Yardscaping healthy yards for families pets and wildlife
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YardScaping… “Healthy” Yards for Families, Pets and Wildlife. Gary Fish, Coordinator Maine YardScaping Partnership (207) 287-2731 gary.fish@maine.gov. The Partnership is very diverse!. YardScaping. A new paradigm? Some call it “Sustainable Landscaping” or “Ecological Landscaping”

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Yardscaping healthy yards for families pets and wildlife l.jpg

YardScaping…“Healthy” Yards for Families, Pets and Wildlife

Gary Fish, CoordinatorMaine YardScaping Partnership (207) 287-2731gary.fish@maine.gov

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  • A new paradigm?

  • Some call it “Sustainable Landscaping” or “Ecological Landscaping”

  • We want to keep it simple

Back Cove –Demonstration Site

Back Cove –Demonstration Site

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YardScaping Mission

  • To inspire Maine people to

    • create healthy yards for families, pets and wildlife

    • by using less fertilizer, pesticides and water

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YardScaping core values

  • Practice low-input yard care

  • Reduce runoff

  • Choose the right plant for the right place

  • Manage pests wisely

  • Diversify your landscape

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National Lakes Assessment

1,028 Lakes Studied in 2007

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NLA Findings

  • 56% of Nation’s Lakes: Good

  • 44% Fair or Poor

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NLA Conclusions

  • Removal of critical buffer vegetation, including trees and shrubs along shoreline areas contributed to findings

  • Conclusion: “Poor biological health is three times more likely in lakes with poor shoreline habitat.”

  • Probably can extend these findings to coastal bays as well

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But would you recognize this tranquil scene

as a threat to lake health?

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Urban water sampling than perceived

  • Friends Of Casco Bay did some detective work in 2001 - 2008

  • Sampled runoff water from intensive lawn care areas in Cumberland, S Portland, Westbrook, Falmouth, Yarmouth, Brunswick, Freeport, Portland and Cape Elizabeth & Back Cove area

  • Sampled sediments for pyrethroid insecticides in Falmouth and Portland in 2008

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Friends of Casco Bay sampling than perceived

  • Pesticide residues detected in surface water

    • Diazinon up to (2.6 ppb)**

    • 2,4-D up to (36.4 ppb)

    • Dicamba up to (4.1 ppb)

    • MCPP up to (26 ppb)

    • MCPA up to (0.45 ppb)

    • Clopyralid up to (0.91 ppb)

    • Propiconazole up to (0.075 ppb)

    • Chlorothalonil up to (0.22 ppb)

    • Found Excess Nitrogen & Phosphorous in most samples

  • Pesticide residues detected in sediments

    • Bifenthrin up to (16.6 ppb) 100% of samples

**Values in red exceed Aquatic Life Criteria

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USGS National Water Quality Assessment – 2006 Report than perceived

  • Sampled urban streams

    • Insecticides occurred more frequently in urban streams than they did in agricultural area streams

    • Herbicides detected in 99% of Urban stream samples

    • Phosphorous found at same levels as in agricultural streams

      • 70% of those samples exceeded the EPA level for causing excessive algal growth

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One Third of U.S. Bird Species Endangered, Survey Finds than perceived


Published: March 19, 2009

Habitat destruction, pollution and other problems have left nearly a third of the nation’s 800 bird species endangered, threatened or in serious decline, according to a study issued on Thursday.

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Kentucky Warbler than perceived

- 29%

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- 48% than perceived

Wood Thrush


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Golden Winged Warbler than perceived


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Cerulean Warbler than perceived

- 84%

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Prothonotary Warbler than perceived

127 species of neotropical migrant birds are declining

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What’s a gardener to do? than perceived

  • Be a YardScaper

    • Improve the soil

    • Reduce the need for irrigation

    • Right Plant…Right Place

    • Slow the flow

    • Plant native and avoid invasive plants

    • Reduce the need for weed and insect control

    • Apply fertilizers and pesticides properly & sparingly

Back Cove –Demonstration Site

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Improve the soil than perceived

  • Know your soil - Soil test

  • Add low nutrient composts

    • Avoid nutrient banking

  • Apply compost tea but not to edible parts of plants

  • Avoid products with animal manures

  • Aerate lawns

  • Return lawn clippings

    • Keep clippings off impervious surfaces

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Sweet Fern than perceived

Red Chokeberry

Reduce irrigation needs

  • Use drought tolerant plants

    • Fescues instead of Kentucky Blue Grass or Ryegrass

    • Sweet Fern will colonize the driest and worse soils

    • Red Chokeberry tolerates very dry soils

Tall Fescue

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Low Maintenance Lawn Benefits – than perceived2000 CMHC study of 30 residences

  • Residents with low-maintenance lawns spent

    • 50 per cent less time,

    • 85 per cent less money, and

  • used

    • 50 per cent less fuel,

    • 85 per cent less fertilizer,

    • 100 per cent less water and

    • 100 per cent less pesticides per year


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Choose and place plants carefully than perceived

  • Right plant… right place

    • Hardiness zone

    • Sun exposure

    • Soil type

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Know your hardiness zone than perceived

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Match the sun requirements of your plants than perceived

  • Native groundcovers




Full sun

Partial sun/shade


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Know the soil type than perceived

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Reduce irrigation needs than perceived

  • Mulch properly

    • Organic mulches conserve water

    • Not too deep (2 – 4inches)

    • Don’t use impervious weed barriers

    • No volcano mulching

    • Shred your leaves and use as mulch under trees and shrubs or as winter cover for bulbs

  • Mow high

    • 3 – 4 inches is best

    • Taller grass has deeper roots

    • Higher cut reduces weed problems

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Reduce irrigation needs than perceived

  • Reduce lawn area

  • Water properly

My own wildflower field

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Slow the flow than perceived

  • Capture runoff

    • Rain barrel

    • Rain Gardens

    • Pervious walks & driveways

  • Resist the neatnik inside you

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Slow the flow than perceived

  • Curves are good

  • Reduce lawn area

  • Create buffers

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Protect waters with buffers than perceived

  • Preserve existing landscape

  • Winding paths

  • Don’t mow to the water’s edge

  • Leave the duff

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Reduce runoff than perceived

  • Reduce amount of pervious (hard) surfaces

  • Create rain gardens or install rain barrels

  • Direct water into vegetated areas

Porous pavement

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Common Ninebark – dry sunny site than perceived

Reduce the need for weed and insect control

  • Plant resistant varieties

  • Right plant right place

Bunchberry – shady and moist site

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Reduce the need for weed and insect control than perceived

  • Mow high and sharp

    • Sharp blades reduce disease & stress

  • Feed the need

    • Healthy plants resist problems

    • Spoon feeding is best

  • Seed, seed, seed

    • Seeds and plants are the best weed control

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Reduce the need for weed and insect control than perceived

  • Keep air circulating

    • Prune plants properly

  • Encourage beneficials

    • Provide continuous blooms

    • Apply beneficials

  • Encourage birds

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Habitat enhancement for beneficials than perceived

Many beneficials, as adults, larvae, or both, require pollen and/or nectar as dietary supplements

Key is to provide a series of plants that, collectively, provide continuous nectar/pollen supplyMany of the same plants that provide food and habitat for natural enemies also provide resources for pollinators

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All plants than perceiveddo notsupport wildlife equally

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Alien than perceivedAutumn Olive

NativeBlack Cherry

456 insect species

9 insect species

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On average natives support 12x more lepidopteran species than perceived


N=69 for aliens


N=101 for natives




Woody Ornamentals

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Viburnum Leaf Beetle than perceived

Avoid invasive plants

  • Some can ruin lakes

  • Others change wetlands

  • Native plants are not a panacea

    • Some may be very susceptible to alien insects

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Be careful when controlling invasive plants than perceived

  • Control can degrade water quality

    • Erosion causes siltation

  • Must replace with new plants

    • Nature always fills open spots

Garlic mustard

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Apply fertilizers properly & sparingly than perceived

  • Test the soil

  • Use slow release nitrogen with No Phos

  • Spoon feed

    • Apply ½ rate

    • Apply once or twice only

  • No weed & feed

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Select slow release fertilizers than perceived


  • Total Nitrogen (N)...…..................….8.00%      1.0 % Water Soluble Nitrogen      7.5 % Water Insoluble NitrogenAvailable Phosphate (P205)..........….1.0 %Soluble Potash (K20)....................…1.0 % Derived from corn gluten, steamed bone meal & sulfate of potash

  • NON PLANT FOOD INGREDIENTS Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus licheniformis, Bacillus pumulis, Bacillus megaterium, Paenibacillus polymyxa, Paenibacillus durum each @ 275,000 CFU per gram of finished product

Look for Water Insoluble Nitrogen (WIN)

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Apply pesticides properly & sparingly than perceived

  • Practice IPM

    • ID pests

    • Think first… Spray last

  • Choose least toxic and effective products

  • Apply properly

    • Keep off hard surfaces

    • Measure areas

    • Calibrate equipment

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Proper application than perceived

  • Base applications on soil test results

  • Never apply when there is standing water

  • Never apply to saturated soils

  • Never apply to frozen ground

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Proper application than perceived

  • Never apply until soil warms to 50 - 55°F at 3” soil depth

  • Never apply between December 1 and April 1

  • Do not apply pesticides if rain or irrigation is imminent, unless specified by label

  • Do not apply if moderate or heavy rain is imminent regardless of label statements

  • Never apply to impervious surfaces

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Proper application than perceived

  • Never apply near areas prone to runoff, i.e., culverts, drains, drainageways or wells

  • Never apply to bare ground unless establishing seed

  • Cover seed to prevent erosion

  • Clean up spills immediately

  • Lightly water-in fertilizers

  • When the label directs, assure that pesticides are watered in as directed

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25-foot buffer zone required next to waters and wetlands than perceived

  • Applies to all terrestrial “Broadcast” pesticide applications

    • Except stinging insect and arthropod vector control, and

    • Man-made Ag wetlands, e.g., Cranberry bog areas

  • Variances may be granted if the Board approves and protections are reasonably equivalent

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Where to learn more than perceived


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Where to learn more than perceived


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Where to learn more than perceived


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Back Cove demonstration area than perceived

  • It is a 2 acre +/- site that will be developed over two years

  • We have 4 “yards” featuring different types of landscapes

    • Rural – Field & wildflowers with native trees and wildlife habitat enhancements

    • Suburban/Rural – No-mow grass with native trees & shrubs

    • Urban/Suburban – Very low input lawn grasses that are mowed with very low input native and non-invasive alien trees & shrubs

    • Urban – YardScaping lawn mix with low input native and non-invasive alien trees & shrubs

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Rural/Meadow Area than perceived

  • Few trees & shrubs

  • Meadow areas

  • Rough paths

  • Bird boxes

  • Wildlife shelters

  • Bush hog 1x/year

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Suburban/Rural than perceived

  • No-mow lawn

  • Maintenance free native trees and shrubs

  • Mulched paths

  • Mown 2x/year

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Urban/Suburban than perceived

  • Very low input grasses

  • Very low input native and non-invasive alien trees & shrubs

  • Stone dust paths

  • More benches

  • Grass mown at 3 inches

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Urban than perceived

  • YardScaping grass mix

  • Low input native and non-invasive alien trees & shrubs

  • Crushed stone paths

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YardScaping… than perceivedProtecting the beauty of Maine