Landscaping, Gardening and Alternative Pest Control

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Safe Environmental Habits and Procedures for: Gardeners, Home Owners, and Landscapers

The Problem

Landscaping and garden maintenance activities can be major contributors to pollution. Soils, yard wastes, over watering and garden chemicals become part of the urban runoff mix (or "Urban Slobber") that winds its way through streets, gutters and either stormdrains or creeks, before entering the Truckee River.

Poorly functioning sprinklers and over watering, for example, waste our precious water supply and greatly increase the number of pollutants flowing into storm drains by providing direct transport.

Fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are washed off lawns and landscaped areas. These chemicals not only kill garden invaders, they also harm beneficial insects, aquatic insects, and contaminate ground and surface water supplies.

Leaves, grass clippings and tree trimmings that are swept or blown into the street and gutter also perform as polluters of the Truckee River. This waste clogs catch basins, increasing the risk of flooding on your street, and carry garden/lawn/other chemicals into the Truckee River. As they decompose, they also absorb oxygen aquatic life need to survive, depleting our natural resources.

Solutions

Safer Substitutes for Pest Control
Garden Aphids and Mites - Mix 1 tablespoon of liquid soap and 1 cup of vegetable oil. Add 1 teaspoon of this mixture to a cup of water and spray. (Oil may harm vegetable plants in the cabbage family.)
Caterpillars - when caterpillars are eating, apply products containing Bacillus thuringiensis to leaves.
Ants - Place boric acid powder or hydramethylnon baits in problem areas, cracks and insect walkways. These are mild poisons, so be sure it is inaccessible to children and pets. Hydramethylnon  is highly toxic to fish, so be sure to keep it away from rain contact that could carry it into the river.
Roaches - Apply boric acid powder to cracks and entry points (see ants above). Place bay leaves on pantry shelves.

General Landscaping Tips

  • Protect stockpiles and materials from wind and rain by storing them under tarps or secured plastic sheeting.
  • Schedule grading and excavation projects for dry weather.
  • Prevent erosion by planting fast-growing annual and perennial grasses. These will shield and bind the soil.

Garden & Lawn Maintenance

  • Do not overwater. Conserve water by using irrigation practices such as drip irrigation, soaker hoses or micro-spray systems.
  • In communities with curbside yard waste recycling, place clippings and pruning waste in approved containers for pickup. Or, take clippings to a landfill that composts yard waste.
  • Do not blow or rake leaves into the street, gutter or storm drains.
  • Use organic or non-toxic fertilizers.
  • Do not over-fertilize and do not fertilize near ditches, streams or other water bodies.
  • Store pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals in a covered area to prevent runoff.

Pesticide Alternatives
The "chemicals-only" approach to pest control is only a temporary fix. A more common-sense approach is needed for a long-term solution. It is called Integrated Pest Management.

Plan your "IPM" strategy in this order:

#1: Physical Controls

  • Caulking holes or hand picking
  • Barriers or Traps

#2: Biological Controls

  • Predatory insects (e.g. Green lacewings eat aphids)
  • Bacterial insecticides (e.g. Bacillus thuringiensis kills caterpillars)

#3: Chemical Controls - Your Last Resort
Use these least-toxic products:

  • Dehydrating dusts (e.g. silica gel)
  • Insecticidal soaps
  • Boric acid powder
  • Horticultural oils
  • Pyrethrin-based insecticides

If You Must Use Pesticides

  • Use a pesticide that is specifically designed to control your pest. The insect should be listed on the label. Approximately 90% of the insects on your lawn and garden are not harmful.
  • Read labels! Use only as directed. In their zeal to control the problem, many gardeners use pesticides at over 20X the rate that farmers do.

Pesticide Disposal

  • Household toxins-such as pesticides, cleansers and motor oil-can pollute the Truckee River and poison groundwater if disposed of in storm drains or gutters.
  • Rinse empty pesticide containers and use rinse water as you would use the product.
  • Dumping toxins into the street, gutter or storm drain is illegal!