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Chicago Urban Gardening

The day to day experiences of a University of Illinois Extension Urban Horticulture Educator in Chicago, Illinois
Chicago Park

Chicago Park District Limits Pesticide Use

Posted by Ron Wolford -

Each spring, park patrons may see dandelions growing in their neighborhood parks throughout Chicago, signifying a healthy, chemical-free park. The Chicago Park District is partnering with the Department of Environment and Safer Pest Control Project to offer park visitors a safer and healthier park by limiting the use of pesticides throughout the district.

Close to 90 percent of Chicago parks avoid the use of chemicals that are sprayed to control weeds. This is done in an effort to minimize the impact on our environment.

"The Park District is partnering with the Department of Environment and Safer Pest Control Project to keep our Chicago parks a healthy place for everyone to enjoy," said Tim Mitchell, Chicago Park District Superintendent and CEO. "We are encouraging all Chicago residents to follow the Park District's example and use more natural lawn care techniques that keeps your lawn safe and healthy."

"Residents can control weeds and get a naturally beautiful lawn without pesticides, which carry potential risks to human health and water quality," says Rachel Rosenberg, Executive Director of Safer Pest Control Project. "A natural lawn will help reduce disease and pest problems safely, which can over time save time and money as an extra added benefit to your family."

"We are asking everyone to consider natural alternatives to chemicals for maintaining landscapes," said Environment Commissioner Suzanne Malec-McKenna. "Options for a healthy and vibrant garden include choosing species that are adaptable to our climate, utilizing natural fertilizers, and implementing an Integrated Pest Management program."

The Chicago Park District mows turf grass to keep weeds down. Following natural 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. With the reduction in use of chemical weed killers, dandelion flowers grow back quickly, oftentimes overnight. Therefore, the sight of dandelions indicates grass that is healthy and safe for all park patrons to play on!

Four Natural Lawn Care Tips

Water Deeply and Infrequently: This encourages deep root growth. One inch per week is ideal. You can easily measure that amount by placing a cup in your yard while watering. When your sprinkler fills it one inch deep, your watering for the week is done. Water early in the morning to minimized disease problems.

Mow High: Keep your lawn mowed at three inches or higher. This will increase the root strength and naturally shade out weeds. Don't mow your lawn unless it needs it. This creates healthy grass that can withstand drought and stay green longer.

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 are 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 lawn will be strong and healthy as a result.

The Safer Pest Control Project is the only organization in Illinois dedicated to protecting children and their families from the serious health consequences of pesticides. Safer Pest Control Project (SPCP) works to reduce pesticide use and promotes safe, effective alternatives.

At the center of their efforts is Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a proven method that emphasizes simple, inexpensive prevention practices that cause the least harm to people and the planet. For 15 years, Safer Pest Control Project has done their work by developing model programs and policies, lobbying, building coalitions, and conducting outreach, training, and advocacy programs. For more information go to

  • Contact Phone: 312 742 7529

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