cheltenham chamber of citizens
YOU CAN USE
Say “NO!” to Mulch Volcanoes
by Judith Gratz, Environmental Education Specialist
Step 1: Inspection – Regularly look closely at plants to see if anything seems to be attacking them. If there are many holes in leaves (there will always be some), or anything obvious attacking your plants, start the process of taking action. First and foremost the “bugs” have to be properly identified. Most insects and their kin you might find on plants are neither harmful, nor helpful, though many are helpful (even the “ugly” ones). So you don’t want to start by killing them. Identify the “pest”. There are a number of ways to do that:
a. Send a photo of the “bug” to Penn State Extension Center, 1015 Bridge Rd. - Creamery, PA
b. Take a photo of the “bug” and use the app iNaturalist to get it identified.
c. Find a picture of it in a guide to garden plants and the problems they may encounter. Rodale
Press has many excellent books about this.
Step 2: Learn the pest’s and the host’s life cycles. Treating problems at the right time is essential.
Step 3: Use the safest management practices available for the identified problem(s). See IPM below.
Many solutions come from making changes in the garden. A few examples are hosing bugs off plants, thinning densely growing plants to allow air circulation, & using native plants rather than imported ones. Poisons also kill the really good “bugs”. Good bugs control problems in gardens better than we can.
Beneficial “bugs” will be your personal pest patrol. They can be purchased through various websites, and from our local garden center, Primex. Here are a few of many possible purchases you can make that will safely deal with problem “bugs”, will not poison our community, and will help make Cheltenham a healthier place in which to live:
a. Praying Mantids and Ladybugs: Be sure to read the directions and follow them for maximum results. For example, Ladybugs should be released at night. The containers give directions for releasing them. BTW, Ladybug larvae, which eat even more aphids than the adults, look like small scary alligators (see photos below); another reason to identify bugs before going after them.
b. Beneficial Nematodes: These are so excellent at ridding lawns of pests that eat roots on lawns and in garden beds that they far surpass any poison a company may want to spray on your lawn. One application (correctly done), lasts 2 years, and costs far less than commercial poisons. Apply at night.
c. Green Lacewings: They will deal with aphids, mites, and other pests. And they are lovely to look at.
d. Trichogramma Wasps: These tiny wasps are not a problem for people, but they’re a huge problem for caterpillars.
There are several videos on the Web that show how to plant trees depending on how they arrive: in burlap, bare roots, or in containers.
A few websites to guide your choices of trees, and especially how to plant them correctly:
One of Sustainable Cheltenham’s Ecological Stewardship Objectives: Increase tree cover and improve the care and maintenance of trees.
In 1990 the Commonwealth of PA banned yard waste from landfills. Landscapers (& I use the term loosely because anyone, it seems, can call himself or herself a landscaper), had to find a way to dispose of leaves and woodchips. At the time I was Director of Education for the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association, and I was asked by several “landscapers” if they could woodchip the Association’s miles of trails. When I informed them that the trails were mostly in floodplain and that regularly occurring floods would wash the woodchips into the Creek they all responded that they would return to lay more woodchips. And all of this would be done free of charge.
“Landscapers” with woodchips came up with the idea to sell them to mulch trees. Their sales pitch was to say it would protect the trees. The opposite turned out to be true.
Woodchips against tree bark rots the trees just as a soaking wet towel placed on wooden furniture ruins that wood.
Woodchips against trees provide a home for mice and voles who find protection from predators, warmth from the decomposing wood, and food by gnawing on the bark into the inner bark where sugar is located.
Woodchips provide homes for various insects and their kin, some of which damage trees.
Woodchips make a perfect place for many kinds of fungi to grow.
Piled up woodchips prevent rainwater from getting through to the ground. The woodchips become so dense that it takes a pick-axe to chop into the pile.
Plant native trees & shrubs correctly and at the right time of year and you will not waste your time and money. Leave their bases mulch-free, or plant native ground cover around them. TreePhilly suggests using the 3-3-3 method when mulching a tree: use “fresh organic composted mulch, make a ring of mulch around your tree that is 3’ wide and 3” deep. Make sure to keep the mulch 3” away from the trunk so the root flare is exposed. When finished, the mulch should look like a donut rather than a volcano.”
Parts of this article are taken from https://extension.psu.edu/integrated-pest-management-ipm-tactics
Locally you can order beneficial insects you can buy from online sites and from Primex Garden Center – 435 W. Glenside Ave. (215) 887-7500
Websites for ordering beneficial pest control & insects
NOTE: The goal is to decrease a population of harmful “bugs”, not to defeat them. Don’t expect to eliminate all pests. Nothing can, nothing will, and nothing should, so let’s not poison the world trying.
How To: Use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Tactics
The goal of using multiple tactics or "many small hammers" is to effectively suppress pests below injurious levels and avoiding outbreaks.
Many tactics keep pest populations off-balance and avoid development of resistance to pesticides. Least-toxic effective methods are used before more toxic ones. The categories of tactics and specific actions include:
Suppress pest problems by minimizing the conditions they need to live (water, shelter, food, etc.). Install plants that are adapted to your growing conditions, put them in the right place, give proper attention to their water and nutritional needs, etc. Strong plants resist diseases, outgrow weeds and are less likely to succumb to insects.
Prevent pest access to the host or area, or, if the pests are already present, physically remove them by some means. For example, this could mean using barriers, traps, vacuuming, mowing or tillage depending upon the pest and situation.
Use pest-resistant plant varieties developed by classical plant breeding. There are also special uses of genetic techniques on pests themselves, such a "sterile male" insect releases by governmental and commercial entities. This control is being used experimentally on some mosquito populations.
Use predators, parasites and diseases of pests in a targeted way to suppress pest populations. Use of predators and parasites as biocontrol for pests are handled in one or more of 3 ways;
· conservation and encouragement of naturally occurring biocontrol organisms by cultural
techniques or at least avoidance of harming them
· augmentation of naturally occurring species by purchasing and releasing more of the same
· "classical" biological control in which new biocontrol species specific to pests are sought and
Biorational chemicalsare those that are less universally toxic and target a specific aspect of pest biology. An example might be diatomaceous earth used to scratch the surface of insects to dehydrate them, or microbial pesticides that affect only a specific group of insects.
One example is Bti in the form of “donuts” or “bits”. When placed in standing water it kills mosquito and blackfly larva but is not harmful to people, fish, frogs, pets, etc.
There are some biorational chemical tactics that are hard to classify by toxicity or that are used together in innovative ways with other tactics. An example of this would be insect pheromones used together with sticky traps. Pheromones are the chemicals produced by insects to attract their mates, and so these substances are not toxic. But they can be used in large amounts to "confuse" the mating process or to attract insects to a trap. Other examples of such chemicals are repellants, attractants, and anti-feeding agents.
Chemical methodsare promoted by the companies that make the chemicals, and will not be discussed here. The most important thing is to read the labels carefully, including proper disposal methods. The topic of “Cradle to Grave” relating to chemical gardening methods will be looked at in a future article.
Bottom line: Learn the “best management practices” before you act.
Sustainable Cheltenham’s Ecological Stewardship Objectives include: “Research and reduce use of harmful chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides indoors and out and implement the use of healthy alternatives. Promote best gardening practices for food, beauty, and ecosystem enhancement.”
WAYS TO DEAL WITH “BUGS” ON PLANTS & LAWNS
BASED ON IPM(INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT) STEPS & TACTICS
by Judith Gratz, Environmental Education Specialist