Since the first greenery sprouted, Mother Nature nurtured forests, fields and flowers quite nicely without the artificial “help” provided by fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Today, homeowners and avid gardeners are re-discovering the joys of cultivating lush landscapes, thriving gardens and robust plants in harmony with nature with organic composting and natural pest control. Reducing and eliminating artificial applications in favor of nature’s way is a gift that keeps on giving by making residential and commercial landscapes safe for people and pets and protecting precious resources from runoff contamination.
In woodlands, wetlands and nature preserves, dead vegetation falls to the ground and degrades, and the nutrients return to the environment to nourish life in a perfectly balanced cycle. Organic composting – returning biodegradable materials to the earth – puts this natural cycle to work in an environmentally friendly way that any gardener can use.
Leaves, straw, dead flowers and shredded newspaper are carbon rich materials, while garden trimmings, grass clippings, fruit rinds and vegetable peels are sources of nitrogen. All these “discards” that usually make their way into the landfill or waste system can be collected and “worked” into a safe, high-quality soil and source of nutrients.
A starter compost pile can be as small as a three-by-three patch in an obscure corner of the yard. Spread a layer of the coarse carbon-rich materials, then add a layer of the nitrogen-rich vegetation. Top with a thin layer of soil and moisten the collection. Keep repeating the layering over time until the compost heap is about three feet high. Every two weeks or so, “work” the compost by turning it, moving the center material toward the edges and the outer vegetation toward the center, then moisten again. The waste will degrade into a sweet, black, nutrient-rich soil. Naturally.
Avid gardeners with large landscapes may choose to use compost bins that come in a range of sizes, many with mechanisms to make turning the compost a quick and easy task.
Nature’s natural protections, which include her own system of pest control, have been compromised. In an effort to create the perfect gardens and landscapes, many lawn services and home gardeners have assaulted every insect with regularly-scheduled pesticide applications that kill almost everything that flies, creeps or crawls.
Indiscriminate and broad-spectrum spraying destroys the good bugs along with the bad ones, kills butterfly caterpillars, robs birds of food sources, and puts people and pets at risk. Pesticides along with herbicides (which kill weeds and unwanted “intruders”) are among the most toxic contaminants to water supplies, bays, estuaries, wetlands and preserves. Not a pretty picture. But there ARE alternatives that are environmentally friendly – reducing pesticide applications to an as-needed basis and protecting good insects that survive by eating many of the bad ones that damage your gardens, lawns and trees.
Lists of beneficial insects are available at garden outlets, nurseries, nature centers and libraries. Here are a few examples of ones that will help you eliminate garden pests while making a priceless contribution to the environment.
Ladybugs and ladybird beetles
Small, oval and usually brightly colored, these natural wonders feed on aphids (a nemesis for roses and other garden treasures), scale (which causes black spots on leaves) and mealybugs (sap suckers that can weaken and kill plants and destroy leaves).
These green beauties on stick legs look like they are in a praying pose, hence the name. They are voracious eaters and feed on bugs (and, unfortunately, even each other). They lay eggs on twigs and in thick grasses, which are destroyed by pesticides.
Large and sometimes colorful, these wonders of nature are perpetually on the fly. Their restaurant is mid-air – they catch and consume other flying insects including pesky mosquitoes and flies.
My Botanica is a premier source of environmentally sensitive pest control products. Our team of professionals welcomes the opportunity to answer your questions to help you enjoy nature-friendly gardens and choose the best products for your individual needs. Please call toll free 1-888-722-4308.