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Gardening & The Environment

Title Summary Date ID Author(s)
Applying Pesticides Safely

Proper use of pesticides is essential for your safety and for that of the environment. Pesticides must be used correctly to be effective.

Review the product label before each use. Be sure you have all the materials necessary for a safe and proper application. Check precautions label sites (e.g., types of plants or areas) and timing requirements such as days to harvest, temperature, and wind speed restrictions. Be sure you can indeed use this pesticide when and where you intend to!

May 1, 2009 426-710
Botryosphaeria Canker and Dieback of Trees and Shrubs in the Landscape Jun 18, 2009 450-726
Building Healthy Soil
Caring for the garden soil should be as important to home gardeners as it is to farmers. Improving the soil structure is one of the most important aspects of soil care, and adding organic matter is the most effective way to accomplish this. Organic matter also helps maintain the pH balance of the soil and adds nutrients.
May 1, 2009 426-711
Care Sheet for Sabal minor or “Dwarf Palmetto” in Virginia Landscapes Sep 5, 2013 HORT-60NP
Choosing Pesticides Wisely
Healthy plants are less susceptible to attack by pests, and good cultural practices can reduce pest outbreaks.

Do you really need a pesticide?

Before you purchase any pesticide, you should answer some important questions.
  • Is the damage actually caused by a pest? Could it be due to the weather or a cultural practice, such as overor underwatering, improper fertilization, or herbicide damage?
  • If it is a pest, what kind is it?
  • Are there nonchemical ways to control it? Is the damage severe enough to warrant chemical control?
  • Is pesticide use cost-effective? Or would the chemical treatment cost more than the plant is worth?
  • Can the pest be controlled by a chemical at this stage of its life cycle, or would application at a different time be more effective?
  • Do you have the equipment and skill to use the proper pesticide correctly?
May 1, 2009 426-706
Closing the Loop: Public-Private Partnerships for On-Farm Composting of Yard Waste May 1, 2009 452-233
Compost: What Is It and What's It To You May 1, 2009 452-231
Conserving Energy with Landscaping

Winter winds increase the rate of air exchange between the interior and exterior of a house, lowering the house’s interior temperature and thereby increasing the heating demand. In a windy site, a windbreak planting (also called a shelterbelt) can account for up to a 50-percent wind reduction and up to a 25-percent reduction in heating fuel consumption. A windbreak is a single or multiple rows of trees or shrubs in a linear configuration.

May 1, 2009 426-712
Creating a Water-Wise Landscape
Water-wise landscape design and management focus on working with nature and natural forces (such as rainfall) to create an aesthetically pleasing, livable landscape, while using less water from the local supply.

Minimizing the need for watering in your landscape requires careful observation, planning, and common sense. Several principles for water-wise landscaping include choosing the best design and plants, preparing soils, and watering properly for efficient water use.

May 1, 2009 426-713
Environmental Horticulture: Guide to Nutrient Management

Plants need 17 elements for normal growth. Carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are found in air and water. Nitrogen, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, and sulfur are found in the soil. These six elements are used in relatively large amounts by the plant and are called macronutrients. There are eight other elements that are used in much smaller amounts and are called micronutrients, or trace elements. The micronutrients, which are found in the soil, are iron, zinc, molybdenum, manganese, boron, copper, cobalt, and chlorine. All 17 elements, both macronutrients and micronutrients, are essential for plant growth.

May 1, 2009 426-613
Fertilizer Applicator Certification Training Apr 12, 2013 ANR-66
Food Safety For School and Community Gardens May 29, 2013 FST-60P
For the Birds, Butterflies & Hummingbirds: Creating Inviting Habitats Aug 29, 2013 HORT-59P
Getting Started in the Production of Field-Grown, Specialty Cut Flowers

Specialty cut flowers are one of the most profitable field crops you can grow. Lynn Byczynski, editor of Growing For Market newsletter (see Resources section), estimates a value of $25,000 to $35,000 per acre for field-grown cuts. The most basic requirements are at least half an acre of open, arable land, a rototiller, and, of course, time and effort. This publication is directed to those new to market gardening, but commercial vegetable growers, tobacco farmers, and young people interested in summer income are all potential candidates. Even grain and livestock farmers have increased profitability in their operations by adding cut flower production. For many greenhouse and nursery operations, mid-summer business is slower, relative to spring. A field-grown cut flower business is a viable option to fill in the summer production and cash flow gap.

May 2, 2014 426-618 (HORT-71P)
Groundwater Quality and the Use of Lawn and Garden Chemicals by Homeowners

The people of Virginia use nearly 400 million gallons of groundwater each day to meet industrial, agricultural, public, and private water demands. One-third of Virginia's citizens rely on groundwater as their primary source of fresh drinking water, and 80 percent of Virginians use groundwater to supply some or all of their daily water needs. Groundwater is an important resource, but it is a hidden one and, therefore, is often forgotten. In fact, until recent incidents of groundwater contamination, little attention was paid to the need to protect Virginia's groundwater.

May 1, 2009 426-059
Home Landscape Practices to Protect Water Quality

In Virginia, we rely on reservoir systems, wells, and other sources for our freshwater. In recent years, our previously plentiful clean water supplies have been threatened not only by overuse, but also by contamination. Pollutants are carried down with water soaking through the soil to the water table. Runoff (water that does not soak into the ground) flows over the surface, often taking soil and polluting chemicals with it into lakes and streams.

May 1, 2009 426-723
How to Plan for and Plant Streamside Conservation Buffers with Native Fruit and Nut Trees and Woody Floral Shrubs Sep 4, 2013 ANR-69P
Impatiens Downy Mildew May 21, 2013 PPWS-19NP
Integrated Pest Management for Plant Diseases in the Home Garden and Landscape, Learning Module I: Integrated Pest Management Feb 21, 2013 PPWS-14NP
Integrated Pest Management for Plant Diseases in the Home Garden and Landscape, Learning Module II: The Plant Disease Triangle Feb 21, 2013 PPWS-15NP
Invasive Plants -- A Horticultural Perspective

Invasive nonnative (nonindigenous) plants are the subject of a considerable amount of attention and debate. Stories about invasive plants are now common in the popular media. As purchasers of nonindigenous plants that have the potential to invade natural areas, consumers are links in the distribution chain of invasive plants. Other links are those who import, propagate, transport, and sell nonindigenous plants. Ultimately, the result is a potential impact on our natural environment.

Apr 28, 2009 426-080
Landscaping for Less in the Landfill

Virginia is rapidly running out of landfill space. Fifteen to twenty percent of solid waste sent to landfills is comprised of leaves, grass clippings, and other yard wastes. Gardeners can plan their landscapes to produce less yard waste and use what is produced around their homes to enhance yards, gardens, and soil.

May 1, 2009 426-716
Living Well Newsletter, Volume 9, Issue 1 Aug 8, 2013 FCS-46P
Making Compost from Yard Waste

Compost is one of the most valuable resources for beautifying your landscape, and it is virtually free. The leaves you rake, the grass you mow, and the branches you trim are some of the ingredients you can use to make compost. Finished compost is dark and has a pleasant smell. It is produced when organic matter — such as garden, lawn, and kitchen waste — is broken down by bacteria and fungi. 

Use compost throughout your landscape: dig it into gardens and flower beds, add it to the soil when renovating your lawn, or put it through a sieve and use it in potting soil.

Oct 18, 2012 426-703 (HORT-46P)
Mulching for a Healthy Landscape

For as long as trees have grown in forests, leaves and needles have fallen to the ground and formed a natural protective layer over the soil. This same protection can be given to the plants in our landscapes by mulching. Mulching can make a big difference in the success of your landscape. Mulches conserve soil moisture, allowing you to water less often; keep down weeds; reduce erosion; keep plant roots cool; provide winter protection; and make your yard more attractive.

May 1, 2009 426-724
Pest Management Guide: Home Grounds and Animals, 2014 Jan 28, 2014 456-018 (ENTO-36P)
Pest Management for Water Quality

Research has shown that consumers find reading and understanding the label to be the most difficult aspect of applying pesticides. However, an understanding of the label information is essential before work begins. The label printed on or attached to a container of pesticide tells how to use it correctly and warns of any environmental or health safety measures to take. Read the label when you purchase a pesticide and again before mixing or applying it. If you are confused about any part of the label, consult your Extension agent or a representative of the company that makes the product. Many pesticides now list a toll-free number for consumers. The label includes specific information that you should be aware of and learn to understand.

May 1, 2009 426-615
Reducing Erosion and Runoff

Soil erosion occurs when soil particles are carried off by water or wind and deposited somewhere else such as into a stream or at the bottom of a bay. Often soil particles are carried by runoff, water that does not soak into the ground, but flows over the surface and runs to another area - such as into stormdrains, streams, or lakes. In addition to soil sediment, runoff can wash fertilizer and other pollutants along with it. Sediment makes up most of the pollutant carried by runoff, however, and most of the phosphate and pesticides entering Virginia's waters are attached to these sod particles. Therefore, controlling erosion will make a significant contribution to the control of water pollution.

May 1, 2009 426-722
Reducing Pesticide Use in the Home Lawn and Garden May 1, 2009 450-725
Storing Pesticides Safely
Storage Tips
The proper storage of pesticides, both synthetic and botanical, in and around the home is important for many reasons, including protecting human health, preserving the environment, and maintaining chemical effectiveness. One way to minimize storage problems is through good planning.

Buy only the amount of pesticide that you need for a specific job or for the current growing season. The smaller-volume containers, even if more expensive ounce for ounce, may in fact be the "best buy" in the long run by eliminating waste and the need for storage space. If you need to store pesticides on your property, follow these guidelines - for safety's sake!

May 1, 2009 426-705
The Basics of Hardwood-Log Shiitake Mushroom Production and Marketing Apr 3, 2014 ANR-102P
The Virginia Yard Waste Management Manual May 1, 2009 452-055
Therapeutic Gardening Nov 18, 2013 HORT-66NP
Understanding Pesticide Labels

Research has shown that consumers find reading and understanding the label to be the most difficult aspect of applying pesticides safely. However, it is essential that you understand the label information before you begin work. The label printed on or attached to a container of pesticide tells you how to use it correctly and warns of any environmental or health safety measures to take.

May 1, 2009 426-707
Urban Water-Quality Management - What Is a Watershed?

A watershed is an area of land that drains to a lake, river, wetland, or other waterway. When precipitation occurs, water travels over forest, agricultural, or urban/suburban land areas before entering a waterway. Water can also travel into underground aquifers on its way to larger bodies of water. Together, land and water make up a watershed system.

May 1, 2009 426-041
Urban Water-Quality Management - Winterizing the Water Garden

Water gardens require maintenance throughout the year. Preparation for the winter months is especially important for the survival of both the aquatic plants and the wildlife in and around the pond. Some plants will not tolerate winter weather and must be removed from the pond while cold-hardy plants need only to be completely immersed in the pond. Debris such as leaves and dying plants must be removed, especially if there are fi sh in the pond. Fall is the time to take action. Prepare the pond for the winter months by managing the plants, cleaning the pond, and monitoring the water conditions. If treated properly, many aquatic plants and wildlife can survive in the water garden for years.

May 1, 2009 426-042
Urban Water-Quality Management Insect Pests of Water Garden Plants

Aphids (Hemiptera: Aphididae)

(numerous aquatic plants)

Aphids are often called plant lice. Several species are troublesome pests on above-water leaves (a), stems, and flower buds of aquatic plants. These sucking insects distort succulent new leaves, causing them to curl, wilt, or turn yellow. Adults are 1/8 inch long and can be winged (c) or wingless (b) with soft pear-shaped bodies with two distinctive cornicles or "tailpipes" protruding from the backs of their abdomens. 

May 1, 2009 426-040
Urban Water-Quality Management: Purchasing Aquatic Plants

Aquatic plants are essential for a healthy and environmentally balanced water garden. Whether you are installing a new water feature or renovating an existing one, proper plant selection is critical. Plants compliment water features, soften hard edges, and add color, texture, and form. They also provide shelter and food for fish and other aquatic wildlife. The following steps will help you select and purchase aquatic plants.

May 1, 2009 426-044
Urban Water-Quality Management: Rain Garden Plants

A rain garden is a landscaped area specially designed to collect rainfall and storm-water runoff. The plants and soil in the rain garden clean pollutants from the water as it seeps into the ground and evaporates back into the atmosphere. For a rain garden to work, plants must be selected, installed, and maintained properly.

May 1, 2009 426-043
Urban Water-Quality Management: Wildlife in the Home Pond Garden

Small home pond gardens support aquatic plants and also attract a variety of wildlife. Turtles, frogs, birds, snakes, lizards, and raccoons as well as many other animals may use these ponds. Most wildlife needs water to survive and will seek out ponds for drinking, bathing, habitat, and in some cases, reproduction.

May 1, 2009 426-045
Using Compost in Your Landscape

Compost is produced when organic matter, such as garden and lawn waste, is broken down by bacteria and fungi.

When added to soil it improves soil structure; sandy soils will hold water better while clays will drain faster. Compost also promotes a biologically healthy soil by providing food for earthworms, soil insects, and beneficial microorganisms.

May 1, 2009 426-704
Virginia Master Naturalist Jul 1, 2011 465-300