Tillsonburg’s Guide to a Healthy Lawn and Garden Without Pesticides

Contents • Q & A’s about Pesticide Use • Lawn Care • Steps to a Healthy Lawn • Dealing with Weeds on your Lawn • Dealing with Insects on your Lawn • Tried and True Alternatives to Pesticides • Commercial Products • Oxford County Seasonal Lawn Care Schedule
A message from the Mayor:

manage weed and insect problems. This booklet offers you advice about how to have an attractive lawn and garden without using chemicals and provides suggestions about alternatives to conventional pesticides. We all want to do the right thing. Please take a few moments to review this booklet and to adopt some, if not all of its suggestions. Stephen Molnar Mayor Town of Tillsonburg

Q & A’s about Pesticide Use
1. Why should I eliminate the use of pesticides? Herbicides, insecticides and fungicides used in chemical lawn and garden care are designed to kill living organisms. It should therefore come as no surprise that these very items can have a harmful effect on the health of animals and humans. However, chemical treatments are not a prerequisite to realizing a beautiful lawn and garden. Organic gardening methods can produce equally impressive results and use no synthetic products. The following guidelines should help you keep your lawn and garden green and healthy.

Dear Tillsonburg Residents: We all want to have a nice looking lawn and garden. In the past, this may have involved using pesticides to

How to Get Your Lawn Off Grass, Carole Rubin 2. Can I still have a full green lawn without pesticides? Yes! Lush, green lawns are often chemically dependent, and therefore prone to disease. The goal is for people to have safe, healthy lawns and gardens that aren’t dependent on chemicals for their appearance. Many lawn care companies and garden centres now specialize in organic gardening and non-chemical alternatives and can offer expert advice and service. 3. Do “Weed and Feed” products contain pestitcides? Yes, Even though their packaging looks pretty tame, “Weed and Feed” products are especially hazardous because herbicides are applied over the entire lawn, not just where weeds are present. Also, they take a long time to break down, continually exposing humans, animals, birds and insects. Lawn Care Steps to a Healthy Lawn 1. Mow high – grass makes food through its leaves. • 2” is an absolute minimum, 3” is best • long grass blades keep their roots cool, shade out weeds, making it harder for them to grow – never cut more than 1/3 the height at a single mowing • only cut when grass is dry and make sure the mower blades are sharp • leave clippings on the grass, because it reduces the need for nitrogen fertilizer • consider installing a mulching blade on your mower 2. Water deeply and seldom ( Depending on Soil) • Kentucky bluegrass needs 1” of water a week, fescues and perennial rye grasses need half this much depending on soil. • frequent light waterings cause shallow, weak roots, leading to dormancy during the first dry spell • consult your lawn care professional about over seeding with a more drought tolerant grass mixture 3. Aerate and over seed • aeration gives roots room to grow, helps nutrients and water reach the roots, gets oxygen into the soil, and helps reduce compaction • for in-town lawns, it probably takes an hour or so to do, so split rental cost with a neighbour ($50 half day), many lawn care companies offer this service • compacted soils encourage dandelions and plantain • aerate once a year, the best time is between May and June, when ground is still soft and there are fewer weed seeds blowing around • rake smooth and over seed with fescue or perennial rye

4.. What do I do if I have a serious pest problem I can’t deal with organically? Tillsonburg has not yet passed any by-laws restricting the use of pesticides. Contact your local lawn care service provider so they may help deal with the problem using the least amount of pesticides possible.

Books you can buy and may be available at the Tillsonburg Public Library: Real Gardeners’ True Confessions, Pat Stone Editor Dead Daisies Make Me Crazy, Lorren Nancarow & Janet Hogan Taylor Insect Disease & Weed ID Guide, J. Cebauko & D. Martin, ed. The Chemical-Free Lawn, Warren Schultz How to Get Your Lawn & Garden Off Drugs, Carole Rubin

• avoid rolling your lawn as this increases compaction aerating twice per year reduces or eliminates the amount of dethatching.

4. Get rid of the thatch • thatch is grass stems, shoots and roots (not clippings) on the surface of the soil that are not breaking down. • the best time to dethatch your lawn is in the fall. Get rid of it by using a heavy rake or a special tool you can find at garden supply store but the best way is with a dethatching unit. • some thatch is okay, but anything over 1/2 inch can lead to problems. • thatch is a perfect haven for insects and disease, and prevents moisture from reaching the roots of your grass, making it more susceptible to drought.

Dealing with Weeds in Your Lawn Despite what the ads say, a great looking lawn doesn’t necessarily mean weed free. A healthy lawn has some weeds. Think about it how often in nature have you ever seen an area where only a single species of plant thrives? Think back to our grandparent’s lawns. They were made up with a wide variety of grasses often including clover. Do you ever remember anyone talking about grubs or chinch bugs back then? Weeding Hand weeding can be a very satisfying activity, especially if you do it after a rain when the soil is moist and the roots come up easier. Boiling water This is a great solution to deal with those pesky weeds that pop up in pavement or sidewalk cracks. Simply take a kettle of boiling water and pour it over the weeds. Be careful to ensure the boiling water doesn’t run into any areas where there are plants or grass that you’d like to keep. Sour Power - Vinegar Known in the past weed killing abilities, use of vinegar as an herbicide is getting a revival. Depending on the percentage of acetic acid (you can get up to 25% acetic acid), vinegar can kill weeds entirely following a single treatment. Pour into a spray bottle and spritz the leaves of the weed you want to get rid of. Be careful not to spray grass or plants you want to keep, as vinegar kills whatever

5. Fertilize in the fall, only once a year. • don’t over fertilize because it weakens the grass • it is important to fertilize because turf that is starving for nutrients is more liable to be damaged and less likely to recover from pest damage • where possible look for organic fertilizer 6. Build up your soil, especially if you live in a new development • grass needs at least 6” of good well draining top soil • make sure soil pH is between 6.0 and 6.5, the optimum range for taking up nutrients • topdress with compost whenever you over seed and over time you will improve the quality of the soil in your lawn as well as increase its depth.

it’s sprayed on. Also avoid breathing in vinegar fumes or spraying it on your skin, as it can cause irritation. Corn gluten meal Corn gluten meal, recently approved by the Federal government as a herbicide alternative, prohibits the formation of roots during the germination of seeds. It’s important to remember this means all seeds, not just weed seeds, so you should never apply it at the same time as you are reseeding your lawn. Wait at least 3 weeks after seeding. Several commercial products include corn gluten meal, but it is also available at local animal feed stores, as its main use is as a feed supplement. The application rate is 20 lb per 1000 square feet. Corn gluten meal has a nitrogen content of about 10% making it a slow release fertilizer as well.

• goes dormant more quickly than other species of grass • preferred by lawn grubs Tall fescues • good wear tolerance, often being used for sports fields • prefers sun • good drought tolerance due to its deep roots • may need to occasionally over seed because of winterkill • doesn’t form thatch Fine fescues (creeping red, chewings and hard/sheep fescues) • best for shady and dry areas • doesn’t take drought well • great for shade, sandy soils, where nothing else will grow Perennial rye • good if you tend to have insect problems • look for endophyte enhanced cultivars, natural resistance to insects (Elf or Accent are trade names) • germinates quickly 4-5 days • good nurse grass Dutch White Clover • historically fine lawn seed mixes contained Dutch White Clover • stays green in droughts and does well in sun and shade • very hardy, tolerating foot traffic and cold winters • helps add nitrogen to your lawn and competes against weeds

Better than Kentucky Blue Grass! Lawns are healthier when several kinds of grass cooperate to deal with differing conditions. Here’s an outline of the different types of grass and where it makes sense to plant them. Bluegrass • type of grass grown for sod • needs lots of water and sun compared to other types • heavy feeder

Ground Covers instead of Grass Consider alternatives to grass – periwinkle, pachysandra, sedums, daylilies, thyme, etc. that don’t require cutting • the emissions from a gas powered lawn mower are equivalent to running 30 cars for the same period of time! Dealing with Insects in Your Lawn Prevention is the Key!

Here are some things that you can do now to keep those bugs away! • Aerate your lawn. Many area lawn care companies offer this service. Alternatively, an easy to operate aerator can be rented for about $25 for two hours. • Rake out the aerating cores into loose soil. • Over seed with a lawn seed mixture that has: - high percentage of endophyte rich perennial rye grasses (Home Hardware carry these varieties) - as low a percentage as possible of Kentucky Bluegrass - Dutch White clover Chinch Bugs What do they look like? They are small black bugs about 1/6 inch long, with white wings that have black, triangular spots towards the outer edge. Chinch bugs suck the sap from plant stems and roots, causing the plants to wilt and die. Chinch bugs travel from lawn to lawn as long as they find conditions that are favorable for them! So if your neighbor has the bugs, it is best to start preventative measures before you notice any signs of the bugs. Where are they found? Favorable conditions for the bugs include: • areas on your lawn with full sun • sodded lawns, or lawns with a high percentage of Kentucky Bluegrass • low-cut grass • heavily thatched lawns • soil with low pH Chinch bug damage appears in your lawn as patches of brown and dying turf. The patches may continue to grow until they reach a portion of the lawn that the chinch bugs find unfavorable (i.e. a shaded patch). Because they are so small, the bugs are difficult to identify by sight, so we recommend that you conduct a quick and easy saturation test.

The Chinch Bug Test 1. Fill 2 or 3 buckets with bubbly, soapy water (dishwashing soap works well). 2. Pour the buckets over an area where the brown patch meets green lawn. If you have chinch bugs, this is where they will be most active. 3. Cover the area with a light colored piece of fabric – an old towel or bed-sheet works great. 4. Wait about 15-20 minutes. 5. Lift up the fabric to see if any bugs have attached themselves to the underside. Put them in a clear, glass jar to determine if they are chinch bugs. Treatment – Chinch Bugs are Moving In If you’ve done the chinch bug test and only a small bit of your lawn is affected, you can get rid of them by drenching your lawn with an insecticidal soap solution. This drives them to the surface and then vacuum them up with a shopvac (This is how the City of Halifax handles any chinch bug problems on municipal property!) You’ll find the area with the greatest number of bugs is right where the brown grass meets the green. Situation Out of ControlIf your lawn is totally infested with chinch bugs you may wish to contact WeedBusters (842-9357) or Williams Lawn Care and ask for their organic lawn treatment program for chinch bugs. There are also many organic products available at Canadian Tire and the TSC store that may assist you. Furthermore, you may wish to consider diversifying the species on your lawn so that your lawn won’t be a target for chinch bugs, who thrive on Kentucky bluegrass. Sod Webworms

What are sod webworms? If you see lots of little moths fluttering close to the ground around dusk in early to mid summer, and your lawn has a thatch problem,

you’re probably looking at adult webworms getting ready to lay their eggs. The Sod Webworm test: Drench the area you believe to be infected with a soapy water mixture. This will bring the webworms to the surface where they are easier to see. Treatment - What to do if you have them! Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a naturally occurring bacteria that is toxic to caterpillars, is a good way to control them. Because it takes about 14 days for the eggs to hatch, apply Bt a couple of weeks after seeing the moths. Repeat the application of Bt again the following spring. Trounce, a commercially prepared product manufactured by Safers is also effective. It is a mixture of insecticidal soap and pyrethrin. Lawn Grubs What are lawn grubs? They’re the C–shaped white larvae of different types of beetles, including June bugs, Asiatic beetles and chafers. They have dark colored heads and three or four sets of arms just below their mouths. Before pupating, most remain as grubs for two seasons, and feed on the roots of grass. Because they’re bigger, grubs tend to do the most damage in their second year. All lawns have some grubs, but problems tend to occur in unhealthy lawns with Kentucky Bluegrass being the predominant type of grass. Even though grubs begin doing damage as early as mid-May, you can really see their effects when hot dry weather sets in. Your grass will appear wilted or with irregularly shaped brown patches. In severe cases, the turf will easily lift away from the soil like a carpet. Secondary damage takes place when skunks, raccoons and moles feed on grubs, leaving small holes in your lawn. The Lawn Grub Test: Using a shovel, cut into and lift up about a one-foot square piece of your grass and turn it over. If you see less than 5 grubs on the underside, then everything is fine. If your lawn is in good shape, (dense with deep roots) then between 5 and 8 grubs is probably okay too, but you should keep an eye on the situation. However,

when the number of grubs exceeds 10, you’ve got a problem. Treatment – What to do if you have them Apply predatory nematodes, which are microscopic sized organisms that search out, infect and kill lawn grubs. It takes between 24 and 48 hours for nematodes to begin their work. Prior to their application, gently remove thatch if it is more than 1” thick. This allows the nematodes to reach the soil. Water your lawn very well, and keep it moist for about 48 hours after applying the nematodes. Apply nematodes either first thing in the morning or in the early evening to avoid exposing them to ultraviolet light, which kills them. Nematodes do not over winter well in the Tillsonburg area, so it is best to reapply each year. For the nematodes to do their job, the temperature of the soil must be at least 15  or 60  Nematodes C F. are harmless to humans, pets, birds, earthworms, bees and beneficial insects. Prevention: Because grubs are the larvae of winged beetles, there’s very little you can do to stop beetles from laying their eggs in your lawn. When you do see a beetle though, it’s a good idea to get rid of it by dunking it in a pail of soapy water. Like your body, the healthier your lawn is, the better it is at resisting insects or diseases. A healthy lawn has a variety of different grasses, especially fescues and perennial rye grass, grown in about 6” of top soil with a high humus content. Let your grass grow to about 3 inches, particularly in the summer, as the depth of grass roots, is proportional to the height of the grass blades. Situation Out of Control: If lawn grubs have turned your lawn into a dead brown mess, here are some options: • rake away all the loose grass, rototill your lawn and let the birds get at your grubs. • apply insecticidal soap to the infected areas on a daily basis until the grubs are dead. To make your own,mix 1 tbsp. vegetable oil based soap with 1 litre of water • apply predatory nematodes if the soil is warm enough (see above)

Tried and True Alternatives to Pesticides Gardeners have been using safe methods to control diseases and insect problems on their lawns and gardens for years and years. With the hazards of chemical solutions becoming more known, people are returning to these tried and true methods. Here are some remedies you might like to try: Multi-purpose garden plant spray • to control many garden pests and diseases. 1 1/2 tbsp. baking soda 1 tbsp. insecticidal soap 1 tbsp. cooking oil 17 cups water 1 tbsp. vinegar (added last) Mix ingredients in a sprayer and spray both the tops and bottoms of leaves. Use weekly to control many pests and diseases. Tips from Lee Valley Tools Neem Oil Made from the seeds of the tropical neem tree, neem oil is effective against all insects including lily beetles. Besides giving the plant a bad taste, it inhibits the insects maturation and egg laying abilities. It is harmless to nectar feeding insects. Neem also works against some plant leaf diseases, such as black spot on roses, powdery mildew and rusts. Use as a foliar spray: 1 oz neem oil to 1 gallon of water plus a few drops of pure dish soap. Because it breaks down in sunlight, apply every week or so. Garlic and onion foliar spray Effective against all leaf eating insects. Put 4 cups of water into a saucepan. Add one chopped garlic bulb, one small chopped onion and 1 tsp. cayenne pepper. Bring the

mixture to a boil, then remove from heat, cover and let steep for one hour. Strain with a cheesecloth then add 1 tsp. of pure liquid soap (i.e. vegetable oil dish soaps or Murphy’s oil soap). Pour the cooled mixture into a spray bottle and use on your plants. Leftovers can be kept for one week if refrigerated. Tips from Ed Lawrence, Canada’s Official Residence Chief Gardener How to get rid of moles: 1 part castor oil to 10 parts water. Add a bit of soap. Pour around hole For Slugs & Their Eggs: 10 parts water 1 part ammonia Spray or water over crowns and around plants before foliage opens. If you do spray on open foliage, then rinse with clear water. For aphids + Mealy Bugs/Scale: For aphids: 40 parts water 1 part insecticidal soap or dish soap For mealy bugs/scale: add 8 parts rubbing alcohol to above recipe Black Spot Rose Fungicide: 100 parts water 1 part baking soda 1-2 drops dish soap (can be made up to ratio of 20 parts water to 1 part baking soda) Dormant Oil Recipe for Tree and Shrub Insect Problems mix to form an emulsion: 1/2 pint (250 ml) 10 weight non detergent, non additive oil or mineral oil 1 gallon (4 1/2 l) warm water 2 oz. (60 Mls) liquid soap

spray on, making sure to cover all surfaces until the tree is glistening. Use late March or early April on a non-windy day, no cooler than 710 degrees Celsius. Do not use on evergreens. Ant bait recipe: 1 tsp borax (available at Loeb’s) 6 tbsp white sugar 2 cups boiling water add first two ingredients to boiling water. Stir well. Cool. Dip cotton balls into solution and drop into a plastic container that has holes punctured into sides along bottom of container (to allow ants in and out). Put the lid back on to keep out wasps, bees and to prevent evaporation. Place the container along the regular path of ants. Check the balls every few days and remoisten as required. Keep using as long as ants continue to appear. Commercial Products As more and more municipalities adopt regulations around the use of cosmetic pesticides, commercially prepared alternatives are becoming available. Common brand names include Safers, Chemfree, Green Earth, and Ecoclear. The following is a summary of the types of products for sale in Tillsonburg area stores. A word of caution - while not as toxic as conventional pesticides, some are dangerous to you and other beneficial organisms at the time they are applied. Please use them as a last resort and remember to wear protective gloves, or face protection if required. Products Available From Local Retailers: TSC Scott’s Pyrethrin-based Insecticide Safer’s Insecticidal Soap ChemFree’s Critter Ridder (animal repellant) Safer’s De-Moss (moss killer) Milorganite Manure Pellets


Eco Grass from Quality Seeds – Special Premix for Tillsonburg/Delhi are 5kg and 10kg bags

Canadian Tire: Canadian Tire carries a variety of products from ChemFree, Green Earth, Safers, Ecoval and NewGrow including: - Scotts Prima Drought Sunmix - Safer’s Insecticidal Soap - Safer’s Critter Ridder - Rotenone Botanical Insecticide - Pyrethrin Insecticide - Horticultural Oil - Bio Mist - 0.9% Sulfur Fungicide

Useful websites: ecoPerth: <www.ecoperth.on.ca> City of Ottawa: <www.ottawa.ca/city_services/environment/index_en.shtml> City of Toronto: <http://www.toronto.ca/pesticides/index.htm> Organic Landscape Alliance: www.organiclandscape.org Responsible Pest Info: www.pestinfo.ca Healthy Lawns : http://www.healthylawns.net/english/index-e.html Canadian Cancer Society: www.cancer.ca Ontario Public Health Assoc.: www.opha.on.ca Ontario College of Family Physicians: www.ocfp.on.ca Environment and Sustainable Development of Canada: www.oag-bvg.gc.ca

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful