Kid safe - care

Asked March 24, 2019, 10:06 PM EDT

Hello - Our daycare is interested in using kid safe weed killer and fertilizer for grass this year (as opposed to prior years) and is looking for recommendations. Do you have a list of safe (not safe as in within acceptable limits of harmful, but actually safe) alternatives? Thank you so much - keeping our kids safe is a priority! David 631-513-8796

Ramsey County Minnesota

3 Responses

Thank you for the question. Absolutely safe alternatives to promote a reasonably weed free, healthy lawn involve using no chemical products at all but utilizing proper cultural methods. Realize that this will be much more work than a traditional lawn and that you will have to accept a degree of imperfection, remaining diligent in monitoring for weeds and signs/symptoms of disease or insects. The goals are healthy grass plants and soil that can withstand weed, disease, and insect pressure, for the most part.
A soil test can be useful so that you know the fertility status and chemical makeup of your soil. You will get fertilizer recommendations you may or may not want to act upon, but you'll also learn whether or not your soil needs a boost of organic matter such as compost. Here's information on submitting a soil sample to the U of M:
Following this, the cultural practices of high importance are:
  • Right grass seed for location
  • Healthy soil
  • Irrigation
  • Hand pulled weeds
  • Core aeration
  • Mowing height of 3" or higher using a sharp mower blade. The rule is to remove no more than 1/3 of the grass blade at a time. A sharp blade cleanly cuts the grass instead of tearing it, reducing the surface area open to disease.
  • Regular soil amendments of good quality topsoil or compost
  • Leave grass clippings on the grass after mowing as long as they aren't over an inch thick. Their decomposition returns nitrogen to the soil

This publication on organic and reduced risk lawn care from University of Wisconsin Extension is excellent:
This publication lists organic lawn fertilizers: Any product can have risk so look for words like "Caution", "Warning", "Danger". The label directions are strictly regulated to keep anticipated exposures below a level that might cause harm, especially to humans and domestic animals. Following the label is a great way to minimize risk.

Thank you for contacting Extension.

Hello Anita - Thank you so much for your response! I was wondering if you or someone else at UMN would be willing to have a phone conversation with someone from the daycare who is in charge of maintaining the lawn our kiddos play on and near. Please let me know!
Our goal is to convey to the daycare that safety is the number one priority and if there's a dandelion or weed on the ground or patches of dead grass/dirt, who cares?!
Thank you,

Ideas about what constitutes the ideal lawn and how to achieve it are very personal and beliefs run deep. We can provide information on the phone such as I have already provided but telling someone that there is only one acceptable way to proceed is beyond our scope.

Someone from the daycare can call our Ramsey County Master Gardener phone line and leave their message. A Master Gardener will call them back within 48 hours after researching the question. There is no charge for this service.
Here's the number: 612-301-7590. Please accept blocked calls so a Master Gardener can return your call.