Look forward to summer! Ringlet and Hairstreaks on Oregon Sunshine in my backyard. Well, now that winter is on the wane, it's time to warm your soul a little by looking forward to summer and short-sleeve gardening. (Don't let all the snow fool you, this is just a normal Central Oregon spring - honest!)
Audubon - as in The National Audubon Society has a nifty idea on their website, "The Healthy Yard Pledge," a common-sense approach to being a "greener" gardener and, therefore, a better steward when it come to conservation of our land, soil, air and water.
"Conservation," said Aldo Leopold, "is a state of harmony between man and the land."
There are five main topics in the The Healthy Yard Pledge:
Eliminate or reduce pesticide use
Protect water quality
Remove exotic plant pests
Plant native species
According to Audubon the main reason for taking, and carrying out the pledge is to:
"Create healthy habitats in your backyards and other spaces by planting native species, removing invasive plants, reducing pesticide use, conserving water, protecting water quality and keeping birds safe. Your actions can help make a difference." Amen to that!
Bird populations are in decline as suitable habitat continues to be lost to development, mismanaged forestry, agricultural technology and other land uses. With 2.1 million acres converted to residential use each year - about half the size of Deschutes County - how you landscape and maintain your yard can make a difference for wildlife conservation and environmental health.
Will it take work? You had better believe it will; and you can have a wonderful time doing it, especially as a family project. Moreover, the rewards are so awesome you'll never tire of enjoying them, especially the variety of birds and butterflies.
To begin, look at reducing, or better yet, eliminating the use of pesticides. There is one overwhelming fact you should never forget: Pesticides are designed to kill, repel or otherwise control perceived pest organisms; they are intentionally toxic substances, often harnful to organisms beyond the targeted pests. Whenever you use pesticides, please understand that you are potentially exposing birds, beneficial organisms, pets, and people to risk. As an example, children and pets have smaller body sizes, a tendency to play and roll on the ground, and frequently put things in their mouths, therefore, they have a greater risk of exposure to applied pesticides.
Homeowners apply an estimated 78 million pounds of insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides per year to their homes, lawns, and gardens.
A U.S. Geological Survey analysis of 20 major river basins and aquifer systems revealed that commonly used lawn and garden pesticides are routinely found in surface and ground water throughout the nation. Many kinds persist in soil and can be carried on our feet into our homes, where babies play on the floor.
Please! Before even contemplating "pest control," make sure you have a pest problem. Learn your enemies. More importantly, learn your natural allies in pest control and welcome these beneficial organisms such as dragonflies, parasitic wasps, ladybugs, and lacewings into your yard.
Former EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman has identified the availability of clean water as the 21st century's biggest environmental challenge. Growing numbers of us recognize that day-to-day decisions influence our water needs. Smart landscaping offers a great opportunity to conserve water at home.
Our choices of plants, materials, design and garden practices have an enormous impact on our outdoor water use. Lawns require two-and-a-half to four times more water than shrubs and trees. Indeed, it is estimated that in the course of a single year, a typical suburban lawn uses 10,000 gallons of irrigation water-whether it is needed or not.
Replacing unneeded lawn with native plants - which seldom need supplemental watering once established - and using drought-tolerant grass varieties where turf is desired are water-wise decisions.
Depending on design, plant choice, soil health, the type of walkways, patios and other materials that are installed, landscapes vary dramatically in the amount of runoff they generate. On every property of any size, there are actions we can take to reduce water consumption and loss.
Weeds are the bane of our existence. The County Weed Board says, "It is your responsibility to eliminate invasive, non-native weeds from your property." Please do it! In spite of the fact that I'm a bee-keeper, and knapweed makes wonderful honey, I spent eight years eliminating the stuff from my land and now my bees must forage on native plants, not obnoxious weeds.
Go to Audubon's website and glean as much to become a good steward to the land around your home. Thanks to my wife Sue's green thumb, we have Spotted Towhees nesting with us, along with butterfly caterpillars that develop into beautiful adult butterflies. You can do it too!