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New Year's Resolutions that $ave You Money

Wednesday - 12/29/2010, 8:15pm  ET

New Year's Resolutions that $ave You Money; (and maybe your life)

Happy New Year! Time for our annual money saving, green- leaning resolutions for gardeners (and you normal people too):

#1: Toxic Indoor Air No More!

Resolution #1: No more indoor pesticide spraying. Yeah, you risk harm to yourself, pets, wildlife and our fragile water supplies when you spray poisons outside. But to allow these nerve toxins and hormonal disruptors inside your home, where you're going to be breathing them in every minute is suicide. And a waste of money, because No indoor pest is best controlled with poisons—not a single one. Ants, roaches, fleas, mice, moths, the nefarious bedbug—just about every common indoor pest—is best controlled by a clever and non-toxic trap of some sort. (See below.) Chemical sprays are worse than a waste of money—they're crude, ineffective, and a bigger danger to you than to any pest.

Don't believe that the options can be so safe and easy? Here's a short list of controls that WORK:

  • Ants: Boric acid bait traps (available commercially under many brand names).

  • Roaches: Eliminate moisture (this is an absolute must); then use sticky traps (like the famed ‘Roach Motel') and boric acid powder.

  • Fleas: First treat your pets; then vacuum the affected areas well once a week and place sticky traps with a small light source suspended above (available commercially) in the centers of affected rooms. Change the trap paper frequently.

  • Mice: Snap traps baited with peanut butter. Check traps daily.

  • Clothes and pantry moths: Sticky traps with pheromone lures (available commercially).

  • Bedbugs: Remove clothing and bedding from floor; vacuum well under and around bed; encase mattresses and pillows (this will help with allergy and asthma symptoms too); place the bottoms of all four bedposts into small containers of talcum powder.

#2: Get Your Lawn Off Drugs!

Money saving New Year's resolution #2: Stop using toxic chemicals on your poor lawn! Chemical treatments like "weed and feed" and other sinister ‘solutions' to supposed problems are 100% unnecessary—and dangerous. Herbicides like the commonly applied 2, 4-D are known cancer causers; do you really want a ‘lawn to die for'? Besides, grass is the toughest ‘weed' around; all it needs from you to thrive is to never be cut lower than three inches (see #3 below), to be fed ONLY twice a year (in Spring and Fall), and to be watered deeply and INfrequently. Your now happy lawn will easily out-compete dandelions, clover and all those other plants whose presence upsets you. Plus, you'll save a lot of money; perhaps your life.

(Note: The above timing and feeding advice applies to all D.C. area lawns except zoysia grass, which can take a shorter cut and should only be fed once, lightly, in the summer.)

#3: A High Cut = Low Lawn Care Costs

Want to save time, money—and have a better looking lawn? Resolve to adopt Resolution #3 and cut that turf at the correct height.

If you have a cool season lawn (bluegrass, fescue and/or rye) and mow it yourself , measure the green left after cutting and raise the height on your mower so that at least three inches of green remains AFTER cutting the next time around and forever after.

If you have a cool season lawn (bluegrass, fescue and/or rye) and somebody else cuts it, insist that they cut it at the correct height or you'll hire someone else.

Why? Because a great looking, low-care, weed-free lawn can only be achieved with the right height; it's more important and effective than herbicides—chemical or organic—or any other factor. People who foolishly scalp their lawns have to mow much more often and always have bare spots and lots of weeds. Grass that's cut correctly will grow slowly, evenly, and develop deep roots that require much less food and water.

You'll see more green in your yard—and your wallet.

#4: Start Singing the ‘Green Acres' Song

New Year's Resolution #4: Plan now to enjoy your very own home-grown tomatoes this summer. If you didn't have a veggie garden last season, plan to start at least a small one this year—or start looking now for a local community garden to join. If you had a garden last year and got bummed out by the record breaking heat, don't give up. I can't guarantee a perfect summer, but as Al Gore is my witness, the odds are it has to be nicer than the last two!

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