City Launches Pesticide-Free Pilot Program at Everett Park
The City of Lake Forest launched a pilot program to manage Everett Park without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
Thanks to technical expertise provided by the non-profit sustainable landscaping initiative Midwest Grows Green (MGG), Lake Forest has designated Everett Park for natural lawn care management.
“Our goal is to provide beautiful parks for our residents that are managed in responsible way,” said Superintendent of Parks and Forestry Chuck Myers. “Everett Park is a neighborhood park with both active and passive uses, so it's a good location to pilot this program and see if it's replicable at other neighborhood parks.”
In 2022, MGG’s team visited, tested and assessed Everett Park to develop a three-year management plan for the turfgrass that refrains from using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
“Our National Lawn Care approach addresses the root causes of weed and pest problems such as poor soil drainage, nutrient deficiency or soil compaction, as opposed to the symptoms of just applying a weed or pest killing product,” said Ryan Anderson, MGG’s leader and Sustainable Communities Manager for the IPM Institute of North America.
Natural management began this spring, when Lake Forest overseeded Everett’s ball field and soccer fields with a Kentucky blue grass mix. When established, this grass mix will handle wear from athletic games and will require less overseeding over time because it spreads laterally.
“The best start to eliminating your own synthetic chemical use this fall is to plant a grass seed mix strongly adapted to the environmental conditions of your yard,” said Anderson. Find grass overseeding tips at bit.ly/MGGseeding.
To disrupt the life cycle of pests and weeds on Everett Park, Lake Forest will heighten its mowing practices, implement a core aeration program for the spring and fall and institute an 100% organic fertilization program. In addition, the City will install new interpretive signage at Everett Park that shares NLC tips and resources.
A couple of easy steps to manage your lawn naturally, effectively and safely include:
- Water Deeply and Infrequently: This encourages deep root growth. Aim for one inch per week. You can easily measure that amount by placing a cup in your yard while watering. You’re done watering for the week when the cup fills one inch deep. Water early in the morning to minimize disease problems.
- Mow High: Keep your lawn mowed at three inches or higher. This increases root strength and naturally shades out weeds, so your grass withstands drought and stays green longer. Don’t mow unless needed.
- Use Organic Fertilizer: Commercial fertilizers easily wash away, polluting nearby lakes and streams. Many contain toxic weed killers. Choose an organic fertilizer to capture and deliver nutrients in the lawn throughout the growing season. Keep grass clippings on the lawn as they provide an excellent natural fertilizer.
- Weed Naturally: Proper lawn care maintenance naturally eliminates most weeds. Annual reseeding gives grass an advantage over weeds. Avoid using pesticides, as they can harm other beneficial living things such as bees, worms, and birds. The right tool makes quick work of weeding. After pulling weeds, use grass seed and soil to fill in the hole. Your grass will grow strong and healthy as a result.
To learn more about natural lawn care and apply these practices to your own lawn, please visit bit.ly/MGGpldg or visit MGG’s resource for pesticide reduction strategies on sports fields at LawnandLand.org.