Before I get too far along with my efforts to turn my less-than-a-quarter-acre-property into a farm-let, I thought I better check with my lawn service to find out just how toxic the soil is after they've pumped two years' worth of fertilizer, pre-emergent and weed-killer into my yard.
(At this point, you might be wondering, Fox, if you're so gung-ho about eking out every square inch of arable land, what the hell are you doing growing grass in the first place? And herein lies a core challenge of my Urban Farming endeavor: I live in a neighborhood of manicured lawns, with kids who need a soccer field and a husband who would just as soon roll a green shag rug out there if it would look tidy all year long. Plus, I'm not willing to euthanize or otherwise dispose of my beloved perennials. No, I'm not launching a radical lawn-less revolution. Other people can do that. I just want to grow some food around my house. But I digress.)
I called the lawn service and explained that I was about to put some edible plants in my garden beds, so I wanted to cancel the maintenance in the back yard. No prob, the rep said. He then quoted the new lower price to maintain the front. (So far, this represents the first savings from my attempt to provide my own food.)
I asked if I should worry about any residual toxins, and he assured me that nothing in the nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium cocktail was harmful. Something about EPA standards, he said. Wouldn't hurt a fly.
When I explained that my real concern was if I were to put chickens on the grass, he said he usually just keeps his puppy inside for the first 30 minutes after his own lawn gets treated. (Unless he has the world's first grass-powered puppy, I hardly see that as a relevant comparison, since my hypothetical brood would actually dine in the grass.) In any case, he said, the residuals should be gone after five or six weeks, which means my lawn is almost already clean--especially given the recent rains.
Before I hung up, I asked if there was any sort of organic lawn care he could offer me. "Yes," he said, with a tone that implied, "but you're not gonna like it". For twice as much money, I could have the lawn fertilized with chicken manure. Then he added, "But you'll have plenty of that."