Field of Science

Yard smart

About 50 people spent an hour touring the Phactors' gardens this morning.  They were coming to see how are gardens looked when sustainable gardening practices are used, a program called Yard Smart. This cute little sign is in our front garden. Our lawns are diverse, which means weeds, although sometime some areas get spot treated to give some grass a fighting chance. The use of pesticides is very minimal.  Right now Japanese beetles are eating the crap out of big landscape purple cannas, so all is good, the cannas will outgrow the herbivory and the beetles would be eating other plants if not these. If the apple trees start getting chomped then the trees will get covered with insect netting (sometimes used as bridal veil). Ecological practices make the yard wildlife friendly, but safe for people too.  Fencing keeps bunnies from being too bad. One large hosta bed has been mulched with leaves gathered last fall.  Wood mulch helps preserve water and protect soil especially around shrubs. The kitchen garden is mulched with straw covering 2 layers of newspaper; zucchini and other squash really like this. A floating row cover keeps cucumber beetles (and bacterial wilt) away from cucumbers; if the beetles weren't disease vectors, there would be no problem.  TPP even goes so far as to hand pollinate the female flowers (netting keeps away pollinators too). It's not too onerous; how many cucumbers can two people eat? The neighbors have potatoes growing and the flea beetles like the potato vines more than egg plant, which they like more than tomatoes and peppers (see the taxonomic theme?), so no insecticides are needed unless the beetles get way more common.  Note: plant one potato as the sacrifice to the flea beetles, and you other nightshades get a pass. A bigger problem are squash/pumpkin vine borers; larvae of day flying moths that eat your squash vines from the inside.  However you only have to spray Seven on nothing but the stems for 2-3 weeks in July mostly, so pollinators are quite safe to visit the unsprayed flowers. Little things like these add up and cumulatively make your garden a lot more ecological, greener so to speak.  Now if only each of those visitors had pulled a hand full of weeds as the price of admission, what happy campers we all would be. Consider starting such a program where you live.

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