PRFCT Tips

Tagged with "Water"

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

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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Lobster is a summer time staple, especially along coastal areas but did you know that lobster populations have been declining in recent years?

Lobsters are arthropods, like spiders and all insects. Because of these biological similarities, lobsters, like insects, are susceptible to pesticides.

Almost anything that will kill an insect will kill a lobster. Laboratory testing has shown that lobsters are particularly sensitive to insecticides, even minuscule amounts.

While this is not the only factor in the decline of lobsters and other aquatic species, scientists, fishermen and the seafood industry have all voiced concern about the potential link between pesticides and the loss of a once healthy industry. Just another good reason to spray yourself, not your landscape.

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The word lawn comes from the Old English for an “open space." Both European and American aristocracy had estates with lawns, but working class people used their land to grow food. 

A big change came for the American “lawnscape” in the 1950s in response to the trauma of WWII. In new, orderly housing developments such as Levittown, the first neighborhood lawn standards were adopted. Military uniformity prevailed with ready access to cheap, war-surplus chemicals that had been rebranded as lawn fertilizers and pesticides. Now a $60 billion per year industry, lawn grass is the cheapest landscape to plant and the most expensive to maintain.        

In order to thrive, American lawns consume 20 trillion gallons of water, 90 million pounds of fertilizer, 78 million pounds of pesticides and 600 million gallons of fossil fuels per year. We now know so much more about how dangerous and unnecessary these chemicals are, and how many resources are drained maintaining on our yards. 

The next generation of lawns will be less toxic and more environmentally friendly: smaller (think area rug instead of wall-to-wall), more biodiverse and chemical free.

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Pre-emergent are herbicides designed to kill weed seeds BEFORE they sprout. They are usually granular and are applied to lawns and flower beds in the spring, but they persist for three months – that means prolonged time for human exposure. 

Below we have gathered important information about some typical active ingredients and their effects:

Prodiamine – carcinogen, neurotoxicity
Pendimethalin – extremely toxic to fish and aquatic organisms
Isoxaben – possible carcinogen, kidney/liver damage, toxic to birds
Oxyfluorfen – possible carcinogen, reproductive, birth and development effects, kidney/liver damage, skin irritant, toxic to fish and aquatic organisms
Oryzalin – kidney/liver damage, skin irritant, birth and developmental effects, toxic to fish and aquatic organisms
Trifluralin – extremely toxic to fish and aquatic organisms

Also, since the active ingredient is usually only 1% ... what are the 99% "other ingredients" ? They are often a blend of equally toxic ingredients that amplify the deadly effectiveness, which means they are even more toxic for you too.

Safe alternative? Although corn-gluten is often recommended as an organic pre-emergent for lawns, it is expensive, and timing is too critical to be effective, so we don’t recommend it. The PRFCT nature-based approach to weed control is to outcompete weeds in lawns. Overseed lawns in the fall or early spring before weeds germinate. In shrub and flower beds plant many small plants close together, leaving little to no space or sun for weeds. More plants is always a better option for filling space than bark mulches from far away.

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