3 Years with NO DEER???

Check out the barrier MD Extension Specialist Jon Traunfield built that has been successful at keeping deer (and rabbits and groundhogs) out for 3 successive years.


Precaution or Risk/Cost/Benefit Analysis????

Precaution or Risk/Cost/Benefit Analysis????

Situation: A five dollar bill blows out of your hand and lands between the rails on the metro track. A train is coming in 5 minutes.

Do you:

A. Jump down and grab the bill because you’ve got plenty of time before the train arrives and really need some coffee to fight the cold

B. Give up on the five dollars because a cup of coffee is not worth the risk of getting run over?

Don’t know about you, but I would definitely skip the coffee and write off the five dollars. However, that’s not how the US approaches questions of pesticide safety.

European countries have issued a temporary ban on neonicotinoids, a widely used pesticide, because there’s a risk they are partly responsible for bee deaths.

MD legislature is debating a bill about whether to only allow licensed pesticide applicators use neonicotinoids.

Here’s text from a legislative update that arrived in my inbox asking for traditional landscapers to weigh in on the debate:

‘After consult with U of MD Extension and one of our grower members, it looks like the bill takes using neonicotinoid out of the hands of consumers, but continues to enable MDA licensed pesticide applicators to use these products. This bill may invoke emotional response/public perception that neonicotinoids are harmful (blamed for bee colony demises), however there may not be strong science to support this thought. What are your thoughts on this bill? Oppose based on bad science; or support with hope that if consumers can’t buy it, they’ll hire industry???’

I don’t know that the neonicotinoids are partly responsible for bee deaths, but I do know that I’d rather not risk the problems that will arise if they are.

Here’s a fact sheet about them from the University of Wisconsin Extension: http://www.uwsp.edu/cnr-ap/clue/Documents/Ag/Honeybeefactsheet.pdf

and here’s the counter-argument from a recent Forbes article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2013/04/30/the-politics-of-bees-turns-science-on-its-head-europe-bans-neonics-while-local-beekeepers-scientists-say-action-is-precipitous/

Truth is, we just don’t know what these pesticides do.

Why not pause and evaluate what is happening when we use neonicotinoids before we risk creating a bigger problem since we don’t yet know what harm this type of pesticide might do? Is precaution such a bad thing?

What should we infer?

Prior to the 1930’s (pre- pesticides), US Agriculture lost 13% of crops to insects and disease.

Currently, we lose 17% of our agricultural crops to pests and disease.

Are these chemicals solving problems or creating new ones?

Thanks to Chip Osborne (http://osborneorganics.com/about-chip-osborne-jr/) for this info. and for the excellent training on Organic Lawn Care he offers across the country.

Skip the fertilizer

You can grow healthy plants without fertilizer.

NOFA’s standards for soil offer a helpful description of the process and rationale:

NOFA Soil Standards

There are two approaches to matching soils and plants:

1. We can maximize the diversity of soils and plants and minimize the need to alter the soil by leaving the soil alone as much as possible and choosing appropriate plants for that soil, site, and microclimate; or NOFA Standards for Organic Land Care | 17

2. We (or the client) can decide what plants are desired and alter the soil and site to make them suitable for the desired plants.

The first choice is the more desirable because it minimizes our effects on the environment, and thus the potential for harm from our interventions. In either case, we must avoid practices that impair soil health and the health, diversity, and functioning of soil organisms.

Organic land care follows a holistic approach to plant health, nourishing soil life instead of feeding plants directly. This is accomplished by increasing organic matter in the soil, balancing nutrients and pH, and increasing soil life through the judicious use of biologically active materials such as compost and compost tea.

To reduce our ecological footprint, we emphasize the cycling of nutrients on site, supplemented as needed by local, renewable, sustainably harvested materials, and limit our use of materials that are mined or transported from far away to those that are necessary and not obtainable in any other way.

Soil tests are essential to gain specific information about the soil, and must be performed before any soil alterations can usefully be made.

We must minimize or eliminate any risk of contamination of soil or water with toxic substances or excessive nutrients, whether they are added directly, as with fertilizers, or simply allowed to come into contact with the soil. We utilize natural remediation methods, where possible, to cleanse the soil of contaminants.

Balancing on a see saw

This garden around my house is both part of a natural system and an interruption of it.

Take nature’s system of feeding the soil with fallen leaves- a perfect cycle that we interrupt every fall when we blow all those leaves into the street to keep our yards looking tidy—Of course it makes sense to use these leaves in our gardens and not send them off, but how to manage the enormous piles that accumulate every November out front?

For a few years, we’ve tried a variety of methods for shredding these leaves so they would lay neat and flat on garden beds like traditional mulch. The small reel mower we use to cut the patch of grass in our front yard can’t handle the twigs mixed in with the leaves. The electric leaf vacuum gets stuck with larger branches, and the gas mower with bag attached works well, but feels wrong to me. How much good can we be doing burning up nature’s fossil reserves to mimic nature’s fertilizing system?

Last fall we decided to just rake all the leaves into the beds and leave them there. In November, I spent a lot of time trying to get my eyes to appreciate the look of garden beds piled high with leaves. The dry leaves blew out of the beds and back on the paths for weeks. Edges disappeared, and many evergreen ground covers like our Phlox stolinifera got buried in a pile of brown. The garden looked messy.

A couple of months later, snow and wet have packed down the leaves. Messy is gone, replaced by a frozen crust. In another couple of months, we’ll shift our concern from aesthetics to logistics as we try to figure out how to efficiently break up the matted leaves so they decompose and don’t create a temporary barrier between the soil and the air and water above it.

Organic garden is perpetually experimental- a balancing act on the pivot of a see saw that tips on one side towards humility in the face of natural systems and on the other towards the arrogance that makes one want to shape those systems to meet our needs and desires.

Green Gardens by Green Landscapers in Montgomery County

Montgomery County is debating whether we should require landscapers to go pesticide free for all the good reasons we know about. The EPA’s Green Landscapers model how we can garden responsibly. Check out the garden by Backyard Bounty detailed at the end of the video: Beautiful gardens don’t need pesticides or fertilizers and can retain storm water, install native canopy trees, and native plants for eco-diversity. My Green Montgomery

Time to ban bee killing pesticide

More and more info. coming out about neonicotinoids (bee killing pesticide) found in plants. More and more evidence linking them to the serious decline in bee colonies…

Europe is banning them….Shouldn’t we be doing the same?

Bee Killing Pesticide Found in Garden Center Plants

Reducing Lawn Mower Emissions

I’m still a fan of Solar Mowing’s system for getting power to their mowers, but good to see that the large commercial industry is making some changes to its systems:

Turf Magazine

Microbes in the soil are good for human health as well

Check out this article in The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/06/healthy-soil-microbes-healthy-people/276710/

More Research Indicates Round-Up is Dangerous

Thanks to a client who shared yet another study indicating that ‘harmless’ Round-up really isn’t:


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