Thank you to Catriona Tudor Erler for featuring The Great Healthy Yard Project in her wonderful article “Healthy garden, healthy lake, healthier you,” in the Smith Mountain Laker Magazine. Ms. Erler explains how their local Virginia geology causes anything that is applied to your lawn to very quickly seep into the lake or local well water. She then gives great tips to care for your yard without chemicals so they don’t wind up in the water. And her pictures (like the one here) are beautiful!!
We are happily into April rain season, and my garden and lawn are waking up. My vegetable seedlings are inside until Mother’s Day because of the possibility of frost, but my onions and garlic are already several inches high, and parsley is sprouting up after having self seeded last season. Daffodils are coming up, and while not native take little care and are beautiful.
April rains wash everything from our yards into nearby streams, lakes, and rivers, or down into our underground aquifers. As we all go back into our gardens we can renew our dedication to protecting our water quality by focusing on soil and plant health and avoiding synthetic chemicals in our yards.
This year my husband and I are embarking on a renovation of our garden with native plants, which is really exciting. So far still in the planning stage, we are chomping at the bit to pull out the boxwood in front of our house. We have been fortunate (so far) not to be struck by boxwood blight. Blight causes rapid defoliation and is very contagious. But we get breakage from heavy snow and ice and I am not good at protecting our boxwood with burlap or running out and clearing all of the branches. We have a lot of boxwood and I just don’t want to spend that much time any more. Don’t misunderstand, there is much that I love about boxwood. I love the structure, and I love that they are the one thing deer don’t touch. I have used them to enclose native plants that can still look pretty even when left to be wildly unruly because of the framing boxwood. But I will be very happy to have a change. The focus on native plants is exciting to us, both because it will support our birds and insects, but also because it will have an updated and very American look.
The first task here this spring is our turf. As a cool weather crop, it is very happy even though there was snow on the ground only a week or two ago. I overseeded with grass seed to outcompete weed seeds that germinate in the spring. I also sent out soil tests.
We also had an area between our riding ring fence and our deer fence that is sloped and became overwhelmed by invasive weeds. Before everything started growing again my husband cut these back. We are now trying to decide weather we will cover the area with tarps for a year or try to seed it and keep cutting back the weeds.
Staying one step ahead often precludes problems serious enough to make us even want to use chemicals.
– Think about overseeding your lawn to outcompete weed seeds.
– Send a soil test if you are having problems or if you haven’t done one in a long time to head off problems.
– If your soil test shows that you need to replace a nutrient in your soil, remember that organic supplements need active soil bacteria to work well, so wait until it is at least 65 degrees at night to apply.
Thank you to Westchester County Legislator Francis Corcoran and Rob Astorino, Westchester County Executive, for awarding The Great Healthy Yard Project the Westchester County Soil and Water Conservation Award. Hopefully this will make more people aware of the project and informed that the choices they make in their yards can make a big difference in our water quality. This is so important in Westchester NY where the northern part of the county stewards the New York City Croton Watershed, and the southern part of the County stewards the Long Island Sound Watershed. Much of the county is also in the watershed for the Hudson River. Not using synthetic chemicals on our yards and not disposing of pharmaceuticals down the drain keeps these chemicals our of our waterways, out of our drinking water, and out of our fish.
Thank you Audubon NY for the wonderful review of The Great Healthy Yard Project! The same things that harm birds harm our children and ourselves, so protecting our birds is also protecting our families. First step: stop using synthetic pesticides, weedkillers and fertilizers in your yard and garden so they don’t wind up on your children or pets or in your drinking water. Next step, try Audubon’s native plant data base to help you choose native plants that will attract birds in your area to your yard and nourish them. These native plants don’t need chemicals to thrive.
And since water is a shared resource it is so important to get your friends and neighbors to stop using chemicals and start using native plants, too.
The EPA has scheduled public meetings about updating its classification of the carcinogenic potential (no mention of endocrine disruption) of glyphosate for October 18th to 21st in Washington DC.
2002 was the first time the US Geologic Survey looked for glyphosate and its biologically active breakdown product AMPA in streams. Glyphosate was found in 36% of streams tested and AMPA was found in 69%. But this is not our only exposure to this herbicide. It is everywhere.
Tests in 2014 by scientists from Boston University and Abraxis labs found that 45% of samples of organic honey and 62% of conventional honey had glyphosate. Glyphosate isn’t used on beehives or honey. It gets into honey because bees forage in areas where it has been used.
An article in the Huffington Post by Carey Gillam reveals that the FDA was pressured into testing food for glyphosate this year. He showed emails that it has had trouble locating honey without glyphosate that is introduced by the bees, not the bee keepers. He said both the FDA and USDA have found glyphosate widely distributed in basic foods and even processed foods.
It is not just bees. Studies in Germany found glyphosate in the blood of most people tested.
While the EPA has not come to a final decision on the classification of glyphosate, in a paper they released September 12th they said they do not believe glyphosate is carcinogenic in amounts that people are exposed to. This position differs from the International Agency for Research on Cancer and considers it a probable carcinogen.
While industry can affect regulation, we can all use common sense in our backyards and stop using glyphosate and other synthetic chemicals that we know can harm us, especially because there are other good choices.
Mid Atlantic states are seeing the worst of rising sea levels because the Gulf Stream is shifting northward bringing higher temperatures and higher sea levels. The rising ocean water is progressing inland and killing trees that line the coasts, leaving standing dead forests according to Climate Central. This includes cedars dying along the Bass River in New Jersey and marshes overtaking forests on Virginia’s Goodwin Island. As these trees die and salt water encroaches on fresh water marshes we loose habitat for birds and forest animals. We also loose the carbon capturing and water filtering the trees would provide.
This is a good reason to plant more trees in our backyards, schools, and streets. Especially native trees that support our birds and wildlife.
To find trees native to your area use the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Native Plant data base.
22 species of birds have lost half their population in 40 years and are predicted to loose another half in the next 40
Today Partners in Flight released their 2016 Landlord Conservation Plan.150 partner organizations including the National Audubon Society worked on this project. The thrust of the project is that climate change, habitat destruction, and environmental degradation have brought us to a tipping point. Without these problems they estimate we would have 1.5 billion more birds in the skies. But the report is not doom and gloom, it is a call to action. “We know that when we use the best science to develop conservation plans, and commit to the implementation of those plans, we can make a difference. Thriving populations of Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, and Wild Turkeys today are a testament to what we can do if we work together.”
How we take care of our yards matters a lot to our water quality, our families health, and our birds. They are more vulnerable, but what is bad for them is bad for us. It is easy for us to make a big difference if we all work together. Pledge to take care of your yard without synthetic pesticides, weedkillers, and fertilizers, and not to flush pharmaceuticals down the drain. Protect our children and our birds. And get your friends and neighbors to pledge, too.
Congratulations to Millbrook Garden Club. Led by their Conservation Chair Lea Cornell they have pledged close to 3,000 acres. They are leaders in their community and in their region, protecting the drinking water for many, many families. Thank you MGC!
In the photo: wearing MGC aprons; Maureen Bateman, Lea Cornell and Claire Reid with a newly pledged Millbrook resident and bookstore owner Kira Wizner.
See my oped in the Journal News.
Exposure to water with Blue Green algae has been linked to long term neurologic disorders that don’t show up for years, such a ALS and Alzheimers. So it is important to prevent algae from growing rampant by not using synthetic fertilizers on our yards and gardens because they wash into our waterways. Even certified organic supplements should only be used when they are replacing a nutrient that is lacking. Simple measures with big long term health benefits for our families.
So thrilled to receive the EPA’s Environmental Champion Award on Friday in New York City. The award was presented by EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enke.
Thank you for the recognition, I hope it get’s more people to stop using chemicals on their yards and disposing of drugs down the drain. Such a simple thing to do to make such a vast improvement in our drinking water!