JeffCo H2O: Spread The Word

When Less is More
     There are a few things that having more of can be a good thing.  Money and time are probably two of those things.  But with pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, using more than is recommended doesn’t provide any benefit, and in some cases can do more harm than good. Soil can absorb only so much of these products, and overuse just wastes your time and money. The package directions will indicate the amount of product to use based upon the size of the area to be treated, and will recommend the application rate to set on the spreader or sprayer dial so that the product will be properly applied.  When to use yard chemicals is important, too.  Many people think that it is best to apply granular fertilizer right before or during a rain.  Actually, that is the worst time, because rain will wash much of it from your yard before the soil has time to absorb the nutrients, and will create stormwater pollution.  Choose a dry day to apply fertilizer, and then carefully water it in with a hose or sprinkler. 
     How big is your yard or garden? You know the formula: length X width = area. Don’t forget to subtract paved areas such as sidewalks and driveways from the total.
What Goes Around Comes Around
     We’ve all heard that phrase at one time or another.  And when you consider chemicals used in lawn and garden care, it couldn’t be truer.  Fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides can be very helpful in achieving your landscape goals if you use only what your yard needs and carefully apply these products.  However, feeding your lawn and garden or ridding them of unwanted pests has the potential to create unintended results.  
     Many pesticides and herbicides cannot distinguish between a ‘pest’ and a ‘pal’, and most contain broad spectrum chemicals that kill all plants and insects they contact.  That includes insect ‘pals’ like bees and butterflies which are important in plant pollination.  Pesticides and herbicides also can be harmful to pets and humans if they are inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or eaten.  Washed from your yard by rain or carried by wind into nearby streams, these chemicals do the same thing in water that they do on land:  herbicides and pesticides kill fish, animals, and plants that live in and around the water while fertilizers cause algal blooms that deplete oxygen in waterways, killing aquatic life.  Pesticides and herbicides also can enter the food chain when animals and plants absorb and retain these chemicals in their systems.  These affected plants and animals could be consumed by other animals and even humans.  That’s why it’s so important to choose the least toxic chemicals for the job and control where, when and how they are applied. 
     One alternative is to let nature do some of the work by establishing an eco balance in your yard.  Insect ‘pals’ like ladybugs, preying mantis, green lacewings and nematodes (worms) naturally feed on pests such as beetles, aphids, ants and mosquitoes.  Native plant ‘pals’ also can help create this equilibrium in your yard since many act as hosts for insect ‘pals’ and are resilient enough to thrive in our local conditions.  Over time, your efforts can become a sustainable solution to keeping your lawn and garden free from the effects of pests and reducing the need for yard chemicals.   
Mark Your Calendar!
April 13
Just in time for spring cleaning, Recycle Alabama Day from 9 – 2 at the Downtown Recycling Center, 2431 2nd Avenue North.  Visit for details.
April 27
Come on out to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens 11-4 and celebrate the environment at Earth Day at the Gardens.
April 30
Learn how Integrated Pest Management can help you safely control your garden pests at the Urban Gardening IPM Workshop.  Call the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at 205.879.6964 Ext. 11 to register.
Lyn DiClemente
Jefferson County Department of Storm Water Management
B-210 Jefferson County Courthouse Annex
716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. North
Birmingham, AL  35203