Lawn Care and Pesticides
When it comes to taking care of the lawn, there are plenty of options and alternatives for eliminating pests and maintaining a healthy strand of grass or ground cover.
Unhealthy grass and plants are more susceptible to pests. Before turning to pesticides to control bugs, work on getting your plants in shape. One way to pump up plants and get rid of garbage at the same time is to compost.
Compost is made of recycled food scraps, yard trimmings, clean paper, and even ashes from your fireplace. Don't include meat, pet droppings, or oil and grease because they can attract rodents that can carry disease and can kill the beneficial organisms.
Commercial compost units can be purchased from lawn and garden centers, online carriers, or even through local extension or utility offices. Compost units can also be made at home using materials like chicken wire, bricks, or buckets.
The organic material in the compost bin needs to be turned and watered regularly to mix the contents from the inner portions of the pile to the outer portions. The material in the center of the pile decays as it is kept warm and moist, a perfect atmosphere for degradation. When the mixture turns into a dark brown crumbly material that smells like earth, it's ready to go.
Using compost is a great way to improve soil texture and keep weeds from growing. It increases air and water absorption in the soil and can be used as mulch in the lawn or garden. Compost makes great potting soil.
By joining a group of local growers, green gardeners can exchange information and find out what is working and what is not. Organic gardening has grown in popularity, so joining a group either in person or online is even easier. Extension offices or local garden clubs may have information on groups or meetings in your area.
Beneficial insects and other animals can be very, well, beneficial when it comes to getting rid of pests in your garden. Ladybugs, lacewings, and ground beetles feed on aphids, chinch bugs, and weevils. Lizards, birds, and frogs will likely make a meal out of pesky caterpillars and grubs.
But beneficials will not be attracted by the pests alone and sometimes need to be enticed with their favorite plants. Adding bordering flowers will attract beneficial insects by providing shelter and nectar. Not only will there be fewer pests, the beneficial bugs will help pollinate flowers, fruits, and vegetables.
When it comes to countering an invasion in the garden, concerned gardeners may need a more hands-on approach to get rid of weeds and pests. Caterpillars, worms, and beetles can be picked off plants and destroyed. Mixing a few tablespoons of a strong-smelling ingredient like cayenne, garlic, or horseradish with a quart of water and spraying it on plants can drive away some pests.
There are also recipes for mildew and fungi treatments that include common kitchen ingredients like baking soda and vinegar.
Here are three simple recipes:
Mix three tablespoons of natural apple cider vinegar with one gallon of water. Spray on plants during the cool part of the day.
Mix one teaspoon of baking soda, one drop of detergent, and one tablespoon of canola oil in one gallon of water; spray the mixture on plants to treat fungus and mildew.
Soak chopped garlic overnight in one pint of mineral oil. Strain the mixture to remove the garlic; then add one pint of water and no more than half a teaspoon of soap remains. Spray the mixture directly on pest infestations.
To make sure that plants won't be adversely affected, use home remedies on just a portion of the plants first.
Rachel Carson's Silent Spring educated the world on the dangers of pesticides. The book focuses on the use of pesticides and their impact on the web of life. Pesticides often harm more animals than they mean to. Targeted animals absorb the pesticide, and then a second, unintended animal eats the first and ingests the poison, bringing both populations down.
Carson's work highlighted the importance of understanding the impacts of chemicals on the environment. New pesticides developed through Green Chemistry are designed to target specific organisms and will not harm any other living systems.
The EPA has banned the manufacture and use of a number of pesticides previously considered safe. This list includes chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides such as aldrin and dieldrin. It also includes common pesticides like chlordane, lindane, and toxaphene, which were used as flea control on animals.
Carson's critics claim that without pesticides, civilization would return to the Dark Ages when insects ran rampant and disease was uncontrolled. However, the impacts of many synthetic pesticides are still unknown because many of the effects are long-term.
The overuse of pesticides has been acknowledged, and proper application has been taken more seriously by individuals, corporations, and municipalities. People have begun to appreciate chemicals' destructive power and are using more safety precautions and following directions more closely.
The EPA registers pesticides for use on the basis that they do not pose unreasonable risks to people or the environment. Unfortunately, the long-term and synergistic effects are not always known when the chemicals are registered.
The pesticide market is highly competitive; companies are developing new and proprietary compounds every day. It's true that pesticides have allowed an abundance of crops to be grown and incidences of certain diseases to be reduced. When pesticides are used as directed, they can prove beneficial in preventing illness and even death. Pesticides are known to kill bugs that carry diseases like malaria and West Nile virus. They are also praised by the farming community for improving crop health and production by eliminating damaging pests.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 600 pesticide ingredients are currently approved for use and are found in almost 20,000 different products. These products make up the approximately 2 billion pounds of pesticides legally applied in the United States every year. This accounts for one-fifth of global pesticide use.
Exposure to pesticides — or any chemicals — can be acute or chronic. Exposure can occur in a high dosage in a very short time or at lower levels over an extended period. Each type of exposure causes different reactions and effects.
The CDC reports that short-term exposure to pesticides has been shown to cause respiratory, gastrointestinal, allergic, and neurological reactions. Long-term exposure may cause cancer and/or damage neurological systems.
There are efforts under way to develop and market safer pesticides. Many that are currently being researched rely on biotechnology to protect plants. These pesticides use chemicals that are less harmful, or more benign, for humans and the environment than more routinely used chemicals.