BACKGROUND: San Francisco's Harding Park golf course is unique because it uses much less chemical pesticides and fertilizers than any other golf course in the U.S.
San Francisco's laws forbid the use of the typical arsenal of such toxic substances commonly used to keep links green. Nonetheless, the Harding Park grounds have met the stringent requirements of the Professional Golfers Association, having recently been picked for the PGA tour.
BIG BUSINESS: Golf is a $62 billion industry in the U.S. This country has more than 17,000 golf courses, which use more toxic fungicides per acre every year that anyplace else in the U.S., including farms.
GOING GREEN: Chemical pesticides can harm helpful insects as much, if not more, than harmful ones. Ground beetles, ladybugs, fireflies, praying mantis, spiders and wasps can help keep harmful insects from devouring lawns or plants, and also pollinate plants and decompose organic matter. Some tips for going green on pest control:
- Use botanical pesticides and herbal pest repellants, such as garlic and hot-pepper sprays, which can be made by processing those herbs in a blender with water and then straining out the pulp. Adding a few drops of soap will make it toxic to soft-bodied insects.
- Set out traps to attract target pests, but avoid electric "bug zappers": these destroy more beneficial insects than harmful ones.
- Maintain a healthy soil through "green landscaping": efficient watering, diverse plant varieties, and reduction of rainfall runoff can all significantly reduce pest problems. Pruning or removing diseased leaves, branches or plants can stop the spread of disease.
- Whenever possible, use native plants; they require less attention and are hardier than exotics because they are adapted to their locales.
LEGISLATING LAWN CARE: San Francisco boasts one of the toughest pesticide-reduction laws in the country, prohibiting the use of the toxic substances in city parks and lands, buildings, hospitals, the port, and the airport. By 2003, the city had reduced its use of solid pesticides by 72 percent, and of liquid pesticides by 82 percent.