Blackberries are plentiful here in the Northwest and my kids love to pick them wherever they see them. But I caution them about eating the berries during the jaunts around the neighborhood because you never know who’s using pesticides.
Portland mom Mulysa Melco is on a mission to make her entire neighborhood pesticide-free. She has all the tools to do it and all kinds of tricks for fighting pests naturally. Her one-year-old Rowan uses sign language to ask for more raspberries off a backyard bush. “No need for rinsing,” says Melco.”I never use pesticides so I don’t have to worry.”
Melco is asking her entire Overlook neighborhood in North Portland to do the same.
“All of these little critters that live on our plants are normal and natural and the secret is helping them stay balanced,” explained Melco.
She’s asking her neighborhood of 2,500 homes to take Metro’s Healthy Lawn and Garden Pledge.
Neighbors can pledge to reduce or stop using pesticides and they’ll get a ladybug yard marker as a sign of their commitment.
“People are really enthusiastic and other neighborhoods are saying we want to do this too,” said Melco. Last fall an American Academy of Pediatrics report linked pesticide exposure with pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function and behavioral problems.
The Academy recommended pediatricians ask parents about pesticide use and advise them to choose the lowest-harm approach when considering pest control.
In her garden, Mulysa grows 70 percent of the produce her family eats and she deals with the pests naturally.
“I grow a lot of edible flowers and plants that are beneficial to insects,” she explained.
Flowers on her cilantro, for example, attract wasps which eat the eggs of aphids. Marigolds are another must and help ward off bugs that can eat the roots of plants. The soil, she said, is also key, so she composts to add plenty of nutrients.
“When plants are healthy they attract fewer pests,” she said.
In ten days, 200 Overlook area neighbors have taken the pesticide free pledge, but with 2500 homes in the neighborhood, Mulysa knows, like her garden, this mission will take time.
“Get out there and get dirty. Make some garden buddies to help you with plant and seed donations and you’ll be surprised at what can happen in your backyard,” she said.
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