Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Make Pesticides a Thing of the Past

Photo courtesy: trekearth.com

Canada, where I live, is home to over 500 species listed at some level of risk -- extinct, extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern. At risk species are found worldwide; and, can cause environmentally-concerned persons to feel helpless and hopeless. It's hard enough to enact changes locally; but, how can a person possibly affect the health and safety of a species halfway around the world?

Just look to your backyard or balcony for inspiration. Your backyard or balcony is more influential to the world around it than you think; and, they are totally under your control. Making your back yard or balcony an oasis for all living things either passing through or setting up home will greatly benefit wildlife no matter where on earth you live.

The first, and possibly the most important, step is to make a pledge to yourself; and, the inhabitants of your yard, that this will be a chemical-free zone. This is just as important for balcony owners as well. Well-planted balconies are favourite haunts of winged pollinators, birds and other visitors. Lawns and gardens doused in toxic chemicals may ward off weeds and pests; but, they can also harm or even kill at-risk insects, such as the Monarch butterfly; and, reptiles, amphibians and mammals that may live in your yard.

Pesticides and herbicides can also harm aquatic species whether you have a yard or a balcony. The "harm" potential for balcony owners is not as great as for yard owners; but, there is a threat nonetheless. Pesticides can drain into sewers, streams and lakes by your home or cottage, which filter out into rivers; and, eventually straight into our oceans.

Just because you have chosen a pesticide-free yard or balcony doesn't mean your can't have the oasis of your dreams. There are plenty of ways to keep your garden healthy while avoiding the use of harmful chemicals.

1. Do choose plants native to your area because they have evolved with local wildlife; and, have developed natural defences against it.

2. Do keep you soil healthy by adding compost and well-aged manure. These are better than chemical additives.

3. Don't stick to the same old plants in the same old locations. Many pests eat only certain plants. Growing a diversity of plants minimizes your garden's susceptibility to any pest invasion. Also, different plants require different elements from the soil. By growing the same old thing, in the same old place, year after year, soil can become prematurely drained of certain elements that could have been replenished naturally by rotating the plantings. Obviously, trees and shrubs are permanent; but, all other plantings benefit from the occasional new location.

4. Do use non-chemical methods, such as hand picking pests, using plant barriers or setting insect traps.

5. Do welcome insect predators, such as birds, toads, snakes, spiders, bats, or ladybugs to your garden by providing shelter, water and supplemental food sources.

6. Do your research. Take advantage of the natural aversion of pests to certain plants by adding them to your garden. Mint, garlic, cloves, nasturtiums, lavender, sage and thyme repel many pest insects.

7. Don't water in the evening. Damp leaves in the evening can lead to fungus and other diseases.

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