A weekly blog for all things conservation
By: Kevin Brown, Agricultural Team Leader
Are you one of those homeowners that have very difficult areas to mow? A bank? A ditch? A wet area? Around trees and obstacles in the lawn? Have you evaluated all the alternatives (not that there are really that many) to deal with this? We could still find a way to get it mowed. This alternative keeps it looking good, but it takes some effort. We could just let it go, and who wants to do that? It looks ugly (to us), right? Or we could just spray it and kill what is there. That sounds like the easiest way to deal with it. No hard work. You only have to do it once (probably). However, do you understand all the ramifications with this option? I am not going to get into the debate of whether sprays are harmful to the environment or not. That is for another time. What I do want to do is give you some cold hard facts about some of the results of doing this.
First off, if it is a steep bank, what do you suppose holds that bank up and keeps it from just sloughing off? Roots! Good soil structure! We have written about this before. Structure is roots and worm holes and little colonies of all kinds of good organisms in the soil that have built a home for themselves. They keep the soil tied together. What happens if you spray that bank? The plants die, then the roots die, then the soil dwelling organisms die because there is no food for them. And then what happens? Erosion. Maybe even a mud slide, if it is a big enough bank. Erosion is not good for us or the stream that it is going to end up in. Sedimentation is our number one water quality issue in Pennsylvania.
Secondly, depending on the spray that we are using, we can really create some weed issues. Not just the small ones you are dealing with now, but real ones. If you over-use Roundup, you get Roundup resistant weeds. At that point, Roundup won’t kill them. Now what can you do? I saw a place that had a ton of Roundup resistant Marestail. As that goes to seed, the seeds go everywhere. Now everyone has to deal with it. This is a major problem for some farmers today. It is very hard to control with anything. Even if you don’t create this issue, you can kill the “easily” killed weeds and then more hardy ones come in to take over. Again, now you have an even bigger issue. You have burdock and curly dock and thistle and all the good stuff.
Are you using the right amount? I know plenty of people that way over-apply spray. They want the plants dead! You do not have to soak the plant. You are just contaminating things.
Lastly, although just leaving the area to grow naturally will look “ugly” (to you), do you realize how great a habitat it is for butterflies, bees, rabbits, and the list goes on? We humans are the only creature that likes things neat and tidy. Animals need it messy for cover, food, predation, etc. Do you know that pollinators are at all-time lows and 1 out of every 3 bites of food we eat needs pollinators? We need to attract more pollinators, not chase them away. I am actually taking a wet area in my lawn and instead of fighting with it and trying to get it mowed all the time, I am going to make a nice wetland area out of it. Given the right plants, they can be beautiful areas, and I don’t have to mess with it at all now.
Just some things to think about next time you grab that sprayer.
Various staff at the Bradford County Conservation District