Environmental Gardeners.

first_imgGeorgia gardeners want lush lawns and award-winning vegetables.But they also care about the damage pesticides and fertilizerscan cause the environment, says a University of Georgia survey.Researchers in the UGA College of Agricultural and EnvironmentalSciences are crafting guidelines to help homeowners choose gardenand landscape practices that don’t harm the environment. But theyneeded information.What Are Georgia Gardeners Doing?”Before we can develop guidelines, we need to know howGeorgia gardeners use pesticides and fertilizers,” said SusanVarlamoff, the survey coordinator. “The survey results arehelping us determine the level of information we need to put intothe homeowner best management practices manual.”The survey was funded by the Pollution Prevention AssistanceDivision of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The BMPmanual will be developed with a federal Environmental ProtectionAgency grant.Both projects are part of a five-year program aimed at educatinghomeowners on reducing the environmental effects of improper gardening.”Our goal is to reduce nonpoint-source pollution, whichis a result of runoff from landscapes containing pesticides andfertilizers,” said Varlamoff. “We’re also searchingfor ways to provide correct gardening information to homeowners.”During the summer of 1999, 400 Georgians took part in the survey,which was designed by a team of CAES researchers and implementedby the UGA Survey Research Center.The survey asked gardeners about general and specific practices.It asked, too, where they get their gardening information.Gardeners Want to Use Environmentally FriendlyProducts”We were surprised to find that people are already gardeningto protect the environment,” Varlamoff said. “Of thepeople we surveyed, 67 percent are choosing products they believeto be environmentally friendly.”The survey showed that 45 percent of Georgians are compostinghousehold and lawn waste for use in their home landscapes.But where do they learn about gardening? “Most of thepeople we surveyed said they get their information from neighbors,”Varlamoff said. “Their second-largest source was television.”The study also showed that they prefer to get their informationwhere they buy their gardening supplies.”We need to know where our efforts need to be directedand how people want to receive this information,” Varlamoffsaid. “Our goal is to educate the gardening public for everyone’sbenefit.”People need to know, for example, not to apply fertilizerswhen a heavy rainstorm is expected,” she said. “Thechemicals won’t have time to be absorbed into the soil beforethey’re washed away. They also need to apply only as much as thegrass or plants can use.”Open to AlternativesAnother key question was whether Georgia gardeners are opento using nonchemical ways to control pests.”It’s one thing for our college’s researchers to developand test nonchemical methods of control,” she said. “Butthis can only be effective if people are willing to adopt thesemethods.We needed to know if people are open to planting pest-resistantplant varieties or applying insecticidal soaps instead of sprayingchemicals.”The answer? Most are very willing to try.Of the people surveyed, 69 percent said they want to learnmore about alternative ways to control pests, and 72 percent arewilling to plant pest-resistant varieties.”People are becoming more and more aware of alternativemethods because they’re becoming more available in gardening centers,”Varlamoff said. “You can even buy lady beetles over the counternow.”Weed-free Lawns a Top PriorityBut the quest for the perfect, weed-free lawn is also a toppriority. The survey found that:* 67 percent rated a weed-free lawn as very important.* 41 percent use herbicides to control weeds.* 23 percent apply fungicides to control diseases.* 63 percent apply insecticides to control insects.”All these chemical controls can be contributing factorsto runoff pollution,” she said.Varlamoff is confident a BMP manual would help Georgia gardenersand the environment.”Now that we know the kinds of information Georgian gardenerswant and need, we’re developing our best management practicesmanual,” she said.”The manual will first be used to train people who enrollin the University of Georgia’s Advanced Master Gardeners Programthrough the county extension offices,” she said. “Theinformation will eventually be available through all media: newspapers,television, radio, fax newsletters and the Internet.”last_img

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