PRFCT Tips

Tagged with "Pest management"

Allan Pollack Morris

Eco Anxiety Antidote

January 18, 2023

If you use a landscaper for the maintenance of your property, the beginning of the year is contract renewal time. Of course you are probably starting this year anxious about your health and the environment and you aren’t sure whether signing up for a weekly dose of noise and poison in your yard is the best thing to do. It just doesn’t quite feel right, which adds to your eco-anxiety. But instead of worrying more, you could use this moment to do good. Guaranteed good for the environment, and super healthy for you and your family.

You just need to ask your landscaper to do things a bit differently by switching to nature-based practices. He/she may not know how, and chances are, you don’t know either. So who does know? Sadly, there are very few nature-based landscapers, and there probably isn’t anyone better for you to hire than the one you have got. So unless they flatly refuse to try, don’t fire them. Let’s engage and train the ones we’ve got, and send the message out that this is the future of land care. It is healthier for them too.

Everything you need to get started is in our PRFCT LeafLet Basics of Nature-Based in English and Spanish. For a typical annual maintenance schedule, which you can use as the basis of your new contract, go straight to page 21 – review it with your landscaper. It should not cost more, there are no products to purchase.

What is nature-based? Here’s the nutshell: Healing, not Harming. Let nature do the nurturing.

  • No toxic fertilizers or insecticides. Fertilizers overstimulate plants and make them susceptible to disease. The right plant for your soil, doesn’t need them. Insecticides are not target specific, they kill beneficial insects and soil organisms. You don’t depend on your landscape to eat, so why not share it with a host of wonderful life forms that could find refuge there?  
  • Retain, recycle and reimagine all biomass. Keep what your property produces (grass clippings, leaves, twigs, weeds, etc.) and feed it back to the soil. It is the food your place made for itself. Better than anything you can buy, and without the carbon footprint. (See PRFCT Lawn Basics for more).
  • Plant at least 2/3 native plants. Plants did fine without us humans for eons, so if you plant the ones that evolved in your conditions, they will still be fine with very little from you. Plus, they provide just the right food and shelter for local birds and pollinators. (See 2/3 for the Birds for more).
  • Avoid and remove invasive plants. Get to know which plants are invasive. (See the Invasive Plant Atlas for more). Don’t buy them. Remove and replace any you have already got. (See Beyond Pesticides for more).
  • Water properly. Very seldom. Very deep. Over-watering is one of the most common landscape malpractices. It leads to a wide range of plant and soil problems and promotes tick and mosquito populations.  
  • Minimize pruning. Every cut is a wound. Plant with plenty of space for trees and shrubs to grow to their natural shapes. Leave deadwood and standing dead trees, unless positioned dangerously, they provide unique food and nesting opportunities.
  • Relax and enjoy. Your landscape is not your living room; forcing it to be tidy, clipped, and fixed in time is “dead room.” Let it be alive; always changing and creating new surprising delights for you.

Keep in mind, your landscaper doesn’t necessarily know any more about this than you do. So make sure he/she understands that this is an adventure in earth friendly relationships and as long as they are willing to truly commit to the practices, you will be happy. It is a whole new way to relate to your land.

Hooray, eco-anxiety reduction in action! You are doing something unquestionably good for the earth. (Not to mention yourself, your family, and your pets). Once you get started, you will find there was nothing to fear. It is all fascinating, joyous, and beautiful. 

Photo by Allan Pollok-Morris

The Ten Commitments

September 21, 2019

If the dire news of the climate crisis is making you feel overwhelmed, why not make some promises to a piece of earth. If everyone made their property, or one they frequent, into a natural refuge, there would be much less to worry about.  

Here are some of our promises…send us one of yours.  
 
1. I will think of my place as my friend, my family. I will work with, not against it, and do it no harm. It will be a sanctuary.  
2.  I will let this place keep all that it produces: no biomass will leave the property.
3.  I will make a compost pile, even if I probably won’t turn it.
4.  I will carefully consider everything I bring here—can it be used for a long time, can it be composted or repurposed, does it really need to be plastic? 
5.  I will use no toxic synthetic chemicals. 
6.  I will take a moment to learn about an insect before I decide if I really need to kill it. 
7.  I will plant native plants to provide habitat for insects and birds. 
8.  I will get to know the names of all the plants, animals and insects that live in this place, or at least the big ones.
9.   I will reduce the size of my lawn to just what gets used.  
10.  I will let go a bit, let nature be my collaborator, and help me keep my promises.  
 
Sept 10 TIP

KEEP OR KILL?

September 10, 2019

A friend called recently to ask for our opinion on a backyard situation. A large number of caterpillars were descending from webs in a tree and nibbling on his plants. He called in a tree expert who recommended that the offending tree be cut down and removed. Was this truly the only way to manage the problem?  

Happily, we could tell him to do nothing: keep the tree, and not to worry about the plants. The caterpillars are Fall Webworms, whose webs start showing up in late summer.

The parents are  pretty little white moths. They are native to the US; highly prolific, they lay their eggs in sunny spots on a large variety of host trees. The eggs hatch into the “worms” which weave the nest (same as silk worms). The nests protect them from predators, but they must come out to eat more leaves.  
As it is late in the growing season, the leaves they eat have already done their photosynthetic job and losing some of them to the webworms is no real loss to the parent plant. Many of the caterpillars will in turn become food--for birds and predator insects who need the protein for migrating or overwintering.  

So, just let them be.
Sadly, the people who don’t know about all this may be spraying, pruning, or even chopping down a whole tree.  Compare that to what a few little caterpillars can do. 
 
Note: Our last tip mentioned that milkweed doesn’t provide resources for anything but Monarch butterflies. This is not true, there are a large number of butterflies, bees and insects that benefit from milkweed, and I was quickly brought to task by some of our well informed readers, many thanks to them. Here’s more https://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/Wings_sp11_milkweed.pdf 

Irrigation running all spring!!….Your lawn needs deep roots; down where it is cool and damp when the heat of summer comes.  Best way to get them down there is to let them go looking for it now. Watering early in the season makes roots lazy. They stay on top, where they will be susceptible to insects and sun later on. Watering now can cause fungus and disease problems later. Watering now encourages weed seed germination.  Watering now breeds mosquitoes and ticks, so... 

WAIT TO IRRIGATE!  

Don’t run your system until the weather is hot and dry.  Lawn grass will need watering when it wilts. How will you know? Wilted grass shows your footprint. Generally, late June.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, letting your lawn dry out is actually good for it. Periods of dryness allow the grass to develop deeper, stronger roots that are better able to resist pests, weeds, and drought conditions over time. Too much water promotes fungal growth and nutrient run off, and creates ideal conditions for mosquitoes and other water-loving pests to flourish. Plus, why waste water that your grass doesn’t need anyway?

Rule of thumb for well-established lawns: Wet the soil 6" down, then allow to dry 4-6" down before watering again. How to tell? Dig a hole or use a soil moisture meter.

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Wrap 'Em! Better Deer Defense

September 14, 2018

In the Fall deer rub their antlers on younger trees and can damage, disfigure and even kill them! Larger deer go after the bigger trees. The bark is literally stripped away. They start just after Labor Day, i.e., now! This is the time to protect your tree and shrub trunks from damaging deer rub. Instead of difficult and ugly plastic or metal wraps, we have a great alternative: Biodegradable jute or hemp -- heavy twine or thin rope.

Just wrap it around, barbershop pole style from about 4' high, down to near the ground. You can remove in spring or leave it to rot away.
Cheap, easy, stylish. Done.
But do it soon. The rubbing starts any day now.

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