Springtime Tips For The Environment
EPA offers tips to help you find ways to reduce pollution and learn about the environment. Doing little things can go a long way to having a healthy spring.
A beautiful and healthy lawn is good for our environment. It can resist damage from weeds, disease, and insect pests. Pesticides can be effective, but need to be used according to the directions on the label and should not be relied on as a quick-fix to lawn problems.
Here are some tips to follow:
- Develop healthy soil. Make sure your soil has the right pH balance, key nutrients, and good texture. You can buy easy-to-use soil analysis kits at hardware stores or contact your local County Cooperative Extension Service for a soil analysis.
- Choose the right grass for your climate. If your area gets very little rain, don't plant a type of grass that needs a lot of water. Select grass seed that is well suited to your climate and other growing conditions such as the amount of sunlight and rain you lawn receives. Over-seed your lawn each fall by spreading seeds on top of the lawn. A thicker lawn helps to crowd out weeds. Your local County Extension Service can advise you on which grasses grow best in your area.
- Longer is better. Make sure the lawn mower blades are sharp. Grass that is slightly long makes a strong, healthy lawn with few pest problems. Weeds have a hard time taking root and growing when grass is around 2.5 to 3.5 inches for most types of grass.
- Water early. It is time to water if footprint impressions stay in the lawn and do not spring back. Water early in the morning and only for short periods for time so the soil may absorb the water. Longer grass has stronger roots and retains water better.
- Correct thatch buildup. Thatch is a layer of dead plant materials between the grass blades and the soil. When thatch gets too thick, deeper than 3/4 of an inch, water and nutrients are prevented from getting into the soil and reaching the roots of the grass. Overusing synthetic fertilizer can create heavy layer of thatch, and some kinds of grass are prone to thatch buildup.
- Recycle grass. Don't pick up the grass clippings after you mow. Clippings will return nutrients and moisture to the soil. Consider buying a mulching lawn mower. This will cut the grass clippings finer and blow them into the lawn.
- Let your lawn breathe. Once a year, remove small plugs of earth to allow air and water to aerate the grass roots.
- Invite a few weeds and insects into you garden. Think of you lawn as a small piece of nature where pests have their place. Often, nature provides its own pest control in the form of birds or other insects that feed on the insects we consider nuisances.
- Use manual tools. Tools that don't require electric or gasoline engines are especially handy for small yards or small jobs. There are hand tools available that will meet a wide variety of lawn and garden needs, like lightweight, quiet, easy-to-use reel push mowers that generate no emissions.
For more information see:
If you decide that the best solution to your pest problem is a pesticide, follow these tips when selecting and using a garden product:
- Identify the pest problem
- Find the product that solves the problem
- Buy the right amount for your needs
- Read the label carefully and use the product the right way
- Pay attention to warnings
- Prevent harm to the environment -- never pour lawn and garden products down a drain
For more information about:
In and around the house
If you are going to be doing some spring cleaning, take a look around your house for items that present environmental hazards when they are improperly disposed of. Leftover household products that contain corrosive, toxic, ignitable or reactive ingredients are considered to be "household hazardous waste" or "HHW." Products that contain potentially hazardous ingredients, such as paints, cleaners, oils, batteries and pesticides, require special care when you dispose of them. For more information, go to http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/muncpl/hhw.htm.
You can recycle all year long but in the spring there are special things that you can do in your yard such as composting. To learn more see http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/reduce/catbook/tip10.htm.
To learn how you can reduce, reuse and recycle materials and decrease the amount and toxicity of the waste produced in and around your home, go to http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/citizens.htm#home.
Is your home's cooling equipment more than 10 years old? If so, EPA encourages you to have your current system inspected for energy performance by a professional contractor before their busy summer season hits. If it's time for a replacement, be sure to choose equipment that has earned the ENERGY STAR for high efficiency. If it's not yet time to replace, have your contractor perform routine annual maintenance on your system to make sure it will efficiently and comfortably carry you through the hot summer months without costing you more than necessary on your energy bills. Learn more at http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_consumer_cool_change.
This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.