Articles by Ellie Czarnowski and George James
(From Old Lyme Tymes Newsletters)
Diversify Your Habitat
You have probably been reading about the recent effort to get homeowners to reduce the size of their lawns and replace these areas with wild flowers and shrubs that deer don’t eat. A slightly smaller lawn means lower maintenance costs and less water - not to mention less time. Sit back under a shade tree and enjoy the buzz.
For the benefit of our children and our drinking water we suggest giving up some of a large, weed-free lawn for gardens or soil-feeding plants like clover. Although there may be chronic problem spots in a yard, tolerance of a variety of insects and plants leads to a healthy ecosystem. Organic methods of pest control are readily available. Ask your landscaper or inquire at the garden centers.
A growing number of municipalities are adopting organic pest-management policies. The State of Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection, at the prodding of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, is finally recognizing that the chemicals applied to our lawns, gardens, and trees is a major health concern. This chemical mix is now being designated “nonpoint pollution” and is being rated as a significant source of pollution. If we can change our habits now, we may avoid an undesirable situation later.
One coastal town of Massachusetts, has successfully enabled The Living Lawn* demonstration site and an associated educational outreach program for the community. They provide a successful annual lawn maintenance plan that includes using organic fertilizer and leaving the grass taller to shade out weeds.
Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers do run off our lawns and gardens and into our streams and lakes, ending up in Long Island Sound. They also penetrate the soil and enter the ground water. This groundwater is the water we drink in Old Lyme, for almost everyone drinks well water, whether it is from a well on our own property or the wells drawn upon by our water companies.
A diversified habitat results in healthy ecosystem for everyone. Have a variety of flowers in bloom in your yard throughout the growing season so that the good bugs have plenty of food and shelter. Remember, the good bugs often feed on the pests. A (daily) fresh birdbath with a rock makes a landing pad for the dragonflies that feed on mosquitoes. To provide shelter for the good bugs in winter leave ornamental grasses uncut until spring add a pile of stone and leave some leaf litter.
* See People Places Plants, Spring 2004, Issue 43, Special Report, Organics vs. Chemicals.
Integrated Pest Management?
IPM is a systematic approach to pest control. It was started for farmers, but with the growth of public awareness and concern over the widespread use of pesticides and fertilizers, IPM quickly became extended to homeowners. In Connecticut, homeowners manage more land than either agricultural enterprises or the government.
Understanding pests is the key IPM ingredient. Effective strategies can be implemented to interrupt a pest’s activities while minimizing the environmental impact. IPM’s program includes Action Threshold, Multiple Strategies, and Resistance Management.
Action Threshold defines the pest’s level of presence that requires control. Not every pest needs to be controlled.
Multiple Strategies clearly increase the effectiveness of your pest control measures.
Resistance Management includes understanding artificial selection - the process by which individuals across generations survive by adapting to repeated applications of the same pesticide.
Prevention! Prevention! Prevention! The emphasis lies here. Proper escalation efforts are engaged only when necessary. Control efforts are a combination of cultural (appropriate plantings selection) and mechanical (trapping or interrupting the life cycle) practices.
Take the on-line home study course offered by the University of Connecticut at http://www.hort.uconn.edu/ipm/index.html and develop your own pest management program.
Family membership is $50/year
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