Ask the Expert

Pet-safe lawns

Q: We want to get our lawn weed-free, but we also want to make sure our yard stays safe for our dogs. What are some natural, non-toxic products to manage weeds?

Be aware of the dangers lurking in a goal of “100-percent weed free.” It’s natural and normal for a few weeds to occur in lawns. Many chem-lawn promoters want you to define your self-worth by the looks of a perfect lawn, making it too tempting to resort to toxic herbicides. Not only can herbicides endanger your family’s health, they also knock out your underground fertility system. Poisonous sprays don’t just kill weeds, they can kill off beneficial bacteria and fungi in the soil that serve as the delivery boys of foods (minerals) in forms your grass can utilize. Once you’ve over-ridden nature’s nutrient recyclers, you set the stage for having to provide water soluble fertilizers. It’s like feeding a patient intravenously – forever.

Consider these strategies instead:

Look at the weeds as free medicine. Dandelions are rich with iron and calcium. Dandelion greens and roots are powerful medicine to support/heal your liver – yes, your organ that is likely most loaded with environmental toxins.

Go after over-zealous weeds with organic and non-toxic sprays. Apply them to individual weeds. At garden stores, look for one of these brands: AllDown, Organic Weed & Feed, Avenger, BurnOut, and Safer Fast Acting Weed Killer.

Pull the individual weeds. Keep at it, do it regularly, and you’ll gradually get ahead of the weed populations. It’s best to pull the weeds before they go to seed.

Finally, let yourself tolerate a few weeds and smile with the satisfaction of knowing that your dog, cat, child and songbirds are absolutely safe on your lawn.

Ellen Vande Visse, MS, offers various workshops in the science of sustainable and organic growing systems at the Good Earth Garden School. Visit