Join the PCN mailing list.

shallow shot of white daisies

Healthy Landscapes

  1. Say no to plastic grass. It’s a polyethylene-polypropylene blend fashioned from fossil fuels and the rubber crumb underlay contains numerous toxic chemicals. Too many soccer goalies get cancer. A Canadian study of studies suggests further study of uncertainties, but parents prefer the inherently safer option.
  2. Spray plants with soap and water, rather than toxic insecticides, to kill aphids and other plant pests. Mix 40 parts water to one part dish liquid. Rinse with water after about 10 minutes to avoid burning the leaves. Note: this will damage blossoms.
  3. Ragweed germinates as soon as the snow disappears, but corn gluten meal stops the initial germination. Sprinkle this natural herbicide in areas where ragweed grew last year, as soon as the snow disappears, to minimize the misery in August. Corn gluten meal is sometimes labelled as a fertilizer.
  4. Control insect pests with least-toxic strategies and products, such as used for organic farming. Hand picking (e.g. asparagus beetles) can save your dinner, and damsel flies will lap up the larvae of those you miss. Ample flowering plants in orchards foster insect pest predators, and after a few years the fruit is almost all perfect. Ants will carry borax home and kill their nest (borax bait stations are commonly available). Diluted dish soap can help with aphids. Diatomaceous earth where insects crawl will scratch them so that they dehydrate (be careful not to breathe this dust!). Essential oils can repel pests. Got a gardening problem? Our expert network will find an answer. Email your question, or favourite gardening tip for a chance to win a copy of Cancer: 101 Solutions to a Preventable Epidemic.
  5. Plant your veggies in clean earth, because crops can hyperaccumulate toxic metals. Older porches and walls (1980s and before) that were painted or had painted trim and/or window frames may have shed paint containing lead and other toxic elements. One solution is to plant in containers, using fresh earth.
  6. Organic, biodynamic and other strategies to maintain rich biodiversity in landscapes and gardens work! Don’t use pesticides, because many are linked to cancers. Besides, they harm beneficial as well as “pest” species so in the long run are counter-productive.
  7. Tackle weeds without toxic herbicides. Focus on what you want to grow, as densely growing plants crowd out new weeds. Mulch will suppress weeds and make them easier to pull, while keeping soil moist and not too hot in the summer. Most weeds can be killed by spraying the tops with acetic acid (strong vinegar) combined with a bit of soap (you may have to repeat for weeds that re-sprout) – commercial products are available. Corn gluten meal stops seeds from germinating. Effective tools are available to remove weeds without disturbing beds, and dandelion roots without stooping. For your lawn set the mower high and water seldom and deeply. More tips include low growing Dutch white clover to provide your lawn’s fertilizer needs while reducing weeds (clover even stays green after grass dries in mid-summer). Many cities offer advice, such as Ottawa, Toronto and Halifax (more tips here).
  8. Use companion planting to avoid the use of garden insecticides. Growing different types of plants together can lead to healthier crops while providing natural pest control. The Three Sisters is an ancient strategy where the beans feed nitrogen to the corn, and the squash and/or pumpkin vines protect the beans and corn from critters. Broccoli, cabbages and other brassicas, planted among large tomato vines, can foil white cabbage butterflies (which seem to get confused, probably by the strong tomato smell, and don’t find the brassicas hiding below). Email us with your best companion planting tips!
  9. Use a manual lawn mower rather than a gas powered model. You’ll be addressing two cancer-related problems: more exercise for the pusher, and fewer airborne pollutants for the neighborhood! Bonus: you’ll also be reducing greenhouse gases!
  10. Veggie gardens are good for you. If you’re hungering for healthy food, and have too much grass to cut, convert some lawn into an edible landscape! Rather than digging up the grass, you can cover it with black plastic for a few weeks to kill the turf, then plant into the dead layer. Add organic compost to help break down everything (and feed your veggies!). Beat weeds by using mulch. You’ll know that no pesticides were added, and you and your neighbours will marvel at the taste!
  11. Treat yourself to salad from nature, such as dandelion leaves (fresh or blanched), lambs quarters, purslane, wood sorrel (lemony!), pansy flowers and violets (flowers are sweet) – or use “wild” ingredients to dress up your regular salad. Check with books, local experts or online to be sure of the identification. Pick from cleaner environments – not close to a road or where pesticides are sprayed. Salad dressings with a bit of oil help you to absorb more of the vitamins in these very nutritious greens. Email us to share what your favourite spring-time wild food is!
  12. Plant a tree, or lots of trees. Trees cool their surroundings, clean the air, and areas of cities with lots of trees tend to experience less strife. Be prepared to care for your tree(s) for a few years, to get them off to a good start.
  13. Adopt and care for trees in your neighbourhood. They give us oxygen! Foliage acts as an air filter and cools the environment. Air pollution causes cancers and other chronic diseases, and deaths. Check your air quality index.