is that the harmful Water Systemcomponents of cigarettes not only affect my body, but also those around me.  From the effects of second hand smoke, to the litter, to the environmentally stressful tobacco growing process, to the chemicals leeching into soil and water systems- cigarettes affect more than just the person smoking.

Chemicals used on lawns do quite the same thing.  It’s my lawn.  But where are the chemicals going after I apply them?  They’re leeching into the soil.  They’re running off with the rainwater.  They’re being tracked into the house.  The kids are going after their softballs in my lawn.  The dogs are sniffing and rolling around.  The bees are suffering.

Playing in Lawn

Culturally, we have a very quick fix sort of mindset.  We generally forget to think about the holistic impacts we have.  And quite frankly, many of us probably just aren’t aware!


There are great organizations out there creating the necessary awareness about the dangers associated with chemical lawn care.  Thank you to Beyond Pesticides for all your efforts!  And there are also many different resources providing alternative methods to maintaining pests and attractive yards, such as Gardener’s Supply Company.  All we need is a little elbow grease!

- MOM’s Employee of multiple MOM’s locations

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Organic Lawn Care Toolshed

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Eat Your Weed

photo by cynus921 @ flickr

photo by cynus921 @ flickr

MOMs is in full-obsession mode this week over dandelions – and we have every reason to be. We, Americans in particular, are choking our ground water with fertilizers and drying out our clean water resources to try to give grass the leg up on dandelions in our yards. And, frankly, grass isn’t a great friend to our soil (check out clover for soil replenishment).

Dandelion greens are tender, tasty greens with bite, and dandelion root is a great herbal tea for internal cleansing and detoxification, AND its good for your soil! An earlier commenter pointed out that dandelions are favorites of bees, and pleasing bees is a very good thing!

However, keep in mind there are several weeds in your yard that are tasty and nutritious: some very common ones are Ground Ivy [Glechoma hederacea], Common Plantain [Plantago major], and Lambs Quarter [Chenopodium berlandieri].

My great-grandmother would stop and pull lambs quarter from between the sidewalk cracks and gather it up and steam the leaves or toss them with lettuce in the dinner salad, and that story persisted in the family for years. It was one of the first plants I could identify on my own and surely you’ve seen it too.

Christopher Hobbs and common plantain

Christopher Hobbs and common plantain

I learned about the former two edible weeds when MOMs Wellness staff went on an herb walk with the renowned herbalist Christopher Hobbs. After the tour, we went out to the road to wait for our bus, which was running late. Dr Hobbs leaned down and pulled Plantago Major leaves from the side of the road and explained that it was tasty in the raw in its early leaf stages (steam or blanch the more mature leaves and try to remove the “strings” that run through it for the best texture), and it is the source of the psyllium seed fiber that we sell. The entire plant can be eaten, in a variety of ways, and its quite nutritious, like most dark leafy greens.

Dr Hobbs then plucked some ground ivy, little leaves with scalloped edges growing on dainty short stems (not the invasive English ivy that grows all over college buildings), and explained that it is a good source of iron and vitamin C.

So, if the food apocalypse arrives, those of us with mixed-population lawns will be sitting pretty. And don’t forget about the chicory, bee balm, cow slip, redbud, elder and clover! All can be put to good use in the kitchen (or medicine cabinet). Bon Appetit!

Save the Dandelions with MOMs, bring your lawn chemicals in for safe disposal March 15-23!

Alyssa works at multiple MOMs locations.

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Water Safety & Lawn Care: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You!

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 3.27.52 PMAccording to the National Pesticides Telecommunications Network (NPTN), a pesticide is a chemical used to control a pest, be it “an insect, weed, bacteria, fungus, rodent, fish or any other troublesome organism.[i]” While some are naturally occurring in the environment, most pesticides are manufactured for use in our homes, on public lands and for agricultural purposes.

More than 700 synthetic organic compounds have been identified in various U.S. drinking water supplies, with contamination originating from a variety of sources, including household products and “leakage or improper disposal of chemical wastes from commercial and industrial establishments.”  The EPA acknowledges that there is ample evidence to suggest organ damage, cancer and adverse reproductive effects on laboratory animals exposed to pesticides in their drinking water at even the smallest amounts.  And while scientists have set minimum contaminant levels (MCLs) for pesticides that are permissible in drinking water, there is an increasing acceptance and awareness that most water sources are contaminated.

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Intuitively, it seems logical to assert that whatever is lethal to a pest or weed, could also be harmful to other organisms (including humans).[ii]  The risk varies from person to person and community to community, with individual impact also complicated depending on how well a person’s system can process and filter out the good and the bad.  Pre-existing health conditions or weak immune systems complicate matters.  Studies are limited by the fact that many health problems are difficult to trace to a specific cause and thereby can be deemed inconclusive.  And since some cancers can remain latent for up to 40 years, it is easy (and convenient) to diminish the correlation between contaminated drinking water and adverse health affects.

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 3.31.55 PMPesticides can infiltrate our homes, our natural resources (especially water) and our bodies much easier than one might think.  A 2012 study by Cornell University revealed, “twenty- two pesticides have been detected in U.S. wells, and up to 80 are estimated to have the potential for movement to groundwater under favorable conditions.[iii]”  Even in the best case scenarios, these chemicals seep into our water tables each time it rains and can even travel through the air to contaminate the surface waters used for the public drinking water systems.[iv]

With the change in seasons, many of us are gearing up to beautify our homes and our gardens.   Our thought often is:  “I can spray chemicals all over my lawn and on the perimeter of my home without any residual effects on my own health or body.” Out of sight, out of mind.  WRONG.

At MOM’s, our newly launched Save the Dandelions campaign raises awareness about the impacts of artificial fertilizers and pesticides on the environment.  Hopefully we can share the benefits of using organic, all natural compounds instead of the toxic products most of us are accustomed to.  Although fear can be just as lethal as the fossil fuels we live and breathe these days, it can also serve to expedite and inspire change.  Here are a few things you can do, now, to make a difference during the campaign and for years to come.

1. Get smart: It is increasingly vital that we work together to encourage the protection of our groundwater recharge and push for government screening and regulation of pesticides.  Have a look at the diagram below to see how interconnected our water systems actually are.

2. Take pride! Get excited about the Save the Dandelions campaign, unlike any of its kind on the Eastern seaboard.

3. Share the wealth: Get your local neighborhoods and communities involved. Help with tabling at your stores and work with your ER captains to make your store’s program as robust as possible.

4. Baby steps: Think of small changes you can make, at work and at home.  This could be anything from buying less abrasive cleaning products to planting gardens of native plant species in your backyards.  Me?  I aspire to start a ladybug farm (ladybugs are naturally occurring protectors against pests!) and try to convince my father his emerald green lawn can be achieved naturally.

What about you?  Share your BIG ideas below!

Ryan works at MOM’s Alexandria

[ii] Many scientists and environmental advocates agree that human beings are indeed at risk, with more severe symptoms possible in pets and children. The Partnership for Environmental Education and Rural Health (PEER), Texas A&M University, 2012; available at:

[iii] More than twenty states, including Maryland and New Jersey in the mid-Atlantic region, have reported some pesticide contamination of groundwater. More info available at:

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We’re Saving Dandelions! Here’s why

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 10.14.38 AMHere’s a little quiz:

It’s important to Save the Dandelions because…
a) They’re yellow and pretty
b) You can eat them
c) They’re good for your lawn
d) All of the above

If you choose any of these as your answer, you’re correct!  If you chose option d), you’re the most correct.

Today dandelions have the dubious reputation of being weeds, pests, and a blight on the lawn.  But historically, dandelions have been cherished for their nutritional value, medicinal purposes, and beauty.  They were known to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Chinese.  They probably arrived to the Western Hemisphere on the Mayflower, likely for medicinal purposes.

Stay tuned for yard signs like these to proudly place in your chem-free lawn!

Stay tuned for yard signs like these to proudly place in your chem-free lawn!

This month MOM’s is launching Save the Dandelions!, a campaign to raise awareness about how we treat our bright yellow friends and how we treat our lawns.

Three million tons of fertilizer and 33,500 tons of synthetic pesticides are used on U.S. lawns every year in an effort to make them look “healthy,” pretty, and free of dandelions.  But all of that green beauty is only turf deep.  Lawn care chemicals don’t just end up on lawns–they end up in our waterways and ultimately wreak havoc on our ecosystems and personal health.  Considering that there are more acres of lawn than the top 8 U.S. farmland crops combined, it’s more important than ever to think critically about lawn care and the systemic effects of a chemically dependent yard. MOM’s supports organic, sustainable lawn care and is determined to do whatever we can to Save the Dandelions!

In partnership with Clean Harbors, MOM’s is accepting your unused pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides (still in original containers) for proper disposal.
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Did you know…

  • Pristine manicured lawns originated in 18th century Europe as a status symbol and slowly became popular in America during the post-war housing boom, creating a competitive market for lawn care products.
  • Suburban lawns and gardens receive more pesticide applications per acre than agriculture.
  • Lawn care chemicals help create Dead Zones in our Watershed that kill wildlife and make humans sick.
  • GRASSCYCLE! Nix the bag. Fresh grass clippings are a natural, nutrient-rich & free fertilizer.
  • 30 of the most common lawn care pesticides are linked to health problems including cancer and neurotoxicity.
  • Lawn care products can be approved and registered by the EPA without a guarantee that the chemicals have been fully tested for environmental and human health effects.
  • The #1 irrigated crop in the United States is lawn grass, using over 19 trillion gallons of water every year.

Let’s Save the Dandelions!

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Bryn Mawr Home Stretch!

Home stretch everyone! The Bryn Mawr Grand Opening festivities start on Friday, February 21. All customers who come in will receive a free, compostable MOM’s reusable bag loaded with awesome samples!

Staff has been hard at work training and putting together their store. We are really excited to be working with so many cool local vendors!

Wellness is loaded with neat extras, too from scarves, to socks, to hair pieces to “decomposition” books!

This location will feature a Naked Lunch, an all organic café within the store which serves made to order salads, steam bowls, sandwiches, juices and other specials.

And we also have a slew of great new products, including 4 different types of Grind-Your-Own Nut Butters. There’s still time to purchase your Groupon!

See you this weekend!

Krista works in multiple MOMs locations.

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