PRFCT Tips

Tagged with "Pest management"

Pollinator on a flower

June 19-25 is National Pollinator Week. Why all the buzz?

• Bees pollinate 75% of the fruit, nuts, and vegetables grown in the United States.

• Native bees are responsible for pollinating many plants endemic to the Americas, including tomatoes and eggplant.

• Over 4,000 species of bees are native to the United States. Honeybees are not—they were brought to the Americas by European settlers.

Is your yard pollinator friendly? Here’s how it can be:

• Do not apply broadcast sprays for mosquitos and ticks, especially synthetic products. Broadcast sprays kill all insects, not just pests. Even organic sprays can be toxic to bees and butterflies.

• If you plan on having an event or are especially concerned about ticks or mosquitos, apply a plant-based essential oil-based spray using a pressurized pump sprayer with a long arm that can get into small spaces. Only spray in early morning or evening when pollinators are less active.

• Plant native plants to support native insect populations. Many insects are dependent on specific plants for shelter and food (think monarchs and milkweed), and many native crops (think tomatoes and eggplants) are dependent on native insects for pollination.

• Plant host plants, not just flowers. Before you can have a garden full of butterflies, you need to provide a food source for their caterpillars. Keep in mind that these plants will get munched, but you might not even notice the damage.

• Pollinators get dehydrated, so provide a water source for your bees and butterflies. To prevent your bug bath from becoming a mosquito breeding ground, change the water frequently.

Photo credit: Indra Widi / EyeEm / Getty Images

Entomopathogenic nematodes nematodes under microscope

Maybe you've seen beneficial nematodes for sale at your local organic gardening center. Or heard about nematodes attacking the roots of your neighbor's tomatoes. What's the difference? And what are nematodes, anyway?

Nematodes are round, threadlike organisms that eat organic material—from bad bugs and bacteria to plant roots—in your soil. Like the bacteria in our bodies, soil nematodes can be helpful or harmful, depending on the type and number present. A healthy balance of nematodes is key to the health of your soil's ecosystem.

Good nematodes:
• Break down soil nutrients so that plants can easily absorb them
• Eat pests like grubs, bad bugs, and fungus
• Harmed by synthetic fertilizers and pesticides

Bad nematodes:
• Eat plant roots

Want to make your soil friendly for beneficial nematodes? Make sure it is well-aerated; nematodes need plenty of space to move around. Kicking the chemical habit and adding compost to increase organic matter will help balance your soil's biology. When your soil biology is healthy, the less-desirable nematodes—and other pests—will be kept in check naturally.

Photo credit: D. Kucharski K. Kucharska / Shutterstock

Bat house

Bats Are Good Guys

October 27, 2016

Bats get a bad rap, especially this time of year. Instead of screaming the next time you see one, consider the following:

  • Every night, an insect-eating bat will eat its own weight in bugs. A whole colony? Hundreds of pounds of bugs a night. More bats = fewer mosquitos in your yard, fewer pests in your garden, fewer pesticides sprayed.
  • Bats eat more than bugs. Around the world, fruit- and pollen-munching bats are important pollinators and seed dispersers.
  • Installing a bat house (see photo above) is a great way to encourage these furry flying friends to take up residence on your property.
  • Using pesticides is not. Pesticides, especially insect sprays, limit the amount of bugs and other healthy food for bats to eat. Pesticides also build up in bats' little bodies over time, which has been linked to immunosuppression and endocrine disruption.
Miscanthus

Miscanthus or Mis-CAN'T-thus?

September 16, 2016

Miscanthus sinensis (Japanese or Chinese Silver Grass) used to be the ornamental grass of choice for landscape designers. Showy, low-maintenance, year-round beauty... What's not to love?

Plenty. Those pretty flowers? Full of seeds that quickly disperse in the wind. As a result, this drought-tolerant, sun-loving grass is taking over meadows, roadsides, and forest edges across the country. In fact, Miscanthus is so invasive that it is now banned for sale on Long Island.

What to do if it's already in your garden? Prevent seeds from spreading by cutting off the flowers when they start to resemble a dandelion puff. If you see any baby Miscanthus sprouting, pull them up right away. Baby Miscanthus are easy to remove—mature Miscanthus not so much.

Looking for alternatives? Try native grasses like Little Bluestem, Switchgrass, or Indian Grass.

Photo credit: Ian Alexander Martin on Flickr

Milkweed and clover

Plants sprout from seeds, bulbs, rhizomes, and more, but weeds always originate in the same place: our minds. A weed is simply a plant you've been taught to view as undesirable.

Who taught you? Mostly chemical companies marketing products to keep "weeds" under control. For example, milkweed was long considered unattractive—now we view it as a vital tool to saving the monarch butterfly population.

Times change. Perceptions change. Fashions change: We once thought shoulder pads were a must-have accessory. Isn't it time to rethink our landscaping must-haves? Clover, anyone?

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