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Dandelions in our parks are signs that the Chicago Park District has limited the use of chemicals that are typically sprayed to control weeds.
Dandelions in our parks are signs that the Chicago Park District has limited the use of chemicals that are typically sprayed to control weeds. Photo: Chicago Park District

Dandelions Growing in Parks Signifies a Healthy Lawn

Each spring, park patrons may see dandelions growing in their neighborhood parks throughout Chicago, signifying a chemical free park safe for play. For the 12th year, the Chicago Park District will partner with the Midwest Grows Green (MGG) natural lawn care initiative to limit its use of pesticides and offer park visitors safer and healthier parks

In an effort to minimize impact on health and the environment, close to 90 percent of Chicago parks avoid spraying weed control chemicals.   

“The Park District strives to keep our parks a healthy place for everyone to enjoy,” said Michael Kelly, Chicago Park District Superintendent and CEO. “We hope all Chicago residents follow the Park District’s example, using organic lawn care techniques in an effort to keep their lawn safe and healthy.”

Following organic lawn care basics, the Park District keeps the grass three inches high. This allows the roots to grow strong and access water deep in the ground. As a result, the taller grass naturally shades out some weeds. The Park District manages pesky dandelions naturally using scheduled mowing and reminds the public that the sight of dandelions indicates a safe space for all park patrons to play.

Multiple Chicago parks serve as examples for organic and proper lawn care. This includes Grant and Sherman Parks that received organic lawn care technical assistance from both national expert Chip Osborne and the non-profit sustainable landscaping initiative Midwest Grows Green.  The organic yogurt company Stonyfield Organic funded this technical assistance and donated $10,000 for the Chicago Park District to use towards the organic lawn care transition of Grant and Sherman Parks in 2021.

“Midwest Grows Green is thrilled to include the Chicago Park District as part of our network of park districts committed to creating healthy places to play by limiting the use of pesticides,” said Ryan Anderson, Community Outreach Specialist for the IPM Institute of North America, Inc. and leader of MGG. “Follow these four simple and cost-effective tips, and you too can enjoy a beautiful yard safe for children, pets and pollinators.”

Four Organic Lawn Care Tips
●    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, birds and fish. 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.

Interested in more ways to keep your lawn and home landscape healthy and safe for children, pets and wildlife? Take the Midwest Grows Green pledge and receive up-to-date natural lawn care tips, resources and updates. For more information, visit: bit.ly/MGGpldg 

Midwest Grows Green
Midwest Grows Green is an initiative of the 501(c)3 non-profit IPM Institute of North America, Inc. that accomplishes large scale behavior change by sharing pesticide and fertilizer reduction information at critical places where lawns influence our lives.

For more information about the IPM Institute and Midwest Grows Green please visit www.MidwestGrowsGreen.org. 

Stonyfield Organic

As the country’s leading organic yogurt maker, Stonyfield takes care with everything it puts into its products and everything it keeps out. By saying no to toxic persistent pesticides, artificial hormones, antibiotics and GMOs, Stonyfield has been saying yes to healthy food, healthy people and a healthy planet for 35 years. Stonyfield, a Certified B-Corp, is also helping to protect and preserve the next generation of farmers and families through programs like its Direct Milk Supply and Wolfe’s Neck Organic Training Program as well as StonyFIELDS, a nationwide, multi-year initiative to help keep families free from toxic persistent pesticides in parks and playing fields across the country.