Lawn service needs respect for ecology

Garden Q&A

November 03, 1996

I'd like to start using a lawn service but am concerned about the use of pesticides. I want to be environmentally correct. What advice can you offer?

Before contracting with any lawn service, ask for references. Interview representatives from several companies. The company you choose should demonstrate beforehand that it understands and follows the principles of integrated pest management (IPM), which means it will only spray when a particular pest threatens the health and long-term survival of your lawn and cannot be controlled by any other means.

After you have a contract, a company field person should show you clear evidence of a problem (insect, disease or weed) and explain why it requires a pesticide application. You can get information on particular pesticides from your lawn service, from books or from the University of Maryland's Cooperative Extension service (see telephone number at the end of this column).

I've got tons of leaves in my yard. I feel guilty sending them to the landfill. What can I do with them in my own landscape?

You can easily reduce the volume of your leaves by shredding them with a lawn mower, leaf shredder or string trimmer. They can then be added to a compost pile; spread out like mulch over perennial, annual and vegetable beds, and around trees and shrubs; used to cover bare soil; or bagged and saved for such uses next spring. If very finely shredded, the leaves can be spread over your lawn, up to half an inch deep. Used this way, they will break down and add organic matter and nutrients to the lawn.

Two of my rowhouse neighbors are anti-composting, so I have had to hide my new compost bin in a corner of my yard. But now I have started smelling some bad odors from the pile. Should I throw some lime on it? What's causing the odors?

Lime will help filter some of the unpleasant odors, but it won't solve your problem. Pull the pile completely apart and start over. You probably have too many high-moisture, high-nitrogen ingredients in the pile, such as grass clippings and soft plant parts. Rebuild the pile with more dry, high-carbon materials, such as fallen leaves, straw or shredded newspaper. An equal mixture of green and brown ingredients is ideal.

Excessive rainfall can also cause a pile to turn soggy and malodorous. Try keeping your bin covered.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these questions or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at (800) 342-2507.

Checklist

Carefully inspect the root system, trunk and branches of discounted trees before making a purchase. Do not buy stock that has few roots, brown or dead-looking roots or roots with galls (small, raised bumps). All are signs of an unhealthy tree.

Winterize your lawn mower by sharpening the blade, changing the oil, running the gas out completely and lubricating the spark-plug hole with a few drops of oil.

Keep trees and shrubs well watered during periods of drought. This is especially important for newly planted material.

Keep last year's poinsettias in complete darkness for 14 to 15 hours each day between now and Thanksgiving to force them into bloom for the Christmas season.

Pub Date: 11/03/96

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