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Give Them an Inch, They’ll Take Your Yard

July 24
Give them an inch, they’ll take your yard
The best way to minimize backyard pests is to have the most naturally healthy lawn and garden you can.

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer, The Portland Press Herald

There’s a reason your backyard is full of pests. Lots of reasons, actually.

If you know when beetles lay their eggs, you can avoid population explosions the next year.

Slugs are fond of soggy debris.

And if you stop to consider those reasons — standing water breeds mosquitoes, tall grass gives shelter to ticks, soggy wood attracts slugs — you might find some long-range solutions.

Many bug and lawn experts say that instead of spending money on the newest mosquito zapper or insect killer, you might want to spend some time and energy making your backyard as unfriendly to pests as possible. Whether pests are flying or crawling, attacking you or attacking your plants, there are things you can do without using heavy artillery and heavy chemicals.

“The biggest thing you can do is have good sanitation, and by that I mean empty your birdbaths and clean your gutters, keep the grass mowed fairly short, and the hedges and trees trimmed,” said Jim Dill, pest management specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Orono. “Make sure you don’t have debris lying around; slugs love that. Try to use non-decaying mulch.”

Paul Tukey, whose Falmouth-based Safe Lawns Foundation ( works to promote natural lawn care, says the best thing you can do to minimize pests is to have the most naturally healthy lawn and garden you can. If soil is healthy, and if roots and plants are strong, the pest problem should be kept to a minimum.

“When people are able to maintain a completely organic garden, we don’t see a pest control problem,” Tukey said. “If you’ve got an insect eating your lettuce, try to find out what’s wrong with that lettuce. Pests seek out weakness. If you have very healthy soil, organisms in your soil will eat the grubs, and you won’t have a grub problem in your lawn.”

Here are some tips on how to attack the causes of your backyard pests — without chemicals or gadgetry — from Dill, Tukey and Gary Fish, manager of the Pesticide Programs for the Maine Board of Pesticides Control in Augusta.

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©The Portland Press Herald

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