For Professionals

Bedford 2020 is working on a program to offer landscapers in the area more knowledge about sustainable landscaping. We are looking for landscapers in the area who would like to help us with this. We want to know how differences in landscaping policies affect your business, and how we can create healthier practices without threatening your livelihood.

 

 

What we are looking for is alternatives that work and that can improve the health of our yards and the health of the landscaping work simultaniously.

 

Mowing not blowing

Talk With Your Landscaper

Many of us have help with our yards including weekly mowing, seasonal clean-up and planting

Most employees of landscaping companies are hard working, they make many hours doing physically demanding work. But often they have very limited knowledge of horticulture. They are maintenance technicians, rather than landscapers. Most of them are unaware that their practices are not only unhealthy for our yards, but are unhealthy for them as well.

 

Healthier yards are good for us and for the landscapers. Talk with your landscaper and let them know that you want a healthier yard. Don’t take “no” or “it won’t work” for an answer. These practices do work and all our recommendations are based on science and best practices.

We are working on a program together with landscapers to improve knowlege about more sustainable practices, so don’t hesistate to direct your landscapers to our sources.

Ask your landscaper to mow over the leaves instead of blowing them and to stop using pesticides. If your landscaper opposes these simple steps, we recommend you look for a company willing to work in this way.

If you would like to connect with a company that already uses sustainable practices in our area, please following this link (Coming Soon)

Plant Wisely

The saying “right plant, right place” is the key to healthy yards. Plants, shrubs and trees grow well when they like the local climate, soil and wildlife. If you have chosen a plant or shrub that requires fertilizers, pesticides, or extra watering, it might not the best plant or shrub for your location.

Plant Wisely means nothing more than using plantings tailored to your yard’s conditions.

The saying “right plant, right place” is the key to healthy yards. This explains why native plants are so important. Native plants are naturally adapted to sustain local weather and soil conditions.

 

Native Plants also perform the vital function of providing a food source or breeding habitat for important native pollinators, some of whom, like the Monarch butterfly, are very plant specific. Regretfully, there are some issues that can stand in the way of practicing the simple “right plant, right place” concept:

The Deer

Deer browsing in our area has become a serious threat to our environment in general and to our yards more specifically.

There are only two practical solutions to the deer problem for someone who owns a yard:

  • Creating a physical border at least eight feet high
  • Use deer resistant planting.

Invasives

Many plant species that have been brought in from other parts of the world now take over much of our native environment, and Westchester has a fair share of them. The best way to deal with invasives is to remove them and replace them with vigorous and dense sustainable planting.

The landscaping tradition

Unfortunately most landscapers are not familiar with the concept “right plant, right place”. The landscaping business today is an industry that has little connection with our environment. We as homeowners have a responsibility to be the stewards of our own land, and that may mean directing your landscaper to adopt sustainable, healthy, landscaping practices.

Use Better Equipment

There are many serious environmental and health consequences related to gas-fueled  landscaping equipment. Lawn care alone accounts for 10 percent of the air pollution in our country and is expected by 2020, to create more ozone pollution than all the passenger cars in this country. There’s a reason for that: Regulations on car exhaust have gotten tighter and tighter over the years, substantially reducing their ozone-damaging emissions. At the same time, while there have been some controls on the smaller gas engines, there haven’t been enough. Most damaging and polluting among the landscaping tools is the gas-fuelled leaf blower.

  • In one hour a GLB emits more pollution  than 40 cars idling  
  • The noise and moving air from GLB’s disturbs nesting and breeding birds and other wildlife
  • GLBs have a serious impact on neighborhood peace and quiet
  • GLBs disturb and kill beneficial micro organisms in the soil
  • GLBs pollution and noise impacts worker’s lungs and general health
  • GLBs stir up pollutants such as salt, lead, arsenic, mercury, heavy metals, pesticides, fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, dirt, ash, mold spores and fecal matter. Approximately five pounds of particulate matter per leaf blower per hour are blown into the air and can take hours and even days to settle in hot, humid weather. These particulates in the air can aggravate allergies and asthma and exacerbate pulmonary issues, such as bronchitis.

It’s is necessary to look for healthier ways to maintain our landscapes.

First of all, for our lawns, we recommend switching from blowing to mulching. There is no need to blow the leaves from garden beds either, so please limit the use of the leafblower to your hardscapes; driveways and patio’s.

Secondly, we have to switch from gas to electric powered machines. Electric lawn equipment has greatly improved and causes substantially less pollution and noise. So if you are considering buying engine-equipment for your yard look for an electric alternative.

External Links:

Quiet Communities dedicated to protecting our health, environment, and quality of life from the excessive use of industrial outdoor maintenance equipment
American Green Zone Alliance – working to help communities to adopt zero-emission landscape maintenance strategies.

Love Leaves

Who doesn’t love leaves?

We all appreciate the beautiful colors in the fall, and the environment welcomes leaves as a protective and nutrient layer for its plants and wildlife. Fallen leaves shelter plant roots from excessive heat and cold, and once they decompose, they keep the soil healthy.

 

So why do we spend millions of hours and millions of gallons of diesel and gasoline to get rid of those leaves, while there is plenty of evidence that leaf blowers are:

  • extremely polluting and account for a significant percentage of the total air pollution.
  • disturb nesting and breeding of birds, microorganisms and other wildlife
  • disturb neighborhood peace and quiet
  • stir up pollutants such as salt, lead, arsenic, mercury, heavy metals, pesticides, fertilizers, dirt, ash, fungus and mold spores and fecal matter
  • blow particulates in the air that aggravate allergies and asthma and exacerbate pulmonary issues, such as bronchitis.

It’s true that the turf grasses used for lawns might be smothered by excess leaves, but it’s much better to mow right over them to create mulch than to blow them away. The resulting shredded leaves will settle into the grass providing nutrients and reducing the need for fertilizers, weed killers and insecticides.

So, please, stop using leaf blowers in your yard, and ask your landscaper to do so as well. Inquire if they are familiar with the leaf mulching practice, and if not, please direct them to: the Leave Leaves Alone Website.

If you prefer to use a leafblower for your driveway, terrace or other hardscapes elements, please consider using an electric model. Electric leafblowers are cleaner and quieter. Better still, clear up your paved areas with a broom.

More information:

Leave Leaves Alone

Details on the Hazards of Gas Leaf Blowers

EPA Website on Particle Pollution

Avoid Pesticides

If we buy toxins to control “pests” in our gardens, is it any wonder that they do their job and kill plants and beneficial insects?

Pesticides and herbicides, both conventional AND organic, work so well that in the last 20 years the worldwide bee population has declined by over 40% and the butterfly population by 60%. Bird populations that rely on these pollinators to feed their young, and humans who depend on the same pollinators to grow our food, are impacted as well.

Pesticides are linked to these devastating declines, as well as to human cancers, hormone imbalances and neurological impairments. Yet, American homeowners purchase more than  one billion pounds of pesticides every year. This, combined with the overuse of herbicides (including the very toxic glyphosate – marketed as RoundUp) have caused our lawns to become the biggest, most toxic, ‘crop’ in the USA.

Most homeowners are not aware that more than 90% of a pesticide application does not reach its actual target, but ends up in our waterways, killing other organisms and harming ourselves.

Pesticide warning sign on a park lawn.

Pesticides create a deadly cycle by doing exactly the opposite of what they were intended to do: promote the growth of pests by eliminating their natural predators.

There is plentiful evidence of the negative impacts to humans and their pets of pesticides and herbicides. While many countries have drastically limited or banned the use of these harmful pesticides, the US government is loosening its safety requirements, and postponing consideration of the possible dangers of these chemicals.

If we want to keep these poisons out of plants, our air, soil and water — and ourselves —  the restraint must begin at home.

A healthy yard is a yard without pesticides. There are many beautiful yards in our area that prove that pesticide-free yards are perfectly possible, and are not difficult to achieve.

More information:

Beneficial Insects from Cornell Entomology Dept.

Invite Pollinators

The way we treat our yards can be detrimental to the environment and the well-being of wildlife, as well as our families and pets. The decline of species, and especially the drastic decrease of insects and pollinators, should be a concern for everyone.

The good news is that our yards can also lead the way to the restoration of our environment. All we have to do is……less.

 

  • Bumble bees climb over bee balm flowers at the Project Native seed bank field, Tuesday, August 2, 2016. Ben Garver — The Berkshire Eagle | photos.berkshireeagle.com

    Don’t mow too often

  • Don’t use leaf blowers
  • Consider your lawn as an area rug, rather than a wall-to-wall carpet, with enough vegetative growth around it for animals and pollinators to shelter and nest.
  • Don’t clean all the dead branches and leaves. These provide valuable habitat for pollinators.
  • And, most important: don’t use toxins. Whatever sales literature tells you, there is NO “safe” pesticide that targets a single species.

Pollinators are insects, bees and butterflies that bring pollen from one plant to another, enabling the growth of fruit and further propagating the plant. Without pollinators we would have very little fruit and vegetables to harvest. Without pollinators we lose songbirds and other wildlife that depend on pollinators as their food source. A healthy yard needs pollinators.

Inviting pollinators in your yard is easy. We have a list with beautiful, easy and deer resistant plants that attract bees and butterflies. If you plant them, the pollinators will come.

Pollinators and other beneficial insects keep pests in check. If you use insecticides you will harm pollinators and beneficial insects, which will then cause pests to grow and spread. Insecticides often create a cycle  in which the toxins, by eliminating natural predators, do exactly the opposite of what they were meant to do: promote pests. In addition, pesticides can be harmful to your family and pets.

External Links:

Selecting Plants for Pollinators

For a Healthy Yard, Go Native!

Native plants in landscape setting.

Native plants in landscape setting.

A healthy yard is full of plants and trees that are supported by the natural environment, provide food and habitat for pollinators and wildlife, and do not require costly and polluting measures to allow them to thrive.

Native species are adapted to the normal weather extremes, expected rainfall, and the other native plants and animals indigenous to the area in which they evolved.  As a result, once native species are established they require much less maintenance than non-native species. They require less watering, little or no pesticides and fertilizers, and less trimming and upkeep. They also provide food and shelter for up to 10-15 times more species of birds, butterflies and other native wildlife, and they do not spread and choke out other plants like many non-native, invasive species do.

This means you:

  • Save water
  • Limit toxins on your yard
  • Provide food and shelter to native birds, butterflies and wildlife
  • Save money
  • Save time
  • Have a beautiful, healthy yard
  • Are a good steward of the land and water

So, why not, go native!?

Courtesy of Glenn Ticehurst

Courtesy of Glenn Ticehurst

There are plenty of resources out there to find great species that will thrive in your yard and look beautiful, too!

Click on the links below for more information.

Native Alternatives to Invasive Landscape Plants. This presentation by Water and Land Use Task Force Member Glenn Ticehurst suggests native plants to choose over common non-native landscape plants. Replace Yellow Flag Iris, Burning Bush, Multiflora Rose, Japanese Stiltgrass, and Norway Maple with even more lovely native plants.

Westchester County Native Plant Brochure: This brief but wonderful pamphlet gives helpful tips on getting started with natives, lists resources, and provides a chart with recommended native species for landscaping in Westchester County, including trees, shrubs, ferns, flowering plants, and grasses.

The Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College provides the two lists below of recommended native plants for gardeners, compiled by Carolyn Summers.  They break down the lists into very specific descriptions that are sure to help you find exactly what you need for your specific yard conditions.

  • Native plants for sun – this includes lists of sun loving native plants that are categorized based on height, need for moisture, and other planting area considerations.
  • Native plants for shade – this includes lists of shade loving plants categorized by groundcovers, ephemerals, and various height/size of plants.
Choose a Red Maple over a non-native Norway Maple!

Choose a Red Maple over a non-native Norway Maple!

Native Plants beneficial to birds. Finally, if you love birds, check out this list to attract birds to your yard.  Birds provide a great deal of color and character that is sure to be lacking in non-native landscapes.

This Invasive Species brochure from the New England Wild Flower Society helps you know what not to grow.

We would love to see how you are landscaping with native species. Post photos to our Facebook Page!

Healthy Lawn Care

Pesticides are most harmful to children and pets and ultimately end up in our water supply.

Pesticides are most harmful to children and pets and ultimately end up in our water supply.

A healthy lawn will endure drought, diseases, and pest infestations better than a stressed lawn, and healthy grasses will compete better with undesirable weeds, so the best way to avoid using chemicals is to build up a healthy lawn, naturally.

Follow these tips for a toxic-free lawn:

Nourish the Soil

Don’t use pesticides and synthetic fertilizers because they kill the natural bacteria and fungi that nourish your soil and protect you plants.

Aerate in the fall. Core and slice aeration of the soil before seeding will improve germination and alleviate compaction.

If you have problem areas, test the soil and replace only what is missing with certified organic supplements. Cornell Cooperative Extension does soil testing.

Leave grass clippings on the lawn when you mow.

Leave grass clippings on the lawn when you mow.

Nourish the Grass

Leave grass clippings on the lawn and look at “Leave Leaves Alone” to learn how to mulch your leaves in.  They break down to provide all the nitrogen a healthy lawn needs.

Seed in the Fall to Outcompete Weeds

Seed in early fall with a mixture of native grasses.  A mixture of compost and grass seed is the best solution for filling in bare spots.

2-8-trailweed-DAVE

Mow High

Let grass grow to 4 inches and cut it down to 3 inches, allowing it to shade its roots, conserve moisture and keep out weeds. Keep mower blades sharp so they do not tear the grass, making it vulnerable to disease.

Control Weeds

Dig out weeds you really can’t stand. The best method to combat weeds is to use a little grass seed to outcompete weeds, but some people like to use an organic corn gluten product that prevents weed seeds from germinating on established lawns (but it also prevents grass seeds from germinating as well).  It may take several years to control problem areas. For spot weed control on driveways and walkways, use a horticultural vinegar or vinegar/citrus oil combination product. You can buy this at Mill River Supply in Bedford Hills.

pesticidefreezone_large

Control Pests Without Chemicals

The best bug controls are other bugs and birds. There are more beneficial insects in nature than bad bugs. If you encourage a robust insect population in your yard, nature will find a balance and the bad bugs will be kept in control. For instance, common pests (grubs, sod webworms, chinch bugs) can be controlled with applications of beneficial nematodes. Milky spore powder is another effective control for Japanese beetle grubs.

 

For links to more natural lawn care resources and an organic lawn care calendar, visit Grassroots Environmental Education.

 

Commit to a toxic free yard and take the Great Healthy Yard Pledge!