Pesticide Free Zones

Photo: Suzanne Tucker, shutterstock.com

Pesticides are toxic substances and can harm children and pets, and get into our waterways.

Scientific studies show lawn pesticides can increase the risk of cancer, as well as asthma, immune system and nerve disorders, infertility, birth defects, learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

Children are particularly vulnerable due to their size, rapid development, and hand to mouth behaviors. In a recent study of preschoolers, 99% had one or more pesticides in their bodies.

Lawn pesticides can also poison pets and increase their risk of cancer, as well as harm wildlife and contaminate drinking water.

Pesticides can get on your skin, clothes and shoes, be tracked indoors and contaminate homes, furniture, and carpets.

Pesticides are:

  • Grub Control
  • Weed Killer
  • Fungus Treatment
  • Insect Spray
  • Crab Grass Preventer
  • Insecticides
  • Herbicides

Simple Steps to Organic Lawn Care

The easiest, most cost effective way to a beautiful, healthy lawn is to work with nature, not against it. A healthy lawn needs nutrients and microbe-rish soil that develop deep rooted, dense turf that competes successfully with weeds. Dense turf is beautiful and low maintenance. It naturally resists drought, insects and diseases.

Pesticides are not necessary for a beautiful lawn. In fact, they can do more harm than good. They kill the microbial life necessary for healthy soil and can kill the pest's natural enemies. This invites disease and insect infestation, which leads to more pesticide use and traps you in an unhealthy, costly chemical cycle.

Basic Lawn Care Tips

  • Spread 1/4" compost or sprinkle organic fertilizer each fall.
  • Seed with a mix of hardy grasses.
  • Mow high! Keep mower blades sharp.
  • Leave grass clippings on lawn as fertilizer.
  • Water only when soil is dry 6" down. 1" water per watering.
  • Overseed in the spring and fall.

Yearly Schedule

March & April

  • Sharpen mower blades.
  • Raise mower blade to 3 inches.
  • Test soil: Rutgers Cooperative Extension
  • Add soil amendments based on soil test.
  • Re-seed bare batches or apply corn gluten to prevent weed germination.
  • Always leave clippings on lawn to fertilize.

May & June

  • Check for weeds; pull out by hand.
  • Re-seed bare spots.
  • Monitor for insect pests.
  • If you have grub damange, spot treat with milky spore (once every ten years) and/or with beneficial nematode worms (once yearly for 2 or 3 years).

August

  • You may allow lawn to go dormant during drought. It will green up afer rain.

September & October

  • Best time to seed (generously)
  • Fertilize if needed (sparingly) or top dress with 1/4 inch compost.
  • Aerate if soil is compacted.
  • Lime if an autumn soil test finds pH lower than 6.8.

November

  • Final mowing at 2 inches for easier leaf raking

Managing Your Lawn Service

  • Set mower 3"-4". Taller grass shades out weeds (like crabgrass). Mow lawn as needed, never cutting more than 1/3 of leaf blade at a time and leave grass clippings on lawn for nutrient recycling.
  • Request corn gluten and organic fertilizer instead of "Weed and Feed" products.
  • Refuse routine application of pesticides, but if pesticides are used, make sure they are handled properly and applied sparingly by a licensed professional.
  • Beware if a lwn service tells you a chemical application is safe. Federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations prohibit manufacturers from making pesticide safety claims, even if used as directed. All pesticides must be treated with caution.
  • Never allow unidentified products to be used on your lawn. Request safety information and read it before application. Look up toxicity at www.pesticide.org.
  • Be aware that chemicals listed as inert ingredients can be highly toxic.
  • Take note: many pesticides persist in lawns and soil long after the posted 24-72 hours.
  • Ask for an organic program. An organic lawn can take up to 3 years to fully establish. 

Safe Pest Control for New Jersey Schools

The New Jersey School Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Act requires all public, private and charter schools to utilize "least toxic" IPM. IPM uses a wide variety of practices to reduce pests without the use of toxic pesticides. In and IPM program, pest control includes:

  • Prevent pests by reducing access to food, water, and facility.

  • Use non-toxic methods first such as vacuuming, cleaning, storing food in containers and using traps and baits.

  • Select least toxic pesticides only when other methods aren’t effective.

  • Restrict pesticide use to areas not in contact.

How is IPM Different from Traditional Pest Control?

IPM focuses primarily on finding the cause of pest problems. By contrast, traditional chemically oriented programs focus on killing existing pests without considering their source, or the negative impact of toxic chemicals.

Traditional school pest control often consists of scheduled “calendar” applications. Building occupants are seldom aware of the pest control treatment and what precautions should be taken. Often times these calendar applications take place regardless of the presence or absence of the pest(s).

Is IPM Less Expensive Than Spraying?

Yes! Schools utilizing IPM programs have experienced cost savings. Initial maintenance investments, such as caulking problem areas and installing window screens, pay for themselves over time. Montgomery County (Maryland) schools saved almost $100,000 through IPM in less than two years.

Is IPM is More Effective Than Spraying?

Yes! Although immediate effects may be slower, “IPM deals with the cause of the pest problem, it works to prevent future pest outbreaks. The old methods of routine chemical spraying are ineffective at getting to the root of the pest problem, and only deal with the symptoms.” - John Bigley, retired Superintendent, Evesham School, District, Marlton, NJ.

Implementing IPM

Education is the key to a successful IPM program. EVERYONE who uses school property plays a role in

pest control including the school board, administration, food service personell and custodians, teachers, students and parents. To implement IPM in your school, follow these steps:

  1. MONITOR FOR PESTS & DESIGN IPM PLAN: Analyze the site and its resident pests (i.e. insects, weeds or rodents). The process can be as simple as on-site inspection and interviews of building occupants by a trained observer or as detailed as monitoring with traps by a science class. Design the appropriate IPM plan to address the pest problem. Understand that it is impossible to eliminate all insects or weeds. 
  2. SET “ACTION LEVELS”: Decide at what point or “level” each pest becomes a problem deserving action. This is based on health or safety concerns, the number of particular pests present & the primary activity conducted in that location. “Action Levels” indicate the point when a chemical response may be considered, if non-chemical measures have been unsuccessful in keeping the pest numbers below the action level.
  3. TAKE ACTION WITHOUT USING PESTICIDES: Get rid of the problem by physical removal of the pests with a vacuum cleaner or fly swatter. Modify the habitat by denying the pest access to sources of food and water. Make sure the pests don’t return by cleaning, removing unnecessary clutter, fixing leaks/holes in the walls, and storing food in tightly sealed containers.
  4. USE LOW-IMPACT PESTICIDES: If pests persist, use only low-impact pesticides. These include containerized baits, traps and substances like boric acid or diatomaceous earth. Apply to cracks, crevices and breeding areas which are inaccessible to children. Use common sense & follow label instructions. In a properly managed IPM program, the need for broadcast pesticide application will seldom arise. Use only the least toxic pesticides capable of doing the required job in accordance with state regulations. 
  5. KEEP GOOD RECORDS AND EVALUATE RESULTS. Document pesticide reductions and cost savings. Use records to identify and reempt seasonal pests, as well as make adjustments to the IPM plan as needed. Good records help maintain continuity of IPM program with new staff.

For More Information

Contact us at 732-963-9714 or njcwa@cleanwater.org 

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