One would think that landscaping is naturally green and friendly to the environment and in many cases that is true as landscaping replaces, enhances and maintains areas that have been disrupted by development and growth. Landscaping replenishes and refurbishes the environment in most cases. If landscaping is not installed and maintained correctly from the beginning many problems can arise that will call for the use of more harmful chemicals to combat diseases and pests in the landscape.
Diseases and pest problems can refer to an insect animal, plant or microrganism that causes problems to the landscapes. Many insects, spiders and other crawling or flying creatures are a vital part of a healthy landscape. Most perform important jobs like pollinating flowers, recycling nutrients and eating unwanted pests. In fact, less than 1% of garden insects actually damage plants. Unfortunately, pesticides that are often used to control pests and weeds are also toxic to the benificial creatures that when destroyed, enables other insects to over populate. The balance of nature becomes disturbed and the battle begins. Many pesticides are harmful to more than just the pest or disease you are targeting and may also harm people, pets and other wildlife.
Creating a healthy balanced landscape is the best way to prevent many diseases and pests from invading or overtaking your landscape. There are many ways to keep your landscape healthy without resorting to harmful chemicals, what many refer to as “The Green Way”. Here are the key ingredients to creating a “Green” landscape:
Healthy Soils - Healthy soils equal healthy plants. The best way to improve soil is to add compost or other organic matter to the existing soils and mix thoroughly. By doing this it will help to provide water, air and nutrients to plants. Air and water are essential elements that transport nutrients to plants and carry away waste. Together they make up half of the volume of healthy soils.
Proper plants - Choose plants that are well suited for the site conditions such as sun exposure, soil type, water availability, and environmental exposures.
Watering - Watering too much or not enough produces weak plants that are susceptible to pests and diseases. Automatic sprinkler systems can be very efficient and actually save water while delivering the proper amount needed for the plantings or turf.
Even though you may do everything right and have a very healthy landscape, you may still experience some pest issues. If a pest problem does occur the best “green” solutions may include the use of natural, physical controls. Many pests and diseases can be kept away from plants with barriers or traps or by simply removing infested plants. Pest and diseases can be hand picked, pruned or even washed from infected plants. When physical controls do not work, the next step is Biocontrols such as beneficial insects, compost tea, soaps oils and minerals such as insecticidal soaps, dormant oils, etc and Botanicals such as Neem oil and Pyrethreum. These things break down quickly into environmentally safe by-products. Only use synthetic pesticides as a last resort. This approach is generally referred to as Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
IPM is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.
Installing and maintaining a healthy landscape starts with proper installation of soils, ammendments, appropriate plantings and proper watering techniques. Creating a well balanced landscape will bring many years of enjoyment for you, your family, and all of the living things that will make a home in your garden. Using Integrated Pest Management and basic common sense approach of trying natural, chemical free approaches to fertilize and manage diseases and pests will keep your garden “Green”. Don’t forget to aerate your lawn annually and amend with compost, add compost topdressing to planting beds, check your irrigation sytem and make sure it is fully operational and set to the proper run times, do not over or underwater. Use organic fertilizers if you can and don’t over fertilize. Hire a qualified landscape company to assess your property and determine the best course of action to create the healthiest environment you can.
Article by Jim Malone
Malone’s Landscape Management, Inc.