Are aphids camped out on your roses? Leaf miners munching away at your prized lemon tree? It’s enough to send you scrambling for the quickest, easiest solution. That’s understandable. Just please don’t look for that solution in the chemical aisle at the hardware store, compromising the health of your backyard “habitat” and your pocket book. Integrated pest management (IPM) offers a research-based alternative to chemicals that is economical, environmentally friendly, and it works!
Pests in the home landscape may be an insect or other arthropod, plant disease, weed or other organism that negatively affects plant health or becomes an annoyance to people or pets. IPM is an approach to managing those pests that respects the interconnection and inter-dependency of all organisms. IPM is used to solve pest problems while minimizing risks to people and the environment.
Using a combination of IPM methods, like biological, cultural, physical and chemical creates unfavorable conditions for pests. Biological control is the use of natural enemies, like a ladybug, to control pests, such as aphids. Cultural controls are practices that change the environment to remove the source of the problem, like adjusting irrigation levels, since too much water can increase root disease. Physical, or mechanical, controls trap or block pests from access to plants. Barriers or screens for birds and insects are great examples of a physical control. The use of a chemical control, or a pesticide, is used only when needed and in combination with efforts of the above mentioned methods. If pesticides are needed, applying them so they minimize harm to people, beneficial insects and the environment is imperative. Check out this fact sheet from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service for more information on IPM.
With the average homeowner in need of problem-solving techniques to manage landscape pests, The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department is presenting a FREE class on Integrated Pest Management in the Home Landscape. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Specialist in IPM and board-certified entomologist, Wizzie Brown will offer practical research-based information to support implementing IPM in your own back yard. Wizzie shares specific tools for use in the home landscape to strengthen plant health and reduce plant pests. You’ll take home information that can immediately be put to use in your own yard or garden.
Join Us Saturday, January 18, 2020 from 9 a.m. to noon The Woodlands Emergency Training Center 16135 Interstate 45 South The Woodlands, TX 77385
Back in November, Andy, a resident of The Woodlands Township, told me he’d made a conscious effort to reduce water consumption in his yard some time ago. He was adding more and more natives to save on water usage and to create habitat at the same time. I wondered how successful he had been, so I inquired about the status of his burgeoning ecosystem. Here’s the update:
Andy has only a small area of turf grass, specifically Zoysia. This is a grass species that doesn’t tolerate a lot of shade, but is otherwise a good choice for our weather. It tends to stay lower growing and needs far less water than the traditional St. Augustine.
Although a few non-native plants and shrubs remain in Andy’s yard, lots of native vegetation has been added. To support pollinators, native flowering plants were added in bunches so bees and butterflies can easily find them, and host plants were mixed in so that caterpillars (future butterflies) have a food source. Andy’s observed a significant increase in pollinators and birds this last year.
Andy converted much of his sprinkler system to drip irrigation, assuring his plants and grasses don’t get over watered. And he can easily avoid watering areas that consist solely of native plants – they don’t need it.
Andy subscribes to Weekly Watering Recommendation emails from Woodlands Water (formerly Woodlands Joint Powers Agency – WJPA) to tell him just how much, if any, water his lawn needs each week. When he does water his lawn he does it in three-minute cycles with breaks in between. This allows the water to soak into the soil, avoiding run-off.
Andy told me he avoids chemicals in his landscape, except on occasion when the nut-sedges try to take over his Zoysia. Otherwise, he’s careful to avoid anything that could be harmful to the pollinators and birds that visit. Twice-a-year applications of mulch to his beds help maintain the moisture level, reducing the need for watering while also deterring weeds. He noted that he sees few insect pests thanks to the many beneficial insects that now live in his gardens.
Andy reduced his water consumption by 11,000 gallons a year by implementing these changes. And, he hasn’t stopped there. He’s been finding ways to avoid water waste inside the home, as well. By installing simple low-flow faucet aerators, fixing leaky toilets, reducing shower time and minimizing waste water in the kitchen, his two-person household now uses less than 60 gallons-a-day, on average. Compare that to the national average of 180 gallons a day!
Considering trying some of Andy’s ideas and transforming your yard into an ecosystem? Here are some things to know:
Benefits of Native Grasses
Our native grasses provide great “texture” in a habitat for birds and butterflies. Providing grasses in multiple heights and native varieties creates resting places, nesting places, and shelter from predators. More than a simple food source, grasses provide a safe space for wildlife.
The Zoysia grass in Andy’s yard receives controlled amounts of water by hand. Overwatering is avoided encouraging the roots to grow deeper in to the soil in search of nutrients. As a result, the grass is greener and more resistant to disease.Native grasses not only require less water but support healthier waterways, too. As rainwater runs across your yard, the grass filters out debris on its way to the storm drain. Keep in mind that any chemicals used in your yard will also wash into the storm drain. Use compost and mulch instead of fertilizers and weed killers to reduce chemical runoff.
Reducing Chemical Use
Pollinators and other beneficial insects don’t do well in landscapes where chemicals are present. Research shows that many of the commonly used chemicals persist longer than originally believed. More than 90% of pollen samples from bee hives in this study were contaminated with multiple pesticides. The Environmental Protection Agency has identified a number of effective alternatives to pesticides and herbicides. Check here for a list of resources.
Tools and Resources
The Woodlands Township has a variety of water saving and native plant resources to help you transform your yard, just like Andy. Now is the time to plant trees, before the warmth of spring and new blooms appear. The best time to integrate native plants into your yard is during the spring and fall.
Simple tools, like a rain gauge, are great for ensuring your grass is getting the right amount of water. Stop by The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department’s office (8203 Millennium Forest Drive) to pick one up for FREE. We’re open between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Don’t forget that The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department has a full schedule of FREE programs and classes this spring that can help you transform your yard into your very own flourishing ecosystem. From drip irrigation and invasive plant removal to pest management and organic vegetable gardening, if you are inspired by Andy’s story to change your yard, let us help!
Thanks to Andy for letting me tell his story! If you would like to comment, or wish to contact Teri MacArthur, the Water Conservation Specialist for the Township, with your story, email to: email@example.com or call 281-210-3928.
The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department kicks off the New Year with a packed calendar of programs and events. We are ready to plant trees, create water-saving lawns, take down invasive plants, and get our hands dirty in the garden. There is something for everyone so read on and make plans to join us at these free events.
Learn how to implement simple actions throughout your landscape so that your plants can withstand common garden pests. Wizzie Brown, Program Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Services, will address practices to prevent most pest problems, control population levels of common pests, and how to do so in an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective way.
Free workshop. Registration is required. Register here.
Join The Woodlands Township, and community partner, the George Strake District of Boy Scouts of America, in celebrating the 44th annual Arbor Day Tree Giveaway. 12 varieties of native tree seedlings will be available, while supplies last. Come early for the best selection and be sure to bring your reusable bag to fill with trees and educational resources.
Since 1977 more than 1.5 million seedlings have been given to attendees to plant in their yard, in community open space reserves, and in forest preserves. Participate in one of The Woodlands longest standing traditions and help plant trees today to benefit our community for years to come.
For a complete list of seedlings available, visit here.
Three of Houston’s premier organic educators will teach a FREE workshop on the benefits of organic garden and landscape principles. If you are already gardening, thinking of starting a garden, or looking for a way to improve your yard, it’s time to ditch your synthetic fertilizers and toxic pesticides and garden with organics. Learn from the experts how to have a beautiful yard or garden free of chemicals.
Free workshop. Registration is required. Register here.
Learn how simple and easy it is to turn kitchen waste, yard trimmings and leaves into rich, handmade compost. Try out a variety of composting tools and equipment and learn how compost benefits plants, gardens and lawns.
High quality collapsible compost bins are available to purchase, at half price, to all those who attend.Regular price for a C.E. Shepard Compost Bin is $50. Class participants pay only $25.
This informal, interactive class is packed with great information and lots of fun. No registration required.
Volunteer today at the sixth annual Community Tree Planting. Township staff and volunteers will work side by side to help reforest a portion of the trailhead with a variety of native trees, wildflower seeds, and milkweed plants. This effort supports The Woodlands Township’s reforestation program as well as the Plant for Pollinators program that helps protect our native bees, butterflies, and moths.
All ages are welcome to volunteer and get their hands dirty. Registration is required. Register here.
Ever wondered what it would be like to be a beekeeper? Not sure where to start, what the neighbors will think or how much work it will take? Join us for a FREE presentation, led by Woodlands residents Lisa and Andrew Miller and hear firsthand from local beekeepers.
Lisa has four hives at her home that she and her son, Andrew, manage. Lisa has a wealth of experience in urban beekeeping and bee removal. She is a board member of the Montgomery County Beekeepers Association as well as a mentor to club members. Lisa and Andrew are members of Real Texas Honey, The Texas Beekeepers Association and they created The Woodlands Honey Company to sell their own local honey.
The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department wants you to volunteer!
Non-native, invasive plants crowd out native vegetation, degrade soil health and push out critical food sources that wildlife depend on. Volunteers are needed to work on scheduled days at specific sites around town to remove invasive species such as air potato vine, Chinese privet and Japanese climbing fern.
Since the efforts began in February 2019, more than 80 volunteers have been trained on identification and proper removal of invasive plants. A total of 350 volunteer hours helped remove 2,600 gallons of invasive species from pathways in the Township.
Register today for the unique chance to hear from Dr. Bob Randall as he shares how to have a successful organic vegetable garden with tips and tricks specific to our climate.
Dr. Randall has a lifelong interest in sustainable food production, gardening around the world until settling in Houston in 1979. As a founding member of Urban Harvest, Dr. Randall has helped establish one of the most successful community gardening programs in the Houston area.
Dr. Randall will cover a variety of topics in this 3 hour presentation including:
Spring gardening for Montgomery County
Garden site selection and preparation
Plant selection related to specific plant hardiness zone (9a)
In observance of the Christmas and New Year holidays, there will be no solid waste collection services on Wednesday, December 25, 2019 or Wednesday, January 1, 2020.
All services are affected—trash, recycling, yard trimmings, bulk pick-up, and Simple Recycling (orange textile bags). The chart below shows when service will be provided.
The Woodlands Recycling Center (5402 Research Forest Dr)
Closed – Wednesday December 25 and January 1
Open – every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Recycle Holiday Boxes and Wrappings
If your recycling cart is full, take advantage of special holiday recycling. On the first service day following December 25 in each Village, additional cardboard boxes, gift boxes and plain recyclable wrapping paper will be picked up for recycling. NO FOIL, GLITTER, OR EMBOSSED PAPER ALLOWED.
Break down smaller gift and mailing boxes to consolidate into one box.
Put extra paper wrappings in a small box.
Place additional boxes at the curb next to the recycling cart.
The holiday recycling truck is reserved only for recyclables.
DO NOT bag your recyclables. Leave them loose in the box or cart.
NO plastic bags.
NO bubble wrap.
NO ribbon, decorations, or Christmas lights.
Failure to follow guidelines will result in items being left at the curb.
Cut Christmas Tree Recycling – Unflocked Trees Only
Remove tree stand, all decorations and lights.
Place the tree at the curb on your regular service day for collection by the yard trimmings truck.
Other Option: Natural trees can be dropped off at The Recreation Center at Rob Fleming Park, 6464 Creekside Forest Drive, between December 26, 2019, and January 7, 2020. Please deposit trees in the Christmas Tree Corral in the parking lot at any time of day. Trees will be chipped and used as ground cover at the facility.
Flocked Christmas Tree Disposal
Schedule for bulk pick-up by calling Waste Management Customer Service at 800-800-5804.
Call at least two working days before your regular service day.
Flocked Christmas trees must be landfilled.
Extra Trash Bags
Extra bags of trash can be placed on the curb next to your cart.
Each bag must be affixed with a pink extra service tag.
Purchase tags for $1.75 each from The Woodlands Township offices, Kroger (Cochran’s Crossing, Alden Bridge and Sterling Ridge) or Randalls (Grogan’s Mill and Panther Creek).
Each bag may weigh no more than 40 pounds.
Missed Pick-ups. Please call Waste Management Customer Service at 800-800-5804.
Recycling unusable textiles. Fill Simple Recycling orange bags with worn out bedding, clothes, towels, and any other household textiles. Then place your bags on the curb on your regular service day. No phone call required. Request orange bags at www.simplerecycling.com.
Usable Home Items in Good Condition
Consider donating usable items to local charities before throwing them away. Here is a list of all local donation centers.
Every day more and more residents of The Woodlands Township are turning off their sprinkler systems for the winter. Letting grass “rest” for the cooler months is a trend that continues to spread. From soil scientists to turf grass specialists, all agree a “no watering” policy helps cultivate deeper roots and stronger grass while the grass goes dormant.
So, what does that mean for your yard? First off, don’t fertilize during the winter; it makes your grass lazy. By adding nutrients, your grass spends its energy staying green, rather than turning brown and concentrating on improving the root system. Secondly, don’t water your grass. Just like fertilizing, roots become lazy when they find moisture easily in shallow soil. By not watering, they reach deeper into the soil where microbes are working to recycle nutrients though decomposition and moisture is available.
When you turn off your sprinkler system, you will find you will not need to water your gardens and flower beds at all, or not as often as you think. Use a manual hose-end sprinkler if your landscaped bed needs some moisture.
One resident, Andy, reported saving 11,000 gallons of water in one year by turning off the sprinkler system and using drip irrigation in its place.
Last year, nearly 700 residents took the pledge to turn off their sprinkler systems from mid-October to mid-April. Many of these water-conscious residents have reported their lawns are better than ever! Perhaps it’s time for YOU to join them. If you are a resident of The Woodlands, your pledge also becomes a point for your Village Association in the competition for scholarship funds. The benefits of turning off your system are plentiful: water savings, healthier yards, and the potential for your Village to present scholarships to college-bound students.
When you’re ready to pledge, the form is available ONLINE. And here’s a bonus: Once you pledge, pick up a free hose timer at the Environmental Services Office, located at 8203 Millennium Forest Drive, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.