By Tom Last
We love the gardens in the Rockaways and appreciate the efforts of the landscapers! But in addition to maintaining a beautiful landscape, we want to ensure that we are not harming the environment, pets, insects, and humans, by adding harmful chemicals to our gardens.
You may have noticed there are very few fireflies at night this summer. Well, according to a study carried out by Tufts University in Massachusetts, pesticides are one of the main causes (along with habitat loss and artificial light) for a decline in this spectacular lighted insect. Sara Lewis, a professor at Tufts University, goes on to say that “if people want fireflies around in the future, then we need to look at this seriously” (i.e., pesticide use and habitat decline). On that note, let’s talk about how to keep a healthy garden using alternative organic solutions instead of chemicals.
PESTICIDES (e.g., insecticides & herbicides) used in controlling weeds, insects, etc., are TOXIC. They are poisonous to a wide variety of living organisms, such as plants, insects, wildlife, pets, your neighbors, your family, and you. There are several alternative solutions to using chemical pesticides. Try using an organic/natural solution such as neem oil, apple cider vinegar and vegetable oil, to name a few, to protect your plants from harmful insects. Introduce beneficial bugs, such as ladybugs and lacewings to your garden, by planting pollen-rich blooms and plants such as dill, mint, oregano, sweet alyssum, and many more. Other techniques that encourage healthy plant growth and discourage pests are – choosing pest-resistant garden plants that provide habitat for wildlife, planting a variety of plant species, and practicing companion-planting.
FERTILIZER is another major environmental concern, as fertilizer ends up running into waterways, which can eventually carry pollution into our waterways. The best natural fertilizer for your grass is the mulch or grass itself. These are the grass clippings that are made each time the lawn is mowed that contain rich nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. There are several other organic fertilizers that may be used such as – compost, coffee grounds, bloodmeal, etc. So, ask your landscaper to stop discarding the grass clippings and allow them to stay on your lawn to provide a rich source of nutrients for your lawn. Also, by keeping the grass clippings on your lawn, instead of bagging them, will reduce landfill waste.
Let’s have a conversation with our landscapers NOW on how they and us can practice safe and environmentally friendly landscaping. By reducing and eliminating pesticides and chemical fertilizers we will have healthier and safer lawns for all and possibly save the fireflies along with the other beautiful creatures needed in our ecosystem.
Remember, it takes all of us working together to fight climate change.