Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


City Farmer's Grasscycling and Natural Lawn Care Project

mulching mower
Mike pushing our Black and Decker (CMM1000), electric,
cordless, mulching mower.

Vancouver's New Pesticide Reduction Bylaw - January 1, 2006

This PDF is 39 pages long. See section 5.17 (pages 28, 29) and Schedule A (pages 37, 38)

Vancouver, BC
"As of January 1, 2006, the use of outdoor pesticides on lawns and in gardens will be regulated by section 5.17 of the Health By-Law No. 6580. Application of pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, will be restricted. Certain conditions will need to be met before pesticides will be permitted provided they are listed in Schedule A to the by-law."

Also you can read about the new by-law on the Grow Natural web site:
Pesticide Use Restriction By-law for 2006

What We've Been Doing

City Farmer's Natural Lawn Care Step-By-Step

City Farmer has been mulch-mowing (grasscycling) our neighbour's boulevard lawn since 1998 with great success. Grass clippings are simply left on the lawn - no raking and bagging. Our Black and Decker mulching mower is kept plugged in in our Compost toilet shed. Once a week, a gentle pull of the lever starts the quiet machine - there's no gas or oil to mess with, no fumes to breathe in. A simple squeeze of the lever by the right front wheel adjusts the mower height and in minutes the lawn is cut, all the clippings are out of sight, blown as tiny pieces into the lawn where they will break down and nourish the grass.

We'd like to thank the "TD Friends of the Environment Foundation" for their help with our Natural Lawn Care Education and Promotion's Program.

City Farmer Launches Natural Lawn Care Program In the City of Vancouver

In order to address the problem of growing volumes of green waste at the Vancouver Landfill site, City Farmer in cooperation with the City of Vancouver has launched a Natural Lawn Care Program for the residential sector. In addition to encouraging people to grasscycle (leave their clippings on the lawn), the program also promotes cutting down on watering, and cutting out chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

City Farmer, a non-profit urban agriculture group, which operates the City's Compost Demonstration Garden has been researching and promoting grasscycling in the region for the past four years. They have been conducting demonstrations with an electric mulching mower on site at their garden as well as at outreach events throughout the city.

The Workshops

hand weeding
Hand weeding with a simple tool avoids the use of herbicides.

A series of natural lawn care workshops will be offered this spring at the Vancouver Compost Demonstration Garden in Kitsilano as well as at several community centre locations. The workshops will cover all aspects of natural lawn care and include hands-on demonstrations of a variety of mulching mowers; weeding tools; organic fertilizers and distribution of relevant literature.

For more information on City Farmer's Natural Lawn Care Program, call the Compost Hotline at 604 736 2250 or visit us in person at the Vancouver Compost Demonstration Garden, 2150 Maple Street in Vancouver.

Visit the City of Vancouver's New Web Site - Grow Natural

Grow Natural "Taking care of your yard doesn't have to be so complicated. You can simplify your yard care routine and save time, money and the environment by using natural yard care techniques."

Landscape Guide for Canadian Homes "This extensive guide will help you meet your landscape needs while respecting the natural environment, whether you want a radical makeover or want to spruce up an old garden. Illustrated with many colour photos and drawings, the guide describes the design process, materials, types of plants, soils and so much more. This guide shows how to go from ideas to plan to real life, by describing the design process and providing many tips on materials and technical solutions as well as maintenance tips. Learn about low- maintenance gardens and lawns, water conservation, natural pest control methods, even how to hire a landscape contractor. Includes a large bibliography of additional resources."

Drought Tolerant Plant List for Vancouver City Boulevards
"List compiled by volunteer Master Gardeners from Van Dusen Botanical Garden for the Prince Edward Street Waterwise Blooming Boulevard Project. Because soil and water conditions vary, results cannot be guaranteed. This list is intended as a guide to those plants which have proven drought tolerant in average conditions"(Large page/slow loading) Posted July 13, 2003

A Healthy Garden is a Healthy Ecosystem
"The best way to solve plant health and pest and disease problems is not by cleaning the garden and applying fertilizers and pesticides. Simple horticultural practices such as soil improvement, effective deep watering and increasing the variety of plant material are the best way to create a stable and healthy garden." Posted April 21, 2003

European Chafer - A New Turf Pest - Now in Greater Vancouver
"The European Chafer, Rhizotrogus majalis, is a serious pest of turf in eastern North America. In 2001 it was discovered in New Westminster lawns and boulevards. Most recently, it has been observed in parts of central and west Burnaby. It is probable this pest has been in B.C. for a few years prior to 2001." Posted October 30, 2004

City of Vancouver May Ban Cosmetic Use of Pesticides on Lawns and Gardens.
"The use of Integrated Pest Management on public lands has illustrated that significant reductions in the use of pesticides on lawns and gardens can be achieved without sacrificing overall landscape quality. This direction would further reduce or eliminate both known or possible environmental and health risks. Posted September 7, 2002

The Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) has a variety of brochures (PDF files) available on natural and waterwise lawn care, including "Waterwise Your Garden", "Natural Lawn Care" and "Water Sprinkling Regulations".

Vancouver Landscaper Moves from Power to Push Mowers
"But there is this one big lawn spreading between 5.5 acres of townhouses, parking lots and perennial beds. The lawn area itself represents probably a quarter of the property. No one thought this lawn could possibly be maintained with reel push mowers on a weekly basis." Posted May 6, 2002

Organic Landscapers/Gardeners in Greater Vancouver This list is updated from time to time.

The First International Scythe Symposium and Festival The Role of the Scythe in the Human Experience of the 21st Century, Molln, Austria, July 11 to 18, 2004 "Our Symposium will examine the degree to which this tool - the scythe - still deserves an honoured and useful place in the human experience of today and on into the cleaner, less fossil-fuel dependent future."

The Society of Organic Urban Land Care Professionals (SOUL) was formed to respond to the growing need for ecologically responsible land care practices. One of their goals is "To provide opportunities for education in all aspects of organic land care, and to establish procedures for certification of organic land care professionals."

Organic Landscape Alliance (OLA) is a non-profit association dedicated to toxic-free landscaping and growing the business of beautiful, healthy lawns, gardens and parks. OLA operates as a network of organic lawn, tree and garden specialists who promote and provide organic horticultural practices by providing educational, networking and research opportunities and being a reliable source of organic information and service to the public."

Midwest Ecological Landscaping Association "It is the goal of the Midwest Ecological Landscaping Association to promote environmentally responsible landscaping and horticultural practices to professionals and the public."

Turning Your Lawn into a Food Factory "To convert a lawn into a garden you can rotor till the lawn with about 4 to 6 inches ofÊ horse manure. I went deep (16") to level the low areas of the lawn. Gravel paths on root barrier fabric are easy to maintain and inexpensive."

Canadian Mow Down Pollution

Mow Down Pollution is an initiative of the Clean Air Foundation designed to encourage and reward people to get their older, high polluting mowers permanently out of the garden. If you have an old gasoline mower or trimmer you want to get rid of, then Mow Down Pollution is the program for you. Bring in your old gasoline mower to any Home Depot location between April 25th and May 4th, 2003 and you will receive a rebate on the purchase of a cleaner electric or push power mower, or electric trimmer. We will ensure that your old mower is recycled responsibly.

Seattle's Natural Lawn Care Program

Seattle has a very active grasscycling and natural lawn care program.
See Six Steps to Natural Lawn Care

For more in-depth information, the following publication by David McDonald is an excellent report on the subject.

Ecologically Sound Lawn Care Report
Ecologically Sound Lawn Care for the Pacific Northwest
Like forests or prairie grasslands, lawns are dynamic ecosystems: communities of plants, soil, and microbes; insects and earthworms and the birds that feed on them; and humans who mow, water, fertilize, and play on the lawn. The interactions of all these community members shape the dynamic equilibrium we see as a lawn. Understanding and working within the natural processes that shape the lawn and its soil community can yield a durable, beautiful lawn that is easier to care for.

Seattle keeps lists of appropriate mulching mowers.
Electric Mulching Mowers
Gas Mulching Mowers

And they also offer a mulching mower rebate event named "Grasscycling Gives You Mower For Less". "Save up to 50% on a new electric mulching mower or manual push mower. Mulching mowers are being offered with a manufacturer's discount plus limited on-site rebates."

old mowers
Old mowers in the recycling bin. Seattle, April 2001.

California and Grasscycling

The purpose of these Grasscycling & On-Site Management projects is to target regions in California generating the most grass, develop regional grasscycling promotional campaigns, and have at least one-half of the jurisdictions in the regions participating in the campaigns. The projects were then expanded to include targeting the commercial landscaping industry to promote more sustainable on-site landscaping management practices (including grasscycling and use of compost and mulch).

Mowing Down Pollution in Phoenix

Each year, SRP spearheads a campaign to reduce pollution in metropolitan Phoenix. Mowing Down Pollution recycles gas mowers and other gas-powered lawn and garden equipment. As the largest lawn mower recycling program in the United States, it allows people to trade in their gas-powered lawn mowers and hand-held gas-powered lawn equipment for $100 discounts on electric mowers, and $50 discounts for hand-held equipment.

Health Canada and Healthy Lawns

Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) takes an active role promoting proper lawn care. "So you have a beautiful, healthy, growing lawn and you want to keep it that way. The best way to do that is through cultural practices, such as proper mowing, watering, fertilizing, aerating, raking, and topdressing. Keeping in touch with your lawn alerts you to any possible pest action long before it can become a problem."

They have a number of brochures available on-line including Common Lawn Problems, Lawn Maintenance, and Establishing a Lawn as well as a more general Healthy Lawns Web Site.

This is important reading on cosmetic use of pesticides in the urban environment. Pesticides - Making The Right Choice For The Protection Of Health And The Environment Report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, May 2000

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Lawn Care Information in BC

Integrated Pest Management Manual for Landscape Pests in BC
2000. By L. A. Gilkeson and R. W. Adams (PDF and HTML formats)
"The elements of prevention (also called "cultural controls" in some references) for turf pests involve using optimum site design and management. When designing and planting turf areas, plan for long-term insect management by starting with the correct drainage, soil preparation and choice of turfgrass cultivars adapted to the conditions. Follow this with turf management practices that ensure healthy, vigorous turf."

Integrated Pest Management Manual for Home and Garden Pests in BC
1999. By R.W. Adams and L. A. Gilkeson (PDF and HTML formats)
An IPM handbook for home gardeners. Information on managing over 30 common insects, diseases, weeds and other pests, using preventative and least-toxic methods.

Air Emissions and Lawn Equipment

On February 19, 2001, Environment Minister David Anderson made public the details of a 10 year Plan of Action for cleaner vehicles, engines and fuels, an integral part of the Government of Canada's Clean Air Strategy. Taking Action on Vehicles, Engines and Fuels to Clean the Air and Protect Human Health

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documents:
Your Yard and Clean Air
Small Engine Emission Standards (pdf)

Pesticide By-law Websites

If you are interested in the issue of 'restricting' the use of chemical pesticides such that the cosmetic or non-essential use of pesticides would be banned, here are some useful sites.

20 Basic Assumptions And Facts To Use Designing A Pesticide Bylaw

City of Ottawa - Review of the Hudson Decision

Municipalite de Chelsea By-law

Halifax Pesticide Bylaw

Pros and Cons of different pesticide bylaw choices

Putting People and Ecosystem Health First

Supreme Court of Canada - Hudson Decision

What's Keeping Your Municipality From Passing A Pesticide Bylaw?

Lawn Mower Manufacturers

All lawn mowers can be used to grasscycle but dedicated mulching mowers will do a better job. Push mowers are non-polluting. Electric mowers are environmentally friendly. And new, strict EPA standards make the latest gas mowers much cleaner than mowers from just a few years back. The following manufacturers are listed in no particular order.

"The best-kept lawn in the neighborhood isn't necessarily one that's "bagged" weekly. If you mow at the right height - cutting off less than one-third of the leaf growth - grass clippings can be your yard's best source of 'food'. You can save on fertilizer and insure a healthy root system by leaving the clippings right on the lawn."

Sears Craftsman Mowers
A wide variety of mowers can be found here. From the Home Page click "Shop on-Line", then under "Home Decor" click "Garden and Patio". On the next page click "Garden and Lawn". Finally list "Craftsman" and "Lawnmowers" in the pop-up box and your search will bring up the mowers.

Black and Decker
"Electric and battery powered push mowers are alternatives that are powerful, quiet, and clean. Battery-driven models can cut up to 1/3 of an acre on a single charge, while electric mowers cut as far as their cords will allow. On average, electric and battery powered mowers tend to be lighter in weight and easier to maneuver than gas mowers. They also feature easy, no-hassle starting with no need for tune-ups other than keeping the blade clean."

"In 1963 MTD purchased Sehl Engineering in Kitchener Ontario. Ever since, MTD has been manufacturing outdoor power equipment in Canada. It might surprise you to know that we are the only company that manufactures a full line of mowers, riders, tractors and snowthrowers right here in Canada. Like all Canadians, MTD is committed to cleaner air for a cleaner Canada. MTD uses advanced emission certified engines from Briggs & Stratton and Tecumseh that are CARB/EPA tested and certified."

American Lawn Mower Company

"American Lawn Mower Company, a family-owned business founded in 1895, is the largest producer of push reel mowers operating in the United States. The mowers of today are essentially the same as were produced 100 years ago, but they are much easier to care for and much easier to use. The mower of yesteryear weighed from 40 to 60 pounds. Today's models range from 16 to 32 pounds. The wooden handles have been replaced with painted or plated tubular steel handles. The heavy cast wheels have been replaced with much lighter plastics in some models."

"They're a mower ideal for smaller yards. They're a mower that produces no pollutants or emissions. They're a mower that doesn't consume any valuable resources like fossil fuels or electricity. They're a mower that's whisper quiet."

Canadian retialers include Canadian Tire, Home Depot, Home Hardware, Lee Valley Tools, Reno Depot, Zellers / Club Z.

European manufacturer. Some push mowers available in Canada. See their "Produktkatalog", then see "Schneidgeräte", then "Handrasenmäher" for pushmowers.

"Today, all Husqvarna lawn mowers have reduced emission engines. They reduce exhaust gas emissions significantly when compared to normal standard engines. Furthermore, they comply with applicable Californian CARB'95 requirements which are acknowledged as being the most stringent environmental standards in the world. Nevertheless, we at Husqvarna do not like to rest on our laurels. We also have catalytic converters on several of our reduced emission engines, this means that we reduce exhaust emissions further when compared with standard engines."

Husqvarna Solar Mower "Powered by solar energy, it automatically cuts your grass without any assistance from you."

Lawn Mower History

The Old Lawnmower Club has links to sites which feature vintage lawn mowers, museums with collections of old lawn mowers or other relevant organisations including:
Milton Keynes Museum A social, industrial and agricultural history museum with a collection of nearly 70 mowers.
British Lawnmower Museum A museum dedicated to the history of the lawn mowers.
Museum of Gardening History London The museum is in central London and has a small selection of lawn mowers on display.
The Reel Lawn Mower History and Preservation Project The Collection was begun to preserve the hand, horse, and motor mowers of the 19th and early 20th century.

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Revised May 24, 2014

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture