A brand new Grow Appalachia gardening site is now officially operating!  Grow Sustainab-LEE from the Lee County Cooperative Extension Office is busy ordering seeds and tools to get this season started for our gardeners.  We had our very first meeting on February 17, 2022 and we are so honored to have been trusted with this important task.  

Growing organically and responsibly is near and dear to my heart and is so important for gardens going forward–for everyone’s gardens going forward.  But just as important as using organic materials is using them in appropriate amounts and at appropriate times.  Pesticide and fertilizer runoff is a serious issue to our land and waters and gardening organically and applying fertilizers and pesticides appropriately can help stop this from occurring.  

According to the EPA, nonpoint source (NPS) pollution does not come from big businesses or one commercial farmer.  Instead, it comes from many sources combining to cause serious issues. In other words, you and I are the contributors.  Polluted runoff is caused by rain or snow moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries pollutants, depositing them into watersheds through lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters, and even our underground drinking water. Nutrients or fertilizers are a serious source of NPS pollution.  When nutrients exceed plant needs, they wash into our aquatic ecosystems. They can cause algae blooms–which can make swimming and boating impossible,–create a foul taste and odor in our drinking water, and kill fish by removing oxygen from the water. 

Insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides are also a serious threat because they can poison fish and wildlife, contaminate food sources, and destroy the habitat that animals use for protective cover. To reduce contamination from these sources, farmers should use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques based on the specific soils, climate, pest history, and crop conditions for a particular field. IPM encourages Cultural control (crop rotation and methods to avoid pests altogether), Biological control (protect, enhance or import natural enemies of pests), Mechanical control (cultivation, trapping, pest exclusion), and Chemical control (insect growth regulators, pheromones, biological/chemical pesticides).  This does not mean that we don’t use pesticides and fertilizers, it just means that we use them in appropriate amounts and only when absolutely necessary.

Our program is excited to help gardeners learn about organic pesticides and fertilizers and to learn how to use these in conjunction with IPM methods.  If you are interested in learning more about NPS Pollution, check out the article from the EPA at https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2015-09/documents/ag_runoff_fact_sheet.pdf.  If you are interested in more information on IPM, check out https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/ENTO/ento-365/ENTO-365.pdf, or https://ipm.tamu.edu/about/strategies/.  If you are simply interested in learning more about the program in Lee County or to see what the Master Gardeners are up to, visit https://tinyurl.com/LeeMaster/Gardeners.