Non-Toxic Pesticide Alternatives

  • Use Your Hands: If you see one or two bugs on one of your plants just flick them off. If you have an infestation of bugs this will not work, but it’s a fine solution if you have a minor problem. Also, to prevent the bugs from getting right back up and attacking your plant again just drop them into some soapy water. Washing your plants with a hose can knock a number of pests loose, though once again there’s no guarantee they won’t be back. A more permanent solution is to vacuum bugs off your plants. Using row covers or even lines of soap of copper flashing can help keep pests away. As far as weeds are concerned, you can always try putting them up by hand. Some are too resilient or too deeply entrenched, but it never hurts to try. Just make sure you pull them up by the roots. If you see a branch or leaf which looks wrinkled or diseased simply pull it off before the issue has time to spread. There are plenty of things one can do with their hands without having to rely on pesticides.
  • Using Heat: A great way to kill a wide variety of weeds is to simply pour some boiling water on them.  Bear in mind that this will damage just about any plant in the vicinity,  so if a weed is growing in close proximity to a plant you actually want in your garden this might not be the best approach. You can also use this same trick to get rid of ants by pouring the boiling water onto their mounds. But you don’t necessarily have to use water. A propane torch or, indeed, any portable heat source will do the job nicely. Another way to use heat against weeds is to cover them in plastic. If you secure it to the ground tightly enough  the plants will eventually overheat and die. It might take 4-6 weeks, but it’s an effective method for clearing out a large patch of weeds.
  • Using Traps and Lures: At night, many insects are drawn to light. To prevent being swarmed by them, set exterior light sources away from sitting areas, windows or doors. That way the bugs will go to the light and leave you alone. If you want to attract slugs, simply put a teaspoon of yeast in a cup of water and place it in a container outside. The slugs will move to it, allowing you to remove them with ease. Fly paper lives up to its name by trapping and disabling flies. Yellow fly paper is an especially good choice, as some varieties are attracted to the floor. Hang your fly strips in areas commonly used by flies, generally contracted vertical areas.

How to Use Pesticide Responsibly

The Key to Utilizing Pesticides

Pesticides have a somewhat negative reputation these days. The truth is that, if used properly, pesticides can be a fantastic resource. They can make all the difference between a successful garden and a failure. Pesticides can eliminate a whole host of pests, including both animals like rodents and insects, as well as weeds, and other concerns like bacteria or fungus. However, despite it’s advantages there are inherent risks in using pesticides. There is a right and wrong way to do so. As such, here are a few tips to follow to make sure you’re properly utilizing this fantastic resource:

Pick the Right Pesticide for the Job: The first thing you should do is identify the problem. What’s causing your issue? Is it bugs? Fungus? Rodents? Whatever your issue might be, there is a pesticide designed specifically for that purpose. Here are a few of the most common types:

  • Herbicide kills weeds which might be negatively influencing your garden and depleting the plants you do want of necessary resources, thus not allowing them to thrive as they otherwise would.
  • Insecticide can be used to kill insects of all varieties.
  • Rodenticide can be used to vanquish rodents and other pesky animals from your garden.
  • Fungicide can be used to eliminate harmful fungi, including those who would leach off your plants
  • Disinfectants can be used to combat bacteria threats, including blights or diseases.
  • Miticides can kill mites, microscopic organisms which can plague your plants.

Using the wrong type of pesticide will not aid your garden in the least. Since each is formulated to a different problem, using the wrong type will have basically no effect.

Use Your Pesticide Properly: Use only the pesticide you require, being sure to follow the instructions carefully. Mix only what you need, nothing more. Be sure not to get any on yourself by wearing appropriate protective clothing. If you spill any, it’s best to call a local environmental protection agency for arrange for a cleanup. Too much pesticide can poison oil, making the area quite hazardous.

Store Your Pesticide Carefully: Be sure to store any and all unused pesticide in a tightly sealed container. Place it in a dry, ventilated space which is neither overly hot or cold.

Follow these simple guidelines, and your garden’s overall welbeing may just dramatically improve.

How to Mow Your Lawn Effectively

  • Don’t Touch Your Clippings: Some people feel the need to clean up the grass clippings caused by mowing, thinking that it will make their yard look neater. While that might be the case, you really should consider leaving those grass clippings where they are. When they degrade they’ll make for pretty excellent fertilizer, filling your yard with nutrients. Allow the cycle to continue and it will carry on without your input or effort. In this case, that’s a good thing.
  • Sharpen Your Blades: You’ll want to keep the blades on your mower sharp. A lot of the damage you do to your grass will be accomplished through momentum alone, and blades which are fairly dull will probably still do a decent cutting job. The problem is that if your blades are dull you’ll need to spend more time on the yard overall. A sharp blade will cut through grass almost immediately, while a duller one will take longer to cut the same amount of grass. That means you’ll be burning up fuel, and fuel is costly. On the other hands, sharpening your blades costs nothing, or next to nothing anyway. It’s a good trade off indeed. Even if you’re using an electric mower there’s no reason to use up more electricity than necessary. Electricity might not be as expense as fuel, but it’s certainly expensive enough.
  • Avoid Rain: Be sure to check your local forecast before you mow. Rain can really put a damper on your entire operation. For one thing, heavy rain can change the shape of grass, causing it to dip down and making it far more difficult to cut. For another, it can turn the dirt in your yard to mud, making it much more challenging to traverse with a fairly heavy machine like a mower. Third, if grass is wet it will clump together and your chances or clogging up your mower will increase significantly. If there’s rain on the horizon, you need to make a decision. You’ll either need to hurry and get your mowing done before the rain arrives or wait a while until the rain has passed and your grass and lawn have had time to dry back into their natural state. The choice is yours. One thing is certain: mowing during the rain is not a good idea. Be sure to keep that, and these other tips, in mind.

A Few Tips for Creating a Successful, Strong Garden Today

  • Know Your Soil Before You Treat It: Many people purchase fertilizer and other soil-enriching supplements without ever testing their soil to see what it actually requires. Your soil might already be full of helpful nutrients, it might be completely spent, or it may be ideal in some areas and deficient in others. You’ll never know until you test it. Too many nutrients can overload plants, weakening or even killing them. Too few nutrients and your plants won’t even have a chance. Get a soil test before you buy anything and you’ll be able to figure out precisely what your soil requires to successfully host the plant you’re looking to utilize. There’s no benefit to guessing and assuming. Sure, you might be right, but you might also be wrong. Why not be sure.
  • Use the Right Plants: There’s no bottom line right or wrong in terms of what you should and should not plant. Sure, some thrive better in certain climates, but beyond these obvious restrictions the sky’s basically the limit. However, not paying attention to those restrictions can severely limit your gardening capabilities. Take a look at your yard. Is there a lot of shade or does it engage directly with the sun? Is your soil rich or lacking? Does it contain sand or clay? How much irrigation water does the area receive. All of these questions, and more, can largely determine which plants you should and should not use. Other restrictions will be based upon your specific needs. What do you want from your garden? How do you want it to look? How hard do you want to have to work to maintain it? These questions are extremely important as well. Whatever you might require there is a plant out there to meet your needs. You just have to find it.
  • Use the Right Grass: A good, dependable bed of grass is the foundation of most lawns. Therefore, if you make an error in your grass selection the whole project will  be put in jeopardy. Pick a strong, resilient grass which grows well in your climate and under the specific realities of your lawn (location, type of soil, cover etc.). Pick the best type of grass possible, water it effectively, use the right kind of fertilizer and your lawn will be off to a fantastic start.

Picking the Right Plants for Your Project

A garden is a large commitment, one which should not be entered into lightly. To maintain a garden effectively you’ll have to put in a good deal of work and time, dealing with pests, defeating weeds and providing each of your plants with the conditions necessary to allow it to thrive. However, there are ways to make your job as a gardener simpler, and the most significant of these is as simple as this: pick the right plants for you specific project. Everyone has different needs,  different things they want to get out of their garden. For some, the extra maintenance is worthwhile, for it allows them to utilize whatever plants they wish, but for others simply having a good looking garden is enough. If you’re in the latter category, take the time to consider the following tips:

  • Purchase Low Maintenance Plants: This is the most direct way to lessening the burden of a garden without sacrificing aesthetics. There are plenty of plants that, though beautiful, don’t require very much maintenance at all. Purchasing low-water plants, for example, can greatly reduce the amount of time and effort you’ll have to put into maintaining your garden overall. Building a garden is like adopting a pet: the more needy it is the more time you’ll have to spend tending to it.  Keep that in mind.
  • Keep Your Budget in Mind: Keeping your budget in the forefront of your thinking is a great way to ensure that you’ll never spend too much on your garden, no matter what. Generally, smaller plants are cheaper than larger ones. However, they are more brittle and are more easily damaged by pests or weather. Basically, you have to decide which is more important to you: saving money or performing less maintenance. Some plants allow you both, but they are few and far between. If you want to spend less effort maintaining your garden you may have to stretch your budget a bit. Decide upon what your priorities really are early in the process.
  • Decide on an Aesthetic Plan: The other thing about larger plants, besides the added expense of purchasing them, is that they generally make a bigger, more immediate statement than smaller ones. The plants you buy need to fit your budget and correspond to your schedule, but that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice looks. Pick an aesthetic early on and stick to it.

Chemicals Other Than Pesticides Which Can Be Used for the Same Ends

Sprays

  • Horticultural sprays are oils combined with emulsifying agents and water. They are generally petroleum based, though vegetable-based sprays do exist. They generally have no effect on weeds.
  • There are two main types, “dormant oils” which can be used during the winter and early spring and “summer or foliar oils” which can be used during the rest of the year. They can be used to defeat  whole host of pests, including mites, whiteflies, aphids and more.
  • Though they are quite damaging to insects, horticultural sprays (especially those which are vegetable-based, with petroleum-based sprays sometimes leading to skin or eye irritation) generally do not hurt humans. They quickly dissipate, evaporated away leaving almost no trace of their resistance. As such, it is extremely difficult for insects to build a tolerance to them.
  • They can hurt plants as well as insects from time to time. Certain plants will be completely fine, but others might be negatively effected. It’s always good to do your research beforehand to ensure that your plants are in no danger.

Soaps

  • Insecticidal soaps are composed of the sodium found in fatty acids. Some of these acids are useless for such applications, but some contain elements which make them a fantastic tool against insects. The most commonly utilized is oleic acid. No additional insecticide is added to these soaps. Their insect-fighting power is all natural.
  • They are best used against insects like mites, aphids, caterpillars and whiteflies. Those with stronger exoskeletons (beetles, ants and grasshoppers for example) will be much more resistant. The soap is only effective if it is allowed to touch the insect’s skin.
  • While most plants will be fine, the soap may burn some types. It is also only effective when wet. It degrades quickly, which is good in that it will leave no pollution behind, but bad in that you’ll have a fairly short window of time in which it will be effective.

Pest-Fighting Organisms

  • One way to remove pests from your garden is to add enemies of those pests into the ecosystem. Add enough and the offending agent should be diminished significantly.
  • For less impact, you can use microbial pesticides, one-celled organisms which can be used to kill certain types of bugs. These organisms will have less impact upon their environment.
  • No matter what you introduce to your environment, be very careful in doing so. Sometimes adding a new element to a present environment can throw it out of whack and case problems to develop. Do your research and act with care.

Should You Consider Reducing Your Lawn?

A lawn is a wonderful thing to have, but not everyone has time to maintain one properly. Sure, you could hire a professional to tend it, but what if you just don’t want the burden anymore. What if you just want one less thing to worry about? If you find yourself in such a state, you should know that reducing or even eliminating your lawn is possible. Why have so many people reduced their lawns? Well, doing so reduces water consumption dramatically, meaning that there’s more to go around in a given community. It also eliminates the usage of potentially harmful pesticides and air pollution caused by mowers and other similar tools. Eventually, your former yard will give itself over to nature and new opportunities will develop as a result. The biodiversity of the area will likely increase fairly dramatically. Indeed, there are plenty of societal benefits to reducing your lawn, but the reason most commonly cited is this: it will save you time and effort. It will allow you more freedom. Regardless, reducing your lawn certainly has its pros, but how does one go about doing it in the first place?

  • Sod Cutting: Most effective if you want to remove smaller areas of your lawn, sod cutting is the process of simply removing sod with a tool, generally a spade, one bit at a time. If you have more ground to cover consider renting a sod cutter, which will perform the job more efficiently at a higher cost. After you’ve removed a good deal of sod, cover it with a sheet of black plastic and wait for it to break down to create fertilizer. In the meantime, you now have a freshly sodded area just waiting to be transformed.
  • Rototilling:  Perhaps the quickest treatment of all, even this one requires a good amount of effort. Begin by doing a deep tilling to remove as many plant systems as possible. Then follow up the new two weeks, doing shallower tilings and destroying any small plants which may have had time to develop. Eventually, the soil will be ready.
  • Black Plastic: Place a piece of black plastic over the area of lawn you wish remove and weigh it down until it’s firmly in place. Soon, the plants beneath the bag will begin to die. After six months has passed, remove the plastic and turn the soil, breaking it up with a hoe. This is an extremely effective method, but it does take a very long time and it leaves soil completely barren and useless without intervention.
  • Sheet Composting: You’ll need plenty of compost to pull this process off. You’ll also need 4-6 months. Begin by placing a later of nitrogen-based fertilizer (grass clippings will do nicely) beneath a layer of cardboard or newspaper (to keep weeds down) beneath a layer of mulch (leaves, sawdust, manure, compost or wood chips all work well). After a few months the plant life will have suffocated but, unlike with the black plastic method, the soil will need no rejuvenation and new life will be able to develop there immediately.

What to Replace Your Lawn With?

So, you’ve reduced or removed your lawn. The question now is what to do with the area. Sure, you could relinquish control and let nature take its course, but if you were to do that you’d have no real ability to alter or improve the area’s aesthetic. You would have little to no say in how it looked or what it contained. For some this level of control will be adequate. However, if you still want control of the area without having to put in as much work as you did when you had a lawn, here are a few suggestions for keeping the area looking great with little effort.

  • Ground Covers: Instead of using grass, ground covers are composed of naturally small plants. They never grow tall so you never have to trim them. In fact, they basically need to maintenance at all, perhaps a bit from time to time depending on the variety you choose. There are a great deal of varieties available, everything from perennials and annuals to evergreens.  They can be quite beautiful. That being said, they are much more fragile than grass, so planting them in an area with a lot of traffic isn’t the best idea. They do require some care during their first year, including weeding and mulching, but that’s only to establish them. You’ll also have to create an edge barrier to ensure that they don’t expand out too far. After that you’ll basically not have to do a thing.
  • Mulch: Mulch is a fantastic resource for gardening. It can provide your soil with helpful nutrients while creating barriers between plants and suffocating weeds. The problem with most mulches is removing them, a slow and arduous process for sure. But if you no longer have a lawn why not just leave the mulch there all the time. Using gravel or even chips of bark can provide an interesting aesthetic and a durable new ground covering. Generally, to keep it more secure, a sheet is placed on the soil beneath the mulch.
  • Shrubs: Perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing way to replace a vacated lawn is to use flowering shrubs in its place. Do not be prohibited by the cost, as with a little effort you can find beautiful varieties which are very inexpensive. Deciduous shrubs are very resilient. They generally do not attract pests or have serious diseases. They can also stand up to a lot of abuse, meaning that they can endure without a lot of maintenance. They may need pruning from time to time.

How to Recognize and Remove Poison Ivy, Oak or Sumac

There aren’t a lot of common plants out there that can hurt you as a result of something so minor as a single touch, but poison ivy, oak and sumac are more than able to oblige. Come into contact with them and you’ll likely feel the effects quite soon. It’ll begin with an itching which simply will not go away, at least not without the of topical creams or other medicines. This itchy area will eventually develop blisters. Just how severe these blisters are depends upon your level of sensitivity. Those who are more allergic can develop quite serious reactions. Of course, the best thing to do is to eliminate the plants carefully as soon as you see them, or to call upon professionals to accomplish that task for you, but how to identify them? Yes, most poisonous plants do have clusters of three leaves, but is that really enough to make a positive identification. Here are some brief descriptions to help you triumph over poison oak, ivy and/or sumac.

Poison Ivy: Like all the plants on this list, poison ivy is made up primary of three-leaf clusters, though depending on the plant there can be up to nine leaves in all. Generally they are organized in a somewhat triangular shape, with the leaf in the center being longer. It can present itself as either a small plant or as a creeping vine, and can come in a variety of shades, green in the summer and yellow, red or orange in the fall or spring.  Unfortunately, it is quite adaptable, growing easily in sun or shade. The plants are frequently shiny, though they can sometimes be dull as well.

Poison Oak: Not actually a type of tree but rather a small plant similar in size to ivy, poison oak has a similar but noticeably different look. It gets its name from the shape of its leaves, which are rounded like those of an oak tree. It generally takes the shape of the small bush but can also appear as a creeping vine or simply a single plant. It’s generally found west of the Rockies, though it can grow in a variety of locales.

Poison Sumac: The least common plant on this list, poison sumac should certainly not be taken lightly as a result. The plant is every bit as harmful as oak or ivy. It is larger than its counterparts, generally containing as many as 7-13 leaflets on every stem. The leaves are small and smooth, with an oval shape and a pointed end. They are almost always green, but the plant’s stem is red, and it also contains pale yellow or cream-colored berries, making it easier to identify. It is generally found in shrubs which can grow up to 15 feet in height.