Tag Archives: lawns & gardens

VICTORY! EPA Cancels 12 Bee-Killing Pesticides

Anyone who loves the planet, the bees and food (isn?t that just about everyone?) will be celebrating thanks to the recent victory against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That?s because, on May 20, 2019, the EPA announced its final notices for the registration of 12 neonicotinoid pesticides.

Known as neonics, this group of pesticides has been the bane of most environmentalists? existences for many years. They have long been known for destroying bee populations, building up in groundwater, killing frogs, worms, birds and fish. Largely used in agricultural applications such as soil treatments, seed treatments, commercial turf products, neonics have also been used on trees, animal insect treatments and even domestic lawn products.

The Center for Food Safety, Sierra Club, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Environmental Health, Pesticide Action Network and four commercial beekeepers: Steve Ellis, Jim Doan, Tom Theobald and Bill Rhodes banded together to initiate litigation against the EPA starting in March 2013. The environmentalists, food safety organizations and beekeepers spent the last 6 years holding the EPA accountable for its lack of diligence in preventing or addressing bee Colony Collapse Disorder and to demand that the EPA protect livelihoods, rural economies and the environment.

Monday?s announcement that the EPA is cancelling the registration of 12 neonicotinoid that are known to kill bees and endangered species is part of the settlement the EPA accepted as part of the litigation process.

Two years ago, a federal court ruled that the EPA systemically violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA)?a critical wildlife protection law, after noting that the government agency had unlawfully issued 59 pesticide registrations between 2007 and 2012 for a wide range of agricultural, landscaping and ornamental uses. Seeds coated with neonics are used on over 150 million acres of American soy, corn, cotton and other crops.

According to the Center for Food Safety, neonics are chemically-related to nicotine and interfere with the nervous system of insects, causing tremors, paralysis and death even when they are administered at extremely low doses. Unlike other pesticides, neonics become dispersed throughout plants, causing the entire plant to become toxic. When bees or other pollinators are exposed to the chemicals through the pollen, nectar, dust or even dew droplets on the plants, they suffer nervous system damage and ultimately death.

Neonics were heavily used in the mid-2000s, around the same time beekeepers noted vast colony losses of bees.

Regulatory agencies in the United States, Canada and many other countries have been lax on their legislation which currently allows the sale and use of these destructive products. According to the Lori Ann Burd, the director at the Center for Biological Diversity, the EPA had actually considered increasing the use of neonicotinoids.

In Canada, The David Suzuki Foundation, Friends of the Earth (Canada), Ontario Nature and The Wilderness Committee filed a lawsuit against the Canadian federal government for allowing the use of two common neonic pesticides that had already been banned in the European Union. Sadly, the Canadian case had a different outcome as the case was dismissed by the Canadian federal court for a supposed lack of merit earlier this month.

According to the David Suzuki Foundation, there is already extensive scientific evidence (over 1100 studies) of neonicotinoid-caused destruction to the environment, which includes:

  1. Becoming embedded into seeds that are planted
  2. Treated seeds are eaten by birds
  3. The dust from the seeds contaminates the air during planting
  4. Pollen and nectar eaten by bees is contaminated
  5. The insecticides wash into waterways like streams, rivers and oceans
  6. The soil is contaminated from year-after-year buildup

Of course, it is great news that the EPA has been forced to finally do the right thing. After all, without bees to pollinate food plants, our entire food supply is threatened.

Additionally, neonic exposures have been linked to human fatalities, developmental and neurological abnormalities, anencephaly, autism spectrum disorder, memory loss, liver cancer and tremors. Neonics have been found to affect receptors in the body that are critical to brain function, memory, cognition and behavior.

Related Stories:

7 Essential Oils for Arthritis
5 Essential Oils for Better Digestion
8 Essential Oils to Help with Emotional Healing

Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM shares her food growing, cooking, preserving, and other food self-sufficiency adventures at FoodHouseProject.com. She is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World?s Healthiest News and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your Life. Follow her work.


VICTORY! EPA Cancels 12 Bee-Killing Pesticides

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9 of the Best Herbs to Grow in Containers

Do you love fresh herbs but lack the space to grow them in a garden? That’s what container gardens are for. Several varieties of herbs can thrive in containers?even indoors on a sunny windowsill.

Here are nine herbs suitable for container gardens, as well as some helpful container gardening tips.

1. Basil

Credit: OlgaMiltsova/Getty Images

Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

If you cook up a lot of Italian dishes, a basil plant is a must. Basil prefers full sun and moist, well-draining soil, but you usually can get away with keeping it in a little shade if you must. A sunny windowsill indoors also can work.

In the summer months, you might see white flowers on your basil that ultimately will produce woody stems and less flavorful leaves. “Snip away flowering stems as soon as you spot them to promote new, tasty foliage,” according to the Better Homes & Gardens plant encyclopedia.

Harvest basil by picking as many individual leaves as you need or clipping sprigs and storing them in water at room temperature, like cut flowers.

2. Chives

Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

Chives are generally a low-maintenance herb ideal for beginning gardeners.

“Chives grow best in full sun and well-drained soil,” according to Better Homes & Gardens. “They tolerate part shade well and will grow and blossom when they receive at least 6 hours of bright, direct light.” They also self-seed and tolerate transplanting particularly well, making it easy to propagate your plant.

Harvest chives by snipping stems near the soil as needed to add a fresh, onion-like flavor to dishes.

3. Lavender

Light requirements: full sun

Lavender isn’t always easy to grow indoors because of its sun requirements, but it can flourish in an outdoor container garden, as long as you use well-draining soil.

“Every part of the plant is infused with aromatic oil, making this a choice herb to place along pathways or near outdoor seating areas so you can savor the fragrance,” Better Homes & Gardens says.

You can cut entire flower stems to dry for use in recipes or aromatherapy.

4. Mint

Credit: Mableen/Getty Images

Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

Mint seems like it can manage to grow practically anywhere and everywhere. And that’s partially why growing it in a container is ideal: It won’t spread to places where you don’t want it.

“For the most productive plants with the most flavor, plant mint in soil rich in organic matter and provide consistent moisture,” according to Better Homes & Gardens. “Although many varieties tolerate drought, they won’t grow as well or have as good a flavor.”

Harvest mint in the morning before the sun has had a chance to dry the leaves. You can either pick leaves as needed or cut back stems to promote a fuller plant.

5. Oregano

Light requirements: full sun

Like lavender, oregano also requires a lot of light and would prefer to be in a sunny outdoor container garden. Plus, good drainage is a must.

Try to harvest oregano frequently to prevent the plant from flowering, which diminishes its flavor and produces woody stems. That might mean cutting some to dry for later use. “To dry a large amount of oregano, cut stems back to 3 inches (before flower buds open); cut again in the same way in late summer,” Better Homes & Gardens says. “Dry the stems by bundling them together and hanging them upside down in a dark place with good air circulation.”

6. Parsley

Light requirements: full sun

Parsley also makes a great addition to outdoor container gardens, preferring sun and rich, moist soil. “Place the container gardens on a patio or deck where they receive at least eight hours of bright sunlight a day,” Better Homes & Gardens says.

When harvesting, cut outer stems about an inch above the soil. Use parsley fresh, wrap the stems in a damp paper towel and refrigerate for up to a month or dry the leaves for later use.

7. Sage

Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

Sage is a tough herb that can tolerate drought and likes well-draining soil. This makes the plant generally low-maintenance?though adequate watering and ample sunlight make for tastier foliage.

Pick leaves as you need them, or take stems for drying, cutting the top six to eight inches of growth. Plus, don’t hesitate to let the plant bloom if you’re not overly concerned about harvesting top-notch leaves. “Sage’s light blue flowers and gray/green foliage help it look at home in any flower border,” Better Homes & Gardens says.

8. Tarragon

Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

If French cooking is your thing, try growing your very own tarragon plant. “With a sunny window and rich soil, you can raise French tarragon indoors,” according to Better Homes & Gardens. “If light isn’t strong enough, stems will likely sprawl and leaf flavor will diminish, but you’ll still be able to savor the licorice taste.”

Cut the leaves as needed ? preferably regularly to encourage more growth. And if you’re adding fresh tarragon to hot dishes, do so right before serving, as heat can lessen its flavor.

9. Thyme

Credit: LightFieldStudios/Getty Images

Light requirements: full sun

Thyme can make a great groundcover in your garden that actually deters some pests. But it also grows effectively in containers, as long as it gets enough sun.

Because the herb is native to Mediterranean areas with poor, rocky soil, it prefers to be in a well-draining container?and doesn’t require much care from you. Just prune it to encourage new growth, taking bunches to dry if you don’t need it fresh.

Container Gardening Tips

Credit: grandriver/Getty Images

Growing herbs in containers is typically an easy process, as long as you get a few major components right. Here are five container gardening tips from MiracleGro.

1. Harness the sun.

“In general, choose a spot that receives six or more hours of sun, except in the very warmest regions, where herbs appreciate afternoon shade,” MiracleGro says.

Be aware of each plant’s light requirements, and place them accordingly. A perk of container gardening is it allows you to shift plants throughout the day to more (or less) sunny spots.

2. Provide proper pots and soil.

Many herbs prefer well-draining soil, which also means your pot needs plenty of drainage holes.

“Containers must be large enough to contain the herb’s root system and keep the plant itself upright,” according to MiracleGro. “A good rule of thumb is to choose a container that’s at least one-third as tall as the final height of the herb listed on the plant tag or seed packet.”

3. Water and feed as needed.

Although?some herbs prefer drier conditions, you still should keep a regular watering schedule. Follow instructions for individual plant varieties, but in general water when the top inch of soil is dry.

Likewise, some herbs need feeding to continue producing quality foliage. Check the plant’s care instructions to maximize your harvest.

4. Don’t fall in love with the flowers.

The flowers that bloom on herbs are great for attracting pollinators and other animals to your garden. But a flowering plant usually means less tasty foliage for you.

To preserve your herbs’ culinary quality, pinch off blossoms as you see them?though in some cases you actually can use the flowers in your dishes.

5. Learn the best harvesting methods.

It’s important to know how to harvest your herbs to maintain healthy growth. “When you harvest leaves on herbs that grow in clumps (like chives, lemongrass, cilantro, or parsley), pick outer leaves first, working your way toward the center of the plant,” MiracleGro says. “For herbs that have an upright stem with a growing point, like mint, stevia, basil, or oregano, snip individual branches.”

With just a little gardening know-how, you’ll always have fresh herbs at your fingertips.

Main image credit: MelanieMaier/Getty Images

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.


9 of the Best Herbs to Grow in Containers

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7 Creative Ways to Preserve & Enjoy Homegrown Herbs

You had a great year in your herb patch and now you have a lush crop of herbs waiting to be harvested. Don?t know where to start? Check out some of the ideas below on how to use and preserve your herbs so you can enjoy your harvest all winter.

1. Freezing

You can freeze herbs in a few different ways. One of the easiest ways is to simply chop up your fresh herbs, pack them into freezer bags and put the bags directly in your freezer. When you?re packing them, make sure you squeeze out as much air as possible to prevent oxidation and freezer burn. Also, use small freezer bags if you?ll only need small amounts at a time for cooking.

Another convenient option is to freeze your herbs in ice cube trays with water. You can either blend your herbs with water in a food processor or blender, then put the mix into ice cube trays. You can also chop fresh herbs, pack them into ice cube trays, then fill the remaining space in the trays with water. Once the trays are frozen, take out the cubes and store them in bags to save freezer space.

2. Herbed Oil and Butter

Instead of using water as a base in your ice cube trays, you can also combine fresh herbs with olive or coconut oil. You can use herbed oil cubes directly in dishes. You can also use them as a vegan herbed butter substitute by taking the frozen cubes and spreading them on bread while the oil is still solid.

If you?d like to make a traditional herbed butter, you can mix freshly chopped herbs with some softened butter, roll the butter into a log, wrap it in greaseproof paper, then twist the ends closed. Herbed butter will last in the fridge for about two weeks and in the freezer for up to six months.

3. Drying

Herbs can be easily air dried or dried in a dehydrator. To air dry, it?s easiest to hang your herbs in small bunches in a warm, well-ventilated area. The key is to give them lots of space and air movement to prevent any mildew from starting. Keeping your herbs indoors or under cover will prevent any dew or rain from reaching them.

Using a dehydrator can speed up the process. You can buy a few different types of commercial dehydrators, or you can try making a dehydrator of your own. Whichever type of dehydrator you try, always keep it at a low heat when drying herbs. Too high of a heat can detract from their flavor.

To store dried herbs, make sure whatever container you use is completely air tight. If air can leak in, so can humidity, which can spoil your herbs.

4. Pesto

Pesto is traditionally made with basil, but many other herbs can also make a delicious pesto. And prepared pesto can be easily frozen in jars for storage. The National Center for Home Food Preservation does not recommend canning pesto as it?s typically prepared with raw, fresh herbs in oil, which would not can safely.

Need a few recipe ideas? Try some of these unique pesto blends.

An Easy Twist on Basil Pesto
Parsley Pesto with Walnuts Pasta
Oil-Free Sage and Walnut Pesto
Basil, Lime and Pumpkin Seed Pesto
Pea, Pistachio and Mint Pesto
Leftover Herb Pesto

Related: 10 Things You Can Do with a Jar of Pesto

5. Herb-Infused Vinegar and Oil

Making your own herb-infused vinegar and oil is not as difficult as it may sound. And both are extremely tasty additions to salads, sauces, dips or main dishes.

What?s Cooking America has excellent guidelines on how to make your own herbed vinegar. It can last from 6 to 8 months when stored properly.

Herbed oil is not as acidic as vinegar and does not last as long. Homemade herbed oils should be used within two months if kept in the fridge, or up to six months if frozen. Check out The Spruce?s guidelines on how to make your own herbed oil.

6. Fermented Herbs

You may have tried fermenting your own sauerkraut or dill pickles, but did you know you can also ferment fresh herbs? It can be a tasty way to preserve your herbs and get beneficial probiotics while you?re at it. You can use almost any herb and experiment with different blends. Joybilee Farm has detailed instructions on how to ferment your own herbs. You can keep your ferments in the fridge for up to 6 months.

7. Salt Preserving

A traditional method for preserving fresh foods is to mix them with salt. This can also be done with fresh herbs. It works particularly well with soft, leafy herbs that often lose some flavor when dried, such as cilantro, basil, parsley or chives. Kitchen Stewardship has a great overview on how to salt preserve your herbs.

Another similar option is to create a herb finishing salt. This is a herb-flavored salt that doesn?t use as many herbs, but it can make a delicious addition to a dish. Check out Garden Therapy?s recipe for making an herb finishing salt.

Related on Care2

8 Lesser-Known Medicinal Herbs You Should Add to Your Garden
7 Health Benefits of Horseradish
8 Easy Vegetables & Herbs to Grow Indoors

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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7 Creative Ways to Preserve & Enjoy Homegrown Herbs

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Watering Guide for Summer Vegetables

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Watering Guide for Summer Vegetables

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9 Mistakes to Avoid When Planting a New Vegetable Garden

Growing your own vegetables is an excellent way to have an abundance of fresh, organic produce right outside your door. But it can take some effort to reach that point.

Whether you?re just starting your growing season, or troubleshooting an existing garden, avoiding the following mistakes will help get your garden on the right path to a successful harvest.

Mistake #1: Improper watering.

Water is important for your vegetable plants to flourish and develop your crop. But too much or too little water can be fatal.

A general rule is to give your veggies 1 inch of water per week. You can measure how much they?re getting by putting a rain gauge or a bucket in your veggie patch.

Although, this rule doesn?t take into account your local soil and climatic conditions. Check these guidelines to figure out how much water your plants actually need.

Mistake #2: Putting plants in the wrong place.

The amount of sun or shade on your veggie plants can make a big difference in their health.

But if you have limited space, it can be tempting to try and fit plants in wherever you can, regardless of how much sun they?re getting. Plants like lettuce and cabbages will be fine in those shady corners of your garden. Whereas, plants like tomatoes and squash will suffer.

Read the seed packages or labels of your vegetable seedlings to find out how much sun they need. And if you don?t have a good place for a certain variety, move on and find one that will thrive in the space you have.

Mistake #3: Choosing the wrong plants for your climate zone.

Most seed packages or plant labels will tell you what are called the days to maturity, or how long it takes to grow from a seedling to a mature vegetable crop.

This is an important number because many lower hardiness zones have a limited number of frost-free days for vegetables to grow. Longer-season vegetables, such as sweet potatoes or tomatoes, might not have enough time to mature before frost hits.

The United States Department of Agriculture has an excellent interactive tool to find out your local hardiness zone. Then you can look up the typical number of frost-free days for your hardiness zone.

Mistake #4: Waiting too long to weed.

It can be easy to put off mundane tasks like weeding, but this is one of the most important things you can do to support your veggies. Weeds left to get too big compete with your vegetable plants for water, nutrients and sunshine.

It?s best to pull out or lightly till weed seedlings as soon as you see them. You can either add them to your compost pile or leave them on the soil surface as a mulch.

Mistake #5: Ignoring your soil.

Vegetables get their nutrients directly from the soil. Adding organic matter is the best way to create healthy, fertile soil. It also improves the texture of soil and makes it easier to work with.

Mix some organic matter into your soil before you plant anything. You can buy commercially prepared bags of compost to mix in, or make your own compost.

You can also add organic mulches on top of your soil, such as grass clippings, shredded leaves or a living groundcover. These will provide ongoing nutrients as they break down over time.

Related: Which Type of Mulch is Best for Your Garden?

Mistake #6: Not rotating crops.

Certain vegetable diseases live in the soil, such as mosaic viruses. These viruses often specialize in one type of vegetable, such as cucumbers or beans. One of the best ways to rid your soil of a mosaic virus is to rotate your crops. If the virus doesn?t have a host plant for a few years, it will often die out.

Also, every vegetable needs different types of nutrients. Growing one vegetable in the same spot every year will deplete the area of the same nutrients. Whereas, rotating your crops will give all your veggies an opportunity to get the nutrients they need.

Karen?s Garden Tips has a good overview of how to rotate your vegetable crops.

Mistake #7: Spacing plants improperly.

Mature vegetable plants should gently touch each other and leave no soil visible. This helps retain moisture in the soil while giving the vegetables enough space to develop.

Vegetables planted too close together may have poor yields and an increased risk of pests and diseases because of reduced air circulation. On the other hand, wide spacing between plants can leave too much exposed soil, which increases evaporation and watering needs as well as potential sun scald.

To avoid these issues, refer to your seed packages or plant labels for their recommended spacing.

Mistake #8: Planting at the wrong time.

Deciding when to plant your seedlings or seeds can be challenging.

When you plant seedlings outside in the spring, you need to wait until the frost risk has passed, but not so long that your seedlings start to outgrow their pots. And if you grow your own seedlings from seed, you often need to start them months before your last frost date.

Directly planting seeds in your garden is also finicky. If they go into the ground too early, they could get hit by frost when they sprout. But planting them too late may not leave enough time for the vegetables to mature before harvest.

This is another area where finding out the days to maturity is helpful.

Mistake #9: Planting the wrong amount.

Overproduction or underproduction of vegetables are problems even well-seasoned gardeners often face.

In the planting frenzy of spring, it?s easy to plant what seems like just a bit extra to make sure you have enough. Those few extra plants can produce way more than you expected, which only benefits your friends and neighbors as they receive your excess veggies.

Planting conservatively can also backfire if you lose the few plants you started to pests. To prevent this, keep in mind your final use for your vegetables. Are you planning on preserving them for winter, or simply using them fresh? This can help you decide exactly the right amount to grow.

And if you don?t like a certain vegetable, any amount is too much. Vegetables like zucchini are often recommended for new gardeners because they?re easy to grow. But if you don?t like zucchini, it?s alright to say no.

Do You Have to Stake or Cage Tomatoes?
Do Marigolds Really Repel Garden Pests?
12 Ways to Get Rid of Aggressive Weeds Without Resorting to Roundup

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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9 Mistakes to Avoid When Planting a New Vegetable Garden

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11 Things to Declutter From Your Yard

“Declutter,” “tidy up,” and “get rid of stuff” are mantras that many modern homeowners live by. But in your passion to organize your house (and your life), don’t neglect that large expanse of outdoor real estate ? your yard. Make it beautiful, livable, and safe with these yard cleanup tips.

Prepare For Your Yard Clean Up

Find out facts. Check out essential information about yard waste removal, including municipal pickup dates and times, local recycling center location, and bylaws related to burning garden debris.

Schedule. Choose a time slot when you’ll be able to devote a stretch of several hours to your yard work, like a weekend morning (not too early ? you don’t want to disturb your neighbors or risk the wrath of your HOA).

Gather equipment. Here’s a recommended list, depending on the size and condition of your property. Some tools can be rented.

Work gloves for handling broken glass and prickly plants
Extra-large trash bags
Garden tools, such as a mulching mower, leaf blower, rake, branch lopper, pruning shears, shovel, trowel.

Now Get Rid Of These 11 Things

  1. Trash. Clearing out obvious trash like food wrappers and dog poop as your first yard clean up task will give you a pleasant sense of accomplishment.
  2. Dangerous trees or branches. An unsound tree or limb ? whether dead, damaged, diseased, or infested ? poses a danger to people, animals, plants, and property. Trimming branches is often a feasible DIY project, but large jobs like tree removal should be tackled by a landscape professional.
  3. Weeds. Weeds are unsightly and a major curb appeal killer. In addition, these unwanted plants tend to be incredibly hardy, fast growing, and space hogging. Stop them before they choke out your grass, flowers, or vegetable garden.
  4. Stuff that attracts bugs. Pick up rotting fruit and vegetables from your garden. Eliminate potential mosquito breeding grounds by emptying standing water — from roof gutters and disused birdbaths. Stack firewood (a favorite hiding place for pests) up off the ground, away from trees or your house.
  5. Fallen leaves. Go over fallen leaves with a mulching mower; use the mulch you produce to protect your tree trunks, lawn, and garden beds. If you’ve got more than you can reasonably handle, rake them to the curb and pack them for pickup.
  6. Garden clutter. Tidy your garden beds. Remove any plant that didn’t work — or that you just dislike — to make space for new plantings. Give live plants to neighbors or members of your garden club. Compost dead plants, unless they’re diseased. In that case, burn or bag so they won’t infect future plantings.
  7. That mess of tools. Repair or recycle broken implements. Keep usable tools in good shape by cleaning (disinfecting, too, if they’ve been in contact with sick plants) and oiling. Then put them away neatly in your garden shed ? that’s what it’s there for!
  8. Extra plant pots. Scoop up any clay pots you’re not currently using and get them inside before they’re cracked by winter’s cold. Are you saving the thin plastic pots that nursery plants came in, hoping you’ll find a use for them? Cut the clutter by freecycling or, in some locations, recycling.
  9. Outgrown toys. Once your kids have grown taller than you, hang on to a few cast-off Legos or teddy bears if you must ? but outdoor swing sets, climbing frames, and water slides take up substantial space in your yard. If they’re in good enough shape, sell or donate.
  10. Unsafe fence or railing. As part of your yard cleanup, check fences and railings. A decayed or shaky rail or post is an accident waiting to happen, especially on an elevated deck or around a swimming pool. Get any of these safety hazards replaced pronto.
  11. Algae. On the side of your deck, it’s just ugly, but on a garden path or steps, algae growth can be slippery and downright dangerous. Remove by scrubbing small spots or pressure washing larger ones (and consider improving drainage in this area, to control the problem in future).

By Laura Firszt,?Networx.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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11 Things to Declutter From Your Yard

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How to Control All Types of Garden Pests Without Using Chemicals

Each year, homes in the United States apply approximately 171 million pounds of pesticides on gardens and lawns. You can avoid many of these toxic chemicals by using natural pest control methods instead. Taking a preventative approach will also save you time and money in the long run.

For all pests, the best defense is vigorous, healthy plants. Make sure your plants have plenty of water, nutrients, sunshine and attention. You can also boost beneficial microorganisms in your soil by applying compost tea, which is shown to help reduce damage from insects and diseases.

Related: How & Why to Make Compost Tea

These are some easy and effective ways to control common garden pests.

Bugs and Insects

Insect pests can seem to move into your garden overnight. Preventing them from getting started in the first place is especially important.

Get to know your bugs. If youre not sure who youre dealing with, catch a few bugs in a clear plastic bag and take them to your local garden center for identification. You can plan the best defense once you know your enemy.
Grow organically. Many broad-spectrum insecticides will kill beneficial insects as well as the bad ones. Keeping your yard chemical-free will encourage good populations of predatory bugs.
Install row covers. A row cover is a cloth thats hung over a garden bed like a tent. It protects the plants underneath from flying insects. This is particularly helpful for plants in the cabbage family to protect against pests like cabbage moths and loopers.
Use companion plants. Planting certain plants together has been shown to help deter pests. Check out some of the best companion planting pairs.
Choose appropriate plants. Select plants that will flourish in your local conditions. Plants in wrong locations will become stressed and attract pests. Also try planting varieties that are resistant to pests in your area.
Wash your plants. If you see unwanted visitors, washing them off with your hose or other water sprayer can be surprisingly effective.
Plant decoys. You can outsmart pests by growing plants theyll eat instead of your crops. For example, if you plant nasturtiums near your vegetables, aphids will often attack the nasturtiums and leave your other plants alone.

Related: 5 Simple Pest Remedies for the Garden

Slugs and Snails

These soft-bodied mollusks love fresh and succulent plant parts, especially leaves and young seedlings. You can do a lot to keep them out of your prized vegetables.

Remove them by hand. Wear an old pair of gloves while you do this, or use tongs or chopsticks. Theyll be covered in slime by the time youre done, so use something disposable. After youre done, you can manually squish your invaders, drown them in a bucket of salt water or throw them on the road.
Put out beer traps. For some reason, slugs and snails are attracted to the smell of beer. You can use this to your advantage. Slug Off has a great description of how to make your own slug beer trap.
Use a lure. A lure is any object that slugs and snails will crawl under to seek shelter from the days sun. You can then collect and dispose of them each day. You can use anything as a lure, such as cabbage leaves, an overturned pot, a plate or a plank of wood.
Get some ducks. You may not think of ducks as vicious predators, but they love eating slugs. Theyll keep your slug population in check.
Spread scratchy materials. Slugs and snails are deterred by rough materials like sandpaper, diatomaceous earth, crushed eggshells or wood ashes, because theyre hard to slither across. Spread these around plants you want to protect or around the edges of garden beds as a barrier.

Related: 16 Natural Ways to Defeat Garden Slugs

Fungal Diseases

Keeping your plants clean and dry is the key for preventing fungal diseases like powdery mildew, leaf spot, rusts and blights. This will prevent their spores from spreading.

Water plants in the morning. Any excess water on your plants can evaporate during the day. Watering at the soil level is also helpful because it keeps water off the leaves altogether.
Give your plants space. Good air flow in between plants will prevent moisture buildup and potential fungal problems, especially for vegetables and other closely-planted annuals. Also weed regularly to keep areas open.
Rotate your vegetable crops. Dont plant the same veggies in the same place year after year. This invites soil-borne diseases. Check out the Old Farmers Almanac guide to easy crop rotation.
Remove infected plant debris. If youve had a fungal infection, make sure you remove the affected plants from your property. Dont leave them on the ground or compost them, which could spread fungal spores.
Harvest regularly. Fruit and vegetables left to spoil on the plants will encourage fungal invasion.
Clean your tools. Wash any tools youve used with infected plants or soil. Wash with soap and hot water and dry thoroughly before storing your tools.

Foraging Animals

Deer, rabbits and squirrels can be very cute visitors in your garden, but these and other furry critters can do a lot of damage to your plants. Your best defense is to make your property as uninviting as possible.

Get a cat or a dog. Even if your pet would rather snuggle with you than chase an invading rodent, often their presence is enough to scare away potential four-legged pests.
Keep your yard clean. Garbage, standing water, piles of yard trimmings and other debris can all provide food and homes for visitors.
Put up fencing. The height of your fence depends on the type of animal youre trying to keep out. A one- or two-foot high barrier is fine for rabbits, voles and most other rodents. Whereas, a deer fence often needs to be at least eight or ten feet high. Its also helpful to bury the bottom of your fence at least 6-inches to prevent critters tunneling underneath.
Sprinkle deterrents around your property. Some excellent options are human hair, hot pepper flakes, human or animal urine, kitty litter, blood meal or fabric softener.
Use pungent plants. Garlic, chives, onions, hot peppers, marigolds, sage and yarrow are well-known for their pest-repelling scents.
Startle your visitors. Many garden props can scare off animals, such as floodlights or noisemakers triggered by motion sensors, flags waving in the wind, radios playing, hidden fishing lines or water sprinklers.

12 Ways to Get Rid of Aggressive Weeds Without Resorting to Roundup
25+ Beneficial Plants That Ward Off Pests and Protect Your Garden
9 Beneficial Bugs and Insects to Welcome in the Garden

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The Surprising Green Benefit of Living in the City

Were not in the 60s anymore, Toto. Seems young people these days (aka millennials) no longer dream of moving to the country to try their hand at communal living and organic farming. Instead, they are turning to another way to help green the planetcity living. Huh? Well, unless you live entirely off the grid, most folks have to work for a living, and most jobs tend to be located close to urban cores. City dwelling also offer more cultural diversity, educational institutions, art galleries, museums, and nightlife, often within walking distance. And walking, rather than driving, to work or play is one of the greenest lifestyle changes you could make. Learn more.

Save money.

For families living in suburban communities, the cost of transportation comprises 25 percent of total household expenditures, making it the second largest household expense, exceeded only by the cost of housing itself. Compare this figure to thebudget of urban dwellers, where the percentage allotted for transportation drops to only 9 percent.

Save time.

Theres been a trend over the past 40 years toward what theWashington Postdubs the mega commuteran individual who, in order to get to the job every day, faces a long haul of 90 minutes each way. Do the math and youll see that adds up to an annual total of 31.3 days gobbled up traveling to and from work, an activity that many people rank among their least favorite ways to spend time. One simple solution to an admittedly complex problem is to move closer to your workplace.

Save gasoline.

Although electric cars (and the public charging stations they need in order to drive long distances) are becoming available, most people still rely on gasoline to power their automobiles. Gasoline has a number of drawbacks. To start, gas is expensive. Whats more, as a fossil fuel manufactured from crude oil, it is a non-renewable resource. But the most compelling motivation to reduce gasoline use stems from the fact that it contributes heavily to your carbon footprint. Burning a single gallon of gas produces20 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Save the planet.

In recent years, theres been a lot of buzz about taking steps to make homes more energy-efficient:installing energy-saving HVAC systems, replacing worn-out appliances with Energy Star certified models, and sealing and insulating the house exteriors. However, the Environmental Protection Agency advises thatlocation efficiencyis even more important to the health of our environment thanenergy efficiency. By this logic, the most eco-friendly home of all would combine energy-efficient features with a very walkable location.

Think like a millennial.

Millennials (young adults born between the mid-1980s and the early years of the 21stcentury) prefer walking to driving by a whopping 12 percentage points according tosurvey results. When theyre not driving, they like to bike to their destination, whether it be work, shopping, or entertainment. Compared to older age groups, they are much readier to live in attached housing, rather than the traditional single-family detached home in the suburbs, in order to shorten their commuting time.

Check theWalk Score.

If you are planning a move, consult the Walk Score for any property you might want to rent or buy. Based on accessibility to such facilities as schools, grocery shopping, restaurants, cultural activities, and parks, the score is calculated based on an ideal of 100. Anything over 70 rates as very walkable, while 90 plus is considered a walkers paradise. Not surprisingly, homes in cities tend to score highest on the scale.

Push for green spaces.

Some municipal governments are beginning to fund out-of-the-box oases such as green roofs and linear parks. Push your locality to add more and maybe even create your own community vegetable plot or roadside guerilla garden. Urban green spaces improve the air quality, soak up stormwater, and may evenreduce crime ratesin the area. Besides, they provide a pretty view when youre out walking.

By Laura Firszt, Networx.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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9 Beneficial Bugs & Insects to Welcome in the Garden

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The Most Environmentally Friendly Ways to Dispose of Dog Poo

If youre a dog parent, you know that cleaning up after your pup is a must. The big question, though, is how to dispose of your dogs poop. At first, it might sound like a no-brainer. Since poop is completely natural and biodegradable, you probably assume that throwing it in the garbage (usually wrapped in a biodegradable doggie bag) is no big deal. Unfortunately, thats not actually the case. Read on to discover why this tactic isnt great for the environment, and what you should do instead.

The Problem with Biodegrading

The truth is, even completely compostable items do not biodegrade when they are placed in landfills, as theres no oxygen present to kickstart the process. So, neither your dogs droppings nor the biodegradable doggie bag are going to break down completely if theyre relegated to the garbage.

Another issuewhen poop breaks down (if it gets the chance to do so at all), it releases methane gas. This is precisely why (well, one reason why) factory farms are such a huge burden for the environment.

What About Flushing?

The EPA, on the other hand, recommends flushing your dogs poo down the toilet. However, this comes with some pretty big problems, too. Water isnt exactly an expendable resource, and with water waste being a huge problem, most of us dont want to waste the 1.6 gallons of water we use every time we flush the toilet.

Additionally, many states here in the U.S. (especially California) are currently in a state of drought. Water conservation is an important practice, and flushing the toilet every time your dog poops is hardly environmentally friendly.

What You Should Do Instead

If you have a small dog and can conceptually use the toilet to dispose of his or her droppings, Grist recommends doing to in one swoop. Wait until youve used the toilet yourself, close the lid, head out to the yard to gather some waste, and flush it all together (provided there isnt way too much stuff in the toilet!).

Another option is to set up a pet waste digester. The Bark recommends punching holes in an old garbage can, cutting off the bottom and positioning it in your yard away from areas where you generally spend time (so as to eliminate the presence of unpleasant smells). Add a septic starter and a little water to the concoction, and throw doggie do in as needed. The holes poked into the bin will allow oxygen to degrade the matter, and eventually, itll provide a nice layer of compost for the yard area around it. Just make sure not to use this compost in your veggie garden!

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