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Donald S. Welsh, U.S. EPA mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator
PHILADELPHIA B Many people don=t realize that by taking a few simple steps they can have a healthier lawn and garden that can be beautiful and resist damage from weeds, disease and insects, and protect the environment at the same time.
For many people, grass is a significant part of their lawn. Now is a good time to check to see:
Are you cutting the grass too short? Grass that is slightly longer makes a strong, healthy lawn with fewer pest problems. Weeds have a hard time taking root and growing when grass is around 3 to 32 inches for most types of grass. This is usually the top setting on most mowers.
Are the lawn mower blades sharp?
Are your recycling your grass? Don't throw away grass clippings after you mow. If you use a mulching lawn mower it will cut up the grass finer and blow them into the lawn. As the clippings decompose they will provide over half the fertilizer needs of a healthy lawn. If you don’t have a mulching mower add the grass clippings to a backyard compost pile and next spring you can spread the compost on the lawn.
Pesticides can be effective, but they should be used carefully and only as a last resort. They need to be used according to the directions on the label and stored in a safe, secure place, always in their original bottles.
By using nature to manage landscape pests B one of the techniques of integrated pest management B gardeners can reduce potential harmful water pollution from run-off and increase an area's diversity of plants, bugs, and animals. That=s good ecology, too.
Here are three tips to enrich your yard and garden:
Using native plants B Native plants resist pests and disease better. Select an area in your yard where you can add native plants and shrubs and then research the ones that will grow best in those conditions. You may want to start with a small area this fall and add a new section every year.
Timing B Learn the best time to control pests, and how. Start by diagnosing the problem: Then use the least toxic methods first. In between these options is a whole range of actions, including attracting or introducing natural predators, using natural pesticides, and using insecticidal soaps and oils.
Providing shelter B Surprisingly, one of the best things you can do is to put up bat houses. Bats eat lots of insects and help to maintain a balanced insect population. Or you might want to add bird houses. Birds are a well known consumer of insects. Eastern bluebirds, house wrens, Carolina wrens, chickadees and downy woodpeckers are some of the insect eaters that will use a bird house.
You can begin to create you own healthy natural areas with a diversity of plants that will be home to birds, animals and bugs. You may be amazed at how enjoyable it is to see new kinds of birds and butterflies visiting your yard. You are also taking a step to help to build a more environmental sustainable neighborhood.
For further information, you can check out EPA=s website on integrated pest management and pesticides at http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/. Also see EPA=s green landscaping website http://www.gov.gov/reg3esd1/garden/.