Green Yards


Forest Ave. School celebrated Earth Day on 2012 by holding three SCA hands-on Composting Presentations for all students, from Kindergarten through 4th Grade. You can view the pdf version HERE. Composting is nature's process of recycling decomposed organic materials into a rich soil known as compost. The children learned how to reduce waste and save money by composting food and yard waste. During the program they ate fruits and collected their banana peels, apple cores, watermelon rinds, etc. Later on all students visited the school's compost bin to contribute their food waste. The final product, a natural fertilizer, will be used in the school's gardens. Pictured, 4th Grade teacher Mrs. Gero with students visiting the school compost bin. For more information please read our composting page.

Safe Playing Fields

Pictured left, Verona Community Center's Linn Drive Field, which is treated regularly with synthetic pesticides since 2010. Pictured below, a student at Forest Avenue School untreated field. All Verona public elementary school fields are pesticide free.
The American Academy of Pediatrics just published a report about Pesticide Exposure in Children.

VEC Resolution

Following the example of the Essex County Environmental Commission, the VEC adopted this resolution on November 26, 2012: Open VEC Safe Playing Fields Resolution
Over 50 legislators signed on to co-sponsor the Safe Playing Fields Act (S1143 / A2412) this year. READ MORE HERE

Making Verona Fields Pesticide–Free

During that the Verona Council Meeting on July 16 Mike Kolenut (pesticide-free turf expert) was introduced by Jim Cunningham (Director of the Recreation Department) to talk about switching from chemical based lawn care to natural lawn care. He explained that fields will be perfectly safe to use right away after natural treatment. He show pictures of some of the 36 playing fields and 8 school districts they maintain totally organically in NJ. Here is an article about it in the Verona Patch. The Council mentioned that they would meet with the BOE to talk about having one shared natural-organic contract for all public areas in town. We encourage you to keep our community safe by maintaining your lawn with natural and organic products. The VEC also recommends the Township to support the Safe Playing Fields Act to help protect children from toxic pesticides. The VEC Chairman, Jerry Shimonaski urged the Council to prohibit the use of pesticides where children play in public areas, this was his presentation:

"Tonight you heard what Organic Lawn Care is all about. The Verona Environmental Commission has been an advocate of this type of lawn care for several years. At the May 6 meeting this Council received a plea from Nina Machnowski to make our playing fields pesticide-free. The Councils response was that you were interested in the safety of the children using our recreational fields. This township has plans to expand the recreational fields in the next several years. Now is the time for this Mayor and Council to step forward and join the 40 plus towns and many schools to make our playing fields pesticide-free. 

Our children are especially sensitive and vulnerable to pesticides because of their rapid development. Adverse health effects, such as nausea, dizziness, respiratory problems, headaches, rashes and mental disorientation may appear even if a pesticide is applied according to the labels' directions. Pesticide exposure can have long term adverse effects including damage to a child’s neurological, respiratory, immune and endocrine systems and increased asthma symptoms.

These chemicals can also poison animals, pollute rivers and seep through the ground into underground aquifers. Currently, New Jersey uses about four million pounds of pesticides annually for lawn care, mosquito control, agricultural production and golf maintenance. While we all appreciate well kept fields, we need to balance that with not exposing our children to the risk of harmful pesticides. Please make the right decision and make our fields “pesticide–free”.
Pesticides have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, learning disabilities, asthma, birth defects, and reproductive problems, and children are more vulnerable than adults. The Safe Playing Fields Act would finally end the use of harmful chemicals on playgrounds and fields where our kids play. Sustainable, pesticide free care methods cost less over time, are effective, and are healthier for both the landscape and our children. Forty towns in NJ have created Pesticide Free Zones in their communities. Bergen Community College recently announced it is switching to a natural turf management program to create lush, playable fields without the use of synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The Millburn Environmental Commission held screenings of the award-winning documentary A Chemical ReactionIn June 2012, Montclair Town Council unanimously passed a Resolution in support of NJ legislation "Safe Playing Act" and prohibiting use of toxic synthetic lawn pesticides where children play in public areas.

Caution, Pesticides!

Verona is a pioneer on Integrated Pest Managment (approving an IPM resolution 15 years ago). Since 2004, all New Jersey schools have been required to adopt an IPM program. The School IPM Law keeps students and staff safe from pesticides by mandating to use the safest methods available and emphasizing a non chemical approach. Verona schools adhere to IPM practices. But pesticides are still used in Verona

But each year, New Jersey homeowners use approximately 2 million pounds of pesticides on their lawns. Researchers, however, have found links between exposure to pesticides and serious human health problems including several types of cancer, asthma, neurological and reproductive disorders and birth defects. Children are especially vulnerable to pesticides because their bodies are developing.

Learn how to kick the pesticide habit! There are many new and highly effective natural/organic lawn care products and programs that are safe for families and pets.  Learn about the health risks of conventional lawn chemicals by reading our new presentation WHY SHOULD VERONA AVOID PESTICIDES?  

What is "people pollution"?

Nonpoint Source Pollution, or people pollution, is a contamination of our ground water, waterways, and ocean that results from everyday activities such as fertilizing the lawn, walking pets, changing motor oil and littering. With each rainfall, pollutants generated by these activities are washed into storm drains that flow into our waterways and ocean. They also can soak into the ground contaminating the ground water below.


You should be aware that phosphate (the middle number describing the fertilizer blend) turns our lakes green, lowers water quality, kills fish and ultimately depresses the economy. Just one pound of phosphate can produce 10,000 pounds of wet weeds and algae! Here is a list of Low Phosphate fertilizers and better yet Organic Fertilizers such as Milorganite.
  • Determine that your lawn needs fertilizer before buying one. 
  • Avoid buying fertilizer containing phosphates, whether organic or synthetic, because those chock waterways with pollution.
Did you hear of the dead zone? It is an area the size of New Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico where nothing can live due to the nitrogen and phosphate from fertilizers polluting the runoff flowing into the Mississippi River. Whatever you use, apply them properly and carefully, many yard chemicals are viable for years. Visit Clean Water NJ for more information.

NJ Fertilizer Law

The New Jersey Fertilizer Law, A2290, establishes statewide fertilizer standards and requires professional fertilizer applicators to undergo training and become certified. It prohibits fertilizer application during or just before heavy rainfall and limits the time that fertilizer can be used. Fertilizer may not be applied from November 15th to March 1st for consumers, and December 1st to March 1st for professionals.

It also restricts the amount of nitrogen used and fertilizer content. Fines for noncompliance are $500 for the 1st offense and up to $1000 for the 2nd and each subsequent offense for professional applicators.

The Fertilizer Law is really about water quality. It still allows you to feed your lawn, but in a way that avoids adverse impact on NJ waters. 

Here you can read information for homeowners about this law.


  • Determine that you have a pest before buying a product, and use natural ones such as milky spore and nematodes
  • Remember that all pesticides are poison, and are considered by the EPA to be hazardous waste. For example, the "Weed" portion of "Weed 'n' Feed" products is a pesticide.
  • Poison or Danger, Warning and Caution: These words indicate the level of hazard associated with the product in decreasing order of toxicity.
  • Just because a product is registered with the EPA does not mean it is safe.
  • To dispose of pesticides leftovers read the label and bring them to the hazardous waste collection center.
  • The empty containers are not recyclable, so dispose of them as refuse.
  • A frequent mistake by many homeowners is to apply unnecessarily chemicals.
  • What the turf can't absorb will soon be carried away by rainwater or snow melt, to end up untreated in our regional watershed.
  • Never apply chemicals before it rains.
  • Discover the many benefits of using organic lawn care products and natural alternatives to pesticides such as a corn gluten product.

Safe Tick Control

Ticks bite, feed on blood, and sometimes carry debilitating diseases; but don’t panic! Try some of the effective pesticide-free techniques instead. And if you’re worried about Lyme disease please watch this video from NBC.

Rain Barrel Savings

You can use the rain runoff to water your gardens.

A rain barrel placed below the downspout of a gutter lets you catch water as it pours off the roof instead of sending it into the storm sewer. 

  • The average U.S. household uses almost 150,000 gallons of water per year with up to 50% of water going to landscaping during summer months. 
  •  Installing a rain barrel is one way to reduce outdoor water use by collecting water during the rainy season that can be used during droughts. By capturing water on a 1500 square foot roof, a family could reduce their water bill by 50% and save 43,000 gallons of water yearly. 
  • A typical rain barrel holds 50 to 100 gallons and has a faucet at  the bottom where a hose can be attached. A plastic screen over the top opening prevents mosquitoes from setting up housekeeping inside. 
  • Some models can be easily linked so that the overflow from one barrel runs into the next. One-inch storm produces over 500 gallons of water on a 1,000 square foot roof. 
  • When the barrels are full, the overflow is directed back through the downspout and down its normal route. If possible, route the overflow into a dry well or other infiltration mechanism so that the water can recharge into the ground rather than flow into the storm sewer. 
  • Rain barrels are sold on hardware stores and on-line, if you want to build a rain barrel watch this video. Passaic River Basin: Verona is located in Watershed Area 4
VEC Petition: Verona residents Rose Saltalamacchia and Gabby Discafani presented the petition Verona-NJ Safe Playing Fields at the December 17th, 2012 Council Meeting. Over 200 Verona residents signed the petition, in person and on-line. In the document the Verona Environmental Commission asked Verona Town Council and Board of Education to stop using toxic synthetic lawn pesticides on all school grounds and public sport fields where children play. Councilmen Sniatkowski and Nochimson called for a two to three year commitment of pesticide free, organic field maintenance. Councilman Ryan mentioned the need to include the BOE in this commitment. All councilmen agreed and the VEC congratulates them all for it! The American Academy of Pediatrics recently published a report about Pesticide Exposure in Children. Pesticides can cause cancer, learning disabilities, asthma, birth defects and reproductive problems, and should not be applied just for the sake of cosmetic appearances. Pictured, gorgeous Bergen Community College sport field maintained without pesticides.

Pictured, a gorgeous Bergen Community College sport field, maintained without pesticides.

To learn about the health risks of conventional lawn chemicals please read our presentation Why Should Verona Avoid Pesticides?  

All Verona Playing Fields Should Be Pesticide Free - Here's Why

Playing fields can be effectively maintained without pesticides: None are used on Verona Park or at our four public elementary schools. But since 2010 pesticides are applied regularly at HBW, VHS, the Community Center and Everett fields. To increase our children’s risk for getting cancer because we don’t like dandelions? That’s outrageous. Pesticides should not be applied just for the sake of cosmetic appearances. There are plenty of natural and safe techniques to maintain fields without using synthetic pesticides. The Verona Environmental Commission is asking Verona Town Council and BOE to stop using synthetic lawn pesticides on all school grounds and public sport fields. Pesticides should be allowed only in case of emergencies that pose a public health problem.

Proper Lawn Care

With these methods you will mow less, water less, never buy pesticides and have a great looking lawn. You want to make things favorable for the grass and unfavorable for the weeds so the grass will choke out the weeds. Naturally.

Must Do

  1. Mow high. Set your mower as high as it goes (3 to 4 inches). Never remove more than one third of the grass blade. A taller cut helps shade out weeds and conserve moisture. Grass needs grass blades to do photosynthesis (convert sunshine into sugar) to feed the roots. When you mow low the grass has to rush and grow fast to make more sugar. This fast growth weakens the plant making it vulnerable to disease and pests! Tall grass can use the extra sugar to make more grass plants (rhizomes), thickening the turf.
  2. If you have a serious weed infestation mow twice as frequently. The sensitive growing point for grass is near the soil and for weeds is near the top of the plant. So when you mow high you are giving your grass a haircut and cutting the heads off of the weeds.
  3. Leave grass clippings on the soil. They will decay to become a source of free fertilizer. This adds organic matter and nutrients back into the soil. The clippings then won’t have to be dragged out to the street using bags. If you don't leave the clippings, your soil will begin to look more like "dirt" than soil.
  4. Water infrequently and for longer periods. Water only when your grass shows signs of drought stress. The grass will start to curl before it turns brown. When it starts to curl, that is the best time to water. And then water deeply (put a cup in your sprinkler zone and make sure it gets at least an inch of water). This will force your grass roots to go deep into the soil. Every time you water, you wash away soil nutrients. So the less you water, the more fertile your soil!


  • Fertilizer. When you see legumes taking over your lawn (clover, medic, etc.), you know that your soil is nitrogen poor. Sprinkle an organic fertilizer at the beginning of spring and the beginning of fall. Some experts suggest to use half of what the package recommends. Fertilizing in the summer feeds the weeds, not the grass.
  • Compost. If your soil already seems like dirt or cement, add an inch of compost in the early fall. One part compost to two parts dirt is a good mix for lawn care.
  • Why organic fertilizers? Nearly all chemical fertilizers are a salt. As you use it, year after year, your soil becomes poorer and poorer. Healthy soil is loaded with heaps of microbial and macrobial life. Most of these critters are working hard for your grass. Most of those critters don't like salt. By not using pesticides you will also be giving many living things such as butterflies and bees a chance to do all that hard work of pollinating.
  • DANDELIONS are a sign of alkaline soil and love a pH of about 7.5. Grass loves a pH of about 6.5. BLACK MEDIC (yellow clover) and CLOVER are a sign of low nitrogen soil. Refer to fertilizing above. White and pink clover is often desired in a lawn. It contributes nitrogen to the soil and doesn't compete strongly with the grass. KNAPWEED tries to poison plants around it with niacin. A little water washes the niacin away and the plants around it can have a fighting chance. Mow a little more frequently in late june and early july to wipe out knapweed.
  • How much top soil do you have? See how deep a shovel will go into the soil. Four inches of topsoil will make for an okay lawn. Eight or more inches of topsoil will make for a great lawn. Deep watering should be done only in conjunction with deep soil.
  • Weeds: The above lawn care advice will eliminate 95% of your weed problem. But there are some weeds that are almost impossible to get rid of, no matter what. The key is to remove the green plant that provides it with sugar. The important thing is to always weed the area you already weeded first. If you don’t do it this way, then the weed would recover in the first section while you are attacking another section.

Rain Gardens Catch Runoff

Anoher way to reduce runoff in your yard is to plant a rain garden. 

A rain garden is a shallow (2"-18") depression typically planted with colorful native plants, strategically located to collect, infiltrate and filter rain that falls on hard surfaces like roofs, driveways, or streets. This reduces rain runoff by allowing stormwater to soak into the ground (as opposed to flowing into storm drains and surface waters which causes erosion, water pollution, flooding, and diminished groundwater).
According to the
Native Plant Society of New Jersey, the success of a rain garden depends on choosing the right shrubs and flowers for the conditions in that location.

Whether in the shade or full sun, native plants work best because they thrive without a lot of care, extra water or fertilizer. Avoid invasive plant species such as Norway Maple, English Ivy, Wisteria and Bamboo.

Rutgers studies shown that native plants are being displaced,  invasive plants can come to dominate a place. If animals needed those native plants, they, too, can suffer. Invasive plants harm agricultural lands, parks, waterways, lawns. 

Many billions of dollars are spent in the United States to control problem species.
Rain barrels and other measures to reduce stormwater runoff benefit everyone. Untreated stormwater picks up a lot of pollutants as it rushes over the ground, and it all ends up in our streams and rivers where it can harm natural ecosystems and degrade our drinking water supplies.

Visit the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions, ANJEC for more information about stormwater runoff. Are you ready to build your own rain Garden? If so go to Rutgers Water Resource Program.

Verona Loves Trees

Plant a Tree!

If you have questions regarding public trees or would like to request Verona Township to plant one in front of your home for free please contact the Verona Shade Tree Commission by calling 973-857-4804 (8:30 am - 4:30 pm) or 973-239-5000 (after normal office hours). You can also refer to the tree legislation contained on line in the Verona Township Code.
Among the thousands of trees in Verona are dozens of different varieties, from red oaks to pin oaks, beeches and birches, sycamores and tulip trees, locusts and maples. Some of these trees have been here since long before Verona was a township.

Many of Verona's trees are on private property, but those planted on the median between your sidewalk and the street are public shade trees. These trees are protected by code in Verona: Homeowners and utility workers may not touch them without the express permission of Verona's Shade Tree Commission. You should also report storm damage to these trees.

Trees improve our aesthetic environment, absorb noise, reduce stress and create a peaceful place to relax and socialize.

Are you ready to plant a tree? Here is a list of native trees and who can plant them for you.

There are hundreds of great reasons to protect, care and plant trees. Here are  some:
  • Trees reduce our carbon footprint. Over the course of its life, a single tree will process one ton of carbon dioxide. That's only about 5% of your annual footprint, so the more we plant, the better!
  • Trees lower energy costs. Suburban neighborhoods with mature trees can be up to 11 degrees cooler in summer heat than neighborhoods without trees. The  shade and wind buffering provided by trees reduces heating and cooling costs. To increase your air conditioner energy efficiency by 10%, use trees to shade your AC unit.
  • Trees provide cleaner water, and are most effective at reducing runoff pollution during small storms. A single tree can capture in its canopy 2380 gallons of water a year, and release it, clean and fresh, back into the atmosphere.

  • Trees prevent erosion. Tree roots hold topsoil in place, which prevents erosion and flooding. That's critical in a town like Verona, which is essentially two steep slopes with a valley and stream in between. Trees protect buildings from wind damage and flying debris by acting as windbreaks.
  • Trees improve air quality. A mature tree can remove up to 240 lbs of particulate and gas pollution in a year. Tree canopies in cities can also lower smog levels by 6%. A single tree produces approximately 260 pounds of oxygen per year. That means two mature trees can supply enough oxygen annually to support a family of four!
The International Society of Arboriculture provides the public with quality information on tree care. Arbor Day Foundation and Rutgers' If plants could talk have both great information and the Native Plant Society of New Jersey even displays a list of native plants and trees by county!

The above pictured tree in Verona Civic Center has a plaque with the following words: "In Honor of Aurora C. Nash, friend of Verona trees, Arbor Day 1987". We're lucky to have many trees in Verona and, if we care for them, they will care for us in return!
VEC Verona Environmental Commission,
May 28, 2010, 9:12 AM