Yard & Garden
One of the prides---and headaches---of suburban life is having a yard. While some are excited to get their hands dirty, others are happy to hire a landscaper. Regardless of who does the work, there are some things we can all do when we start our spring cleaning to protect the important ecosystems that our yards support:
-DO: Wait until temperatures are steadily above 50 degrees so that overwintering insects have time to emerge from the leaves, stems, and soil. These pollinators are essential for supporting flora (flower beds and vegetable gardens), fauna (birds gotta eat!), and overall biodiversity.
DON’T: Disturb these delicate creatures while they are dormant; it can destroy them.
-DO: Once it’s warm, gently rake any stray yard debris into your compost pile, or mow leaves directly into the lawn for added nutrients.
DON’T: Use gas leaf blowers. They are dangerously loud---typical commercial gas-powered models generate sound that can reach up to 110 decibels---and the asthma-inducing and cancer-causing emissions are more polluting in one hour than driving 1,100 miles in a 2017 Toyota Camry. These toxic fumes linger near the ground for up to a week.
-DO: Test your soil, which will tell you what, if any, amendments it requires for optimal health. Check your fertilizer for natural ingredients like plant or animal by-products (i.e., fish, feather, or blood meal), rock powders, and seaweed.
DON’T: Apply pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Many pesticide chemicals are classified by the EPA as carcinogens, and evidence continues to mount about the adverse effects of acute and chronic pesticide exposure in children---and dogs! These chemicals run off our lawns and end up in our waterways, causing toxic algae blooms that kill aquatic life and close down lakes for swimming and water sports.
-DO: Invest in native plants. Native New Jersey perennials include Black-Eyed Susans, Eastern Joe Pyeweed, Wild Geranium, and many others.
DON’T: Shop for exotic plants and cultivars. They may offer a nectar source for wildlife, but in many cases their leaves, fruits, pollen, and nectar are not the preferred food of our vital native insects and wildlife. The lack of proper habitat and food sources for native birds and insects is one factor in the decline of many of these species in the United States.