Source Reduction in the Garden
Gardening is a healthy hobby enjoyed by millions of New Jersey citizens.
But should a hobby expose you to potentially dangerous chemicals? Learn
how to cut down on toxins around your home this spring.
Why Source Reduce?
Many yard chemicals are toxic – they send people to the hospital
each year. Not the lawn professionals – just home gardeners like
you, who didn’t believe the warning label. Yard chemicals poison
pets and wild animals each year. Children touch them if they play on treated
lawns, and our feet track them into our homes where they linger in the
carpet. Still want to put down that combination lawn care product?
Fertilizers travel with groundwater and turn nearby ponds green with
algae. That’s not what residents saw when they bought lakeside homes
so many years ago! But populations rise, and homeowners plant lawns, and
the yard chemicals run off into streams and lakes. That runoff may degrade
drinking water. Are you one of the many people in New Jersey using well
Pesticides kill beneficial organisms, and leave your lawn and garden
unprotected from pests. After years of heavy chemical applications, close
mowing, and automatic watering, your lawn becomes unable to care for itself
- it’s chemically dependent!
How do I reduce my toxin use?
Here are four general methods for cutting down on toxics in the garden:
See our pamphlet on how to leave grass clippings on the lawn and retain
their nutritive value. You’ll mow higher and build a lawn that fights
weeds by itself.
Integrated Pest Management
Integrated pest management, or IPM, offers more ways to protect your plants.
Just as there’s a hierarchy of waste management (reduce, reuse,
recycle), there’s an order to pest control:
Remove them physically, or use barriers and traps.
organic or botanical pesticides(made from plants): they are toxic but
break down quickly.
inorganic pesticides as a last resort.
about IPM at Pennsylvania’s website, http://paipm.cas.psu.edu/,
and Contra Costa’s article at http://www.centralsan.org/education/ipm/lawn.html.
Gardeners often copy neighbors who treat for grubs or fungus. That neighbor
is probably wrong. Send samples of soil and sick turf to your agricultural
agent for testing, and find out what you really need. In New Jersey, the
Rutgers Cooperative Research & Extension provides this service for
residents. Costs are low. Contact:
Rutgers Soil Testing Laboratory
P.O. Box 902
Milltown, NJ 08850
Learn more about the Extension at http://njaes.rutgers.edu/soiltestinglab/.
Most garden shops sell quick-release synthetic fertilizers and inorganic
pesticides. Ask if they offer organic options, or shop on line. Read more
Here Are Things You Can Do Now
||Take inventory in the garage and shed.
Note what products you already have so you don’t buy extra.
||Buy single products: if you need fertilizer, buy
fertilizer. Don’t buy a fertilizer-weedkiller-insecticide mix.
This may be harder to find than you think – ask for it!
||Keep the chemicals in their original containers,
or keep the labels with dry product if you pour it into a bucket.
Otherwise, you won’t remember how to use it.
||Follow the directions! Don’t spread more than
||Mulch flower beds with 3” of chips or bark
or pine needles. It will keep the weeds from germinating, and water
from evaporating, so you’ll need less herbicide and water.
||Spray infested plants with a soap solution before
you use stronger insecticides.
||Invest in soaker hoses now, and cover them with mulch,
to cut down on water use in the flower and vegetable gardens, and
to prevent powdery mildew.
||Do you have a butterfly or hummingbird garden? Cut
out the pesticides or you’ll be killing the animals you’re
trying to attract.
||Allow natural growth. Moss and mushrooms will pop
up in your shade garden. They are part of the local ecosystem, and
don’t require removal.
||Consider replacing your lawn with planting beds,
tall decorative grasses, and paving stones.
||Plant only native species this year. They are able
to withstand local weather and insects. Learn about them from your
Make yard care safer for you and your community.