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Are you one of those homeowners that have very difficult areas to mow? A bank? A ditch? Around trees and obstacles in the lawn? Have you evaluated all the alternatives (not that there are really that many) to deal with this?  

We could still find a way to get it mowed. This alternative keeps it looking good.  

We could just let it go, and who wants to do that?  It looks ugly, right?  

Or, we could just spray it (with Roundup) and kill what is there. That sounds like the easiest way to deal with it. No hard work. You only have to do it once (probably).  

However, do you understand all the ramifications with this option?  I am not going to get into the debate of whether sprays are harmful to the environment or not. That is for another time. What I do want to do is give you some cold hard facts about some of the results of doing this.

First off, if it is a steep bank, what do you suppose holds that bank up and keeps it from just sloughing off? Roots!  Good soil structure! We have written about this before.  Structure is roots and worm holes and little colonies of all kinds of good organisms in the soil that have built a home for themselves. They keep the soil tied together. What happens if you spray that bank? The plants die, then the roots die, then the soil dwelling organisms die because there is no food for them. And then what happens? Erosion. Maybe even a mud slide, if it is a big enough bank.

Erosion is not good for us or the stream that it is going to end up in. And, after that happens, now it really looks bad. Most everything we see that is sprayed has a pretty steep slope to it. It is going to erode. And often these slopes are along a stream or road ditch. Sedimentation is our number one water quality issue in Pennsylvania. 

Speaking of water, some research papers suggest that Roundup may have negative effects on amphibians, an important group of animals in the ecosystem. Although there are mixed reviews, why not just eliminate the possibility? They make an amphibian-friendly formulation that you can get quite easily. It is actually not the Glyphosate (active ingredient) that is the issue, it is some of the rest of the formulation. We can still get the active ingredient we need without potentially harming these animals.

Are you using the right amount? I know plenty of people that way over-apply spray. They want the plants dead! I used to do it. Then one day I thought, “if I see a farmer spraying his field, it is only a very light mist that he is spraying. Can I really kill them with a small amount of spray?” Yep.  I tried it. I just take the wand and do a one-shot, quick pass over the weed and it dies. You do not have to soak the plant. You are just contaminating things.

Lastly, although just leaving the area to grow naturally will look “ugly,” do you realize how great a habitat it is for butterflies, bees, rabbits and the list goes on? 

We humans are the only creature that likes things neat and tidy. Animals need it messy for cover, food, predation, etc. Do you know that pollinators are at all-time lows and 1 out of every 3 bites of food we eat needs pollinators? We need to attract more pollinators, not chase them away.

Just some things to think about next time you grab that sprayer.

The Bradford County Conservation District is committed to helping people manage resources wisely.  You can visit the Bradford County Conservation District at 200 Lake Rd in Wysox across from the Wysox Fire Hall. Contact us at (570) 485-3144 or visit our web page at www.bccdpa.com.