David Robson Extension Educator, Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois
Yard & Garden
For every pest there is an option
Diversity, Round-Up and other answers to your pesky problems
Over the years, as more and more plants make it into my non-expanding yard, and the diversity of plant material increases, the problems become less and less.
Granted, there is hardly any room for any weed to grow. If there’s that much room, another plant goes in. That doesn’t mean they don’t start or sneakily grow under the canopy of other plants. However, without direct sunlight, they eventually have to make their presence known.
Sometimes you get caught bringing something in you don’t know is there, such as creeping Charlie with some peonies from a great friend. Then, the following year, you find the weed spreading everywhere.
And that’s when the hoe or hand comes out and the unwanted plant is no more.
For some reason, it’s gotten harder to bend over to pull the weeds in the alley or cracks in the drive year after year. It’s not hard getting down to apply the elbow grease; it’s just harder to get the knees and legs to get back up. This seems to be a condition that is affecting more and more of my friends. It must be the water.
Anyway, the use of glyphosate, better known as Round-Up, can take care of the weeds. Some formulations, as long as you read and follow the directions on the label, can limit germinating weeds for the rest of the season.
It’s not that we should or even need to run to the chemicals every time we see a pest.
In fact, if you see one pest, step on it, squash it, pull it from the ground, or prune it off the plant. That’s the easiest and smartest thing to do.
For those of you who believe you can’t have too little grass coupled with too many plants, you probably find that you have fewer pest problems. It’s called “diversity” and no one can really argue against it.
With diversity, you also have more predators, whether the six-legged kind or the two-legged types. Trees and shrubs provide natural shelter for birds, which then find any potential six-legged visitor as a food source.
Sometimes, the good smacks into the good. For example, swallowtail larva may decimate dill and fennel plants, but if that’s the goal, it’s OK. However, cardinals find the swallowtail caterpillars a tasty snack. In this case, two rights do make a wrong, but a fascinating wrong.
In fact most insects are innocuous, causing more concern than they’re worth. Sure, grubs in your lawn, Emerald Ash Borers on your ash tree and Japanese beetles on just about everything require attention.
But if you don’t have a lawn, ash trees, any plant in the rose family or lindens, your insect problems should be almost a yawn.
For any pest, there are options.
Look first at physical controls. The flyswatter or rolled up newspaper or magazine (old issues of Illinois Country Living) are great examples. So is the hoe or the pruning clippers. This involves more work, but great exercise.
Encourage birds and other creatures. Leave some of the seed pods on your flowers. Plant trees and shrubs for shelter. Viburnum and blueberries tend to be bird magnets.
Keep plants healthy.
Water when needed, which hopefully won’t be often but then this is Illinois. Finally, there are the chemicals.
They should be our last choice, not the first. Nor the second or third. Sadly, they often become the immediate go-to when a problem arises.
Some are necessary. Round-Up does a great job at controlling many weeds, but we are seeing some resistance with its continual use.
Imadicloprid is great for grub and Japanese beetle control, but timing is everything.
Which comes down to reading the label before buying. Make sure the pest you want to control is on the label. If it’s not, spraying won’t accomplish anything except lessen your bank account.
David Robson is an Extension Educator, Horticulture, at the Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois Extension, P.O. Box 8199, Springfield, IL 62791. Telephone: 217-782-6515.
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