October 1, 2005 The PGA Golf course at San Francisco's Harding Park is an environmental model, using fewer pesticides than any other PGA course in the country. Taking a cue from entomologists and other scientists, groundskeepers use microbes to knock out fungus, they use soap to get rid of weeds, they hand pluck wild daisies, flush out moles with hoses, and use traps to catch cockroaches. These simple tricks can apply to almost any lawn.
SAN FRANCISCO--Most people love the look of a lush, green lawn, but if you have kids you probably worry about using pesticides and chemicals to keep it that way. Now there are alternatives to chemicals that will keep your lawn green and clean.
It's one of the greenest, prettiest, best golf courses in the country, and now, San Francisco's Harding Park is on the PGA tour. It made the list even though it uses fewer chemicals and pesticides than any other PGA course in the country.
The golf course is part of San Francisco's pest management program that applies to all city courses and parks. Chris Geiger, entomologist and the toxics reduction coordinator for San Francisco's Environment Department, says, "In its simplest form that means better safe than sorry."
The city is using ingenious ways to keep its grass green. Groundskeepers use microbes to knock out fungus and soap to get rid of weeds. They hand pluck wild daisies, flush out moles with hoses, and use traps to catch cockroaches.
The Souza family uses the same chemical-free principle the Harding Park uses. Homeowner Negar Souza says, "If our children were playing outside if they touched around their mouth put their fingers in their mouths, [I fear] they would ingest something that would be harmful to them."
Geiger says the following steps will keep your lawn safe and green. First, test your soil to ensure proper nutrient balance. Choose the right variety of grass for your climate. Check for proper drainage. Aerate once a year. Leave grass clippings, and use the one-third rule -- mowing only the top one-third of the grass.
"Prevention is absolutely the key," he says. And if you manage your lawn well, it'll out-compete many weeds -- pesticide free. San Francisco has one of the toughest pesticide-reduction laws in the country. In the past 10 years, San Francisco has reduced its pesticide use by 70 percent.
BACKGROUND: San Francisco's Harding Park golf course is unique because it uses much less chemical pesticides and fertilizers than any other golf course in the U.S.
San Francisco's laws forbid the use of the typical arsenal of such toxic substances commonly used to keep links green. Nonetheless, the Harding Park grounds have met the stringent requirements of the Professional Golfers Association, having recently been picked for the PGA tour.
BIG BUSINESS: Golf is a $62 billion industry in the U.S. This country has more than 17,000 golf courses, which use more toxic fungicides per acre every year that anyplace else in the U.S., including farms.
GOING GREEN: Chemical pesticides can harm helpful insects as much, if not more, than harmful ones. Ground beetles, ladybugs, fireflies, praying mantis, spiders and wasps can help keep harmful insects from devouring lawns or plants, and also pollinate plants and decompose organic matter. Some tips for going green on pest control:
- Use botanical pesticides and herbal pest repellants, such as garlic and hot-pepper sprays, which can be made by processing those herbs in a blender with water and then straining out the pulp. Adding a few drops of soap will make it toxic to soft-bodied insects.
- Set out traps to attract target pests, but avoid electric "bug zappers": these destroy more beneficial insects than harmful ones.
- Maintain a healthy soil through "green landscaping": efficient watering, diverse plant varieties, and reduction of rainfall runoff can all significantly reduce pest problems. Pruning or removing diseased leaves, branches or plants can stop the spread of disease.
- Whenever possible, use native plants; they require less attention and are hardier than exotics because they are adapted to their locales.
LEGISLATING LAWN CARE: San Francisco boasts one of the toughest pesticide-reduction laws in the country, prohibiting the use of the toxic substances in city parks and lands, buildings, hospitals, the port, and the airport. By 2003, the city had reduced its use of solid pesticides by 72 percent, and of liquid pesticides by 82 percent.