When the warmer months of the year roll around, we all want to keep our yards and gardens looking their best. This usually includes raking up old, dead thatch, removing weeds, and in some cases, applying pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.
But while these products are guaranteed to keep your yard looking great, there are many dangers associated with them, both known and unknown, which you may want to know about before applying them in your yard.
So with that said, today, we’ll be taking a better look at these dangers, as well as what can be done sustainably to keep our yards and gardens looking great all summer long.
The Dangers Of Chemical Lawn And Garden Products
Even though lawn care pesticides and herbicides are sprayed on land, they often end up making their way into local water sources. So even though we may only spray them in our yard or garden, those chemicals will likely make their way into nearby streams or rivers.
When these bodies of water become contaminated with high levels of these chemicals, they can end up killing the local plant and fish life, in turn, throwing the entire nearby ecosystem off-balance.
Additionally, most of us rely on these local water sources for our drinking water. But when that water is contaminated with chemicals, it becomes dangerous for us to drink.
Of course, drinking a single glass of contaminated water isn’t likely to cause us much harm, but when these chemicals build up in our body, they can become detrimental to our health.
In fact, it’s known that pesticides get stored in our colon, where they’re slowly broken down by our bodies. And although most people don’t realize it, when we consume a single, non-organic apple, we might be consuming up to 30 different pesticides and herbicides that have been applied to the crop.
Furthermore, washing fruits and vegetables before eating them will not necessarily remove all of the chemicals that have seeped into the flesh, which still could be present during consumption.
A recent report from Global News says that pesticide residue is still likely to be found on our produce, even after it’s been washed. But disconcertingly, some health experts argue that there’s nothing to worry about.
The report found that strawberries typically have the highest levels of pesticides in them, followed by kale and spinach. And according to the study, more than 92% of kale samples had 2 or more pesticide residues present, while others contained as many as 18 different residues.
In fact, these three food products are listed in the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen, which is a list of produce that contains the highest levels of pesticides from commercial farming.
Learn more information on the Dirty Dozen, the Clean 15, and buying organic.
The worst part about all of this is that countless studies have been performed and have linked the use of pesticides to cancer, ADHD, Alzheimer’s Disease, and even birth defects. These harmful chemicals have also been linked to the disruption of the endocrine, reproductive, and nervous systems.
While there is some debate amongst health officials over the danger of these pesticides, in my opinion, it’s best to avoid them at all costs.
And with that said, it’s easy to see why it’s so important to buy organic foods that are grown free from chemical pesticides and herbicides. And all the more reason to buy local!
How To Avoid Using Pesticides And Herbicides
Although pesticides and herbicides are extremely effective at keeping our yards free from weeds and insects, it’s easy to see that they can also be extremely dangerous to our health.
So the first thought that I’d like to put into your head is that weeds and insects truly aren’t as bad as we’ve been led to believe. In fact, in many cases, weeds and insects are beneficial to yards, gardens, and the environment at large.
The fact is that weeds grow naturally and that they’re actually good for insects like bees, which use them to pollinate and cross-pollinate other plant species. And at the same time, some weeds, such as dandelions, chickweed, and plantain, are even edible, making an excellent addition to any natural diet.
However, if you do decide to forage wild weeds, herbs, and botanicals, just make sure that you’re not foraging near roadways or highly polluted areas. Plants in these areas tend to absorb pollutants, making them unsafe to consume.
But of course, it’s understandable that some people might prefer to keep their yards weed and pest-free. Fortunately, there are natural alternatives, as opposed to using harsh, chemical pesticides, and herbicides.
Companion Gardening And Its Natural Benefits
In gardening and agriculture, companion gardening refers to the planting of various crops in proximity to each other for a variety of reasons. This includes pest control, maximizing the use of space, pollination, providing a habitat for beneficial insects, or simply to help increase the productivity of a crop.
For example, planting catnip in a garden is an excellent, and natural way, to repel mice. You can even keep catnip plants near the doors of your home to prevent mice from getting inside.
Additionally, a fellow entrepreneur, Pickling Dixie, has suggested that, if you have the space for it, ducks can make an amazing companion to our yards and gardens. These gentle creatures only eat insects and pests and leave garden plants alone. Not to mention the fact that having ducks on your property is adorable and fun for the whole family.
Additionally, instead of using pesticides, you might want to try planting sweet alyssum near plants that have been attacked by aphids in the past.
Alyssum flowers are known for attracting hoverflies, whose larva devour aphids keeping your plants healthy, and your garden looking great all summer long. And, at the same time, alyssum flowers also attract bees, which will help pollinate any fruit trees in the vicinity of your garden.
Or, when planting indoors, a single bay leaf is a great way to help deter moths and weevils.
But of course, these are only a few tips on companion gardening, and there are many other plants that work wonders in terms of protecting yards and gardens from weeds and pests.
Learn more about Companion Planting here.
Tips For Building A Sustainable Eco-Friendly Garden
Aside from avoiding pesticides and herbicides, there are also many other ways to build a sustainable and eco-friendly backyard.
For starters, when planning on building garden boxes or planters, I highly recommend that you try and reuse old objects that you might have laying around the house.
For example, maybe you’ve recently bought a new dresser. Instead of hauling away the old one to the dump, you might want to consider using the drawers as small planter boxes. Old tubs, toolboxes and even pallets can be turned into planters.
The idea here is to recycle and reuse the things we already have around our home instead of buying new materials. Not only will doing this save money, but it’s also a great way to reduce our impact on the environment.
Repurposing items around the house is limited only by imagination. Needing a little inspiration? A quick online search will produce endless possibilities.
Additionally, consider adding a compost pile or rain barrel to your backyard oasis.
Composting is great to help reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Plus, it can also be used to fertilize your yard and garden in a completely natural way. And at the same time, a rain barrel is an excellent way to cut down on water usage, saving money and reducing the impact on the environment at the same time.
Short on backyard space? Living in an apartment? No worries!
There are many plants that can easily be grown indoors in smaller containers, either on your balcony or directly on your window sill. Indoor container planting is ideal for herbs and spices, however, many other plants, such as green onions, chives, and leaf lettuce can also be grown indoors without an issue.
Tin cans can easily be embellished to suit your taste. Even old rubber boots or work boots can add a little whimsy to your backyard space.
Final Sustainable Gardening Tip
In the end, sustainable yard work and gardening is about much more than avoiding the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides. It’s about reducing the impact on the environment, our local ecosystem, and even the economy.
So while taking steps to create a better, safer, and more sustainable backyard, remember to keep your dollars in your community by buying from local small businesses.
Many farmers are selling vegetable and flower plants ready for planting. Independently owned greenhouses can provide advice, plants, compost, soil, and garden decor. More than ever, these small businesses need your support to survive.
As humans, we need to stop relying on foreign manufacturers for the products and services we use, especially when we’re more than capable of producing most of the things we need right here at home.
Interested in learning more about sustainable gardening and harvesting? Why not join a Facebook group where you can learn from like-minded individuals? These groups consist of both new gardeners as well as experienced people who are eager and willing to share their knowledge.
As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m more than happy to chat.