Township Of Morris
Environmental Commission
Newsletter
JULY 2022
Easy Ways to Make Lawn Care More Sustainable
Midsummer is the ideal season to focus on how to make your lawn care more environmentally sustainable, while simultaneously improving your lawn's appearance and health.

Lawns matter to the environment, especially here in New Jersey, where about 18% of the total land area is covered in grass.

Lawns use lots of water, as well as fertilizers and pesticides. Lawns are less effective at absorbing storm-water runoff than forests and meadows. The lawn is a barren wasteland for wildlife, especially insect pollinators. And mowing creates lots of air and noise pollution.

So what can we do?

Less care can be best
With the heat of summer, you may notice lawns turning brown. But take a closer look. Lawns mowed less frequently are usually greener. In general, most people cut their grass too low and too often. Let's say you cut your grass weekly in May. Is that still necessary in July? Absolutely not.

The key is to be flexible in your approach to mowing. Only mow when you need to, not because it's on your calendar. Also, most experts recommend mowing at a height of no less than three inches. The benefit is longer blades of grass that shade the roots, conserving water. It also means deeper roots that are able to reach lower soil moisture.

Talk to your lawn service
The majority of homes in our township employ lawn services that mow every single week, regardless of whether a lawn would benefit or not.

Always feel empowered to tell your landscaper to skip mowing when the grass isn't growing. Even if you still have to pay for the service, your lawn will be healthier and look better, so you still come out ahead.

Mulch clippings when possible
You can reduce usage of fertilizer and water by mulching grass clippings. Clippings provides essential nutrients that your lawn needs to stay healthy. As they break down, the clippings will release nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, improving the soil. It even creates a habitable ecosystem for useful microorganisms that fight off lawn disease and mold.​

Mulching is especially helpful for lawns during the warmer, drier summer months. In the heat of the season, soil can dry quickly, but mulching helps the soil retain water. The layer of mulch on the soil bed acts as a sun shield, which helps reduce moisture evaporation and keeps the soil temperature cooler.

Just be careful to avoid building up a layer dead grass that smothers the lawn called "thatch." It happens when clippings accumulate faster than they can decay. The key is not overwatering or overfertilizing your lawn.
Add clover to your lawn
This one is a little controversial. Decades ago, nearly every suburban lawn had some clover mixed in with the grass. White Dutch Clover (Trifolium repens) was seen as an ideal companion for conventional turf grasses for multiple reasons:

  • Clover has the ability to fix nitrogen in soil. It takes nitrogen from the air, converts it to a plant-friendly form, and releases it into the soil.
  • Clover stays green during even the driest spells due to its deep roots, out-performing many cool-season grasses and giving the visually pleasing aesthetic of a healthy lawn.
  • Ecologists view grass as ill-suited for a habitat because it's simply not diverse. Clover nectar attracts bees and other insects.
  • Clover can smother other common lawn weeds. The density of clover roots does not allow room for typical lawn weeds to thrive.
  • Soil compaction, which leads to excess run-off and erosion, especially in the clay soils common to New Jersey, is reduced by the deep root system of clover

There is a major caveat. You must stop using any broad-leaf herbicide on your lawn. If you have a lawn treatment service, you must ask them to do the same.

The Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station has valuable resources that cover all of the lawn care topics discussed above.
You Are Invited to a Township Information Session on Energy Aggregation
All township residents are invited to attend the Environmental Commission meeting on September 8, 2022 at 7pm. Guest speakers will explain the concept of Energy Aggregation, how it works, and the benefits it can yield. The session will end with an opportunity to ask questions and make comments.

The meeting will take place at the Township building at 50 Woodland Avenue. Members of the public are welcome to join the meeting in person. Remote Zoom dial-in information is here. There is no need to preregister.
Bug Zappers: Indiscriminate Killers of Insect Life
"Black light insect electrocution devices (Bug Zappers, etc.) are purchased in huge quantities by homeowners due to their demonstrated ability to attract and kill thousands of insects. However, the only two controlled studies conducted to date by independent investigators at the University of Notre Dame showed that mosquitoes comprised merely 4.1% and 6.4% respectively of the daily catch over an entire season.

Even more important was the finding in both studies that there was no significant difference in the number of mosquitoes found in yards with or without bug zappers. What is particularly disconcerting, however, is the number of non-pest insects that comprise the vast majority of trap catch.

Many of these insects are beneficial predators on other insect pests. They in turn constitute a major part of the diet of many songbirds. Indeed, reduced numbers of moth and beetle prey species have contributed significantly to the decline of songbird populations in many affluent suburbs.

Insect electrocution devices undoubtedly bear some responsibility for this phenomenon. Mosquitoes continue to be more attracted to humans than to the devices. One study conducted in homeowners' backyards showed that of the insects killed by these devices, only 0.13% were female mosquitoes. An estimated 71 billion to 350 billion beneficial insects may be killed annually in the United States by these electrocuting devices."

There are three much more effective and environmentally sustainable alternatives to prevent mosquito bites: (1) personal insect repellent spray; (2) tabletop spatial repellent; and (3) a fan, pointing below table level.
“The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.”
Before You Leave Home for Vacation, Click the Graphic Below to Help Keep Spotted Lanternfly from Spreading
3 Tips for Lowering Your Summer Cooling Costs
As summer temperatures rise, you can improve energy efficiency and lower cooling costs throughout the season by following these tips:
  1. During sunny weather, close drapes or blinds on windows facing the sun to prevent direct radiant heating from impacting temperatures inside.
  2. Check air conditioner and furnace fan filters. Clogged filters waste energy and money by forcing HVAC systems to work harder than necessary.
  3. Avoid using heat-producing appliances during the hottest hours of the day. The less heat produced at home, the less work the air conditioner will do.
Native Plant of the Month: Milkweeds
Native Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.) are nature's mega food markets for insects. Numerous insects are attracted to the nectar-laden flowers and it is not at all uncommon to see flies, beetles, ants, bees, wasps, and butterflies on the flowers at the same time. Planting the two milkweeds featured below is a sure-fire way to bring pollinators to your garden.
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) 
The adults of hundreds of insect species are known to feed on some portion of these plants. 
Its sap, leaves and flowers also provide food. But only a few larvae/caterpillars feed on these plants since the milky sap is toxic to most species of caterpillars.
Milkweeds are the ONLY food for Monarch butterfly larvae caterpillars (Danaus plexippus). Ecologists believe that the loss of milkweed habitat in rural farmlands and right of ways is one of the reasons for the Monarch butterfly's population decline. The International Union for Conservation of Nature placed the Monarch on its endangered species list. 

(Credit for three photos above: Charlie Schachter, Member, Environmental Commission)
2022 Webinar Series: Eight Steps to a Jersey-Friendly Yard
Jersey-Friendly Yards is an amazing resource for residents of Morris Township who want a
beautiful and healthy Jersey-Friendly Yard!

This year’s FREE webinar series reminds us that a Jersey-Friendly Yard doesn’t have to be a monumental task. Start small and stick to the basics. Each program in this series ties-to one of the 8 Steps to a Jersey-Friendly Yard.

Complete descriptions of each webinar can be found here.

Step 1: Plan Before You Plant (View a recording of this webinar)
Step 2: Start with Healthy Soil (View a recording of this webinar)
Step 3: Water Wisely (View a recording of this webinar)
Step 4: Fertilize Less: Rely More on Nature (View a recording of this webinar)
Step 5: Minimize Risks When Managing Pests (View a recording of this webinar)
Step 6: Lose the Lawn, Create a Wildflower Meadow Instead (A recording of this webinar is available to view only until July 26. Use the password JFYstep7 to view it.)
Step 7: Create Wildlife Habitat in Your Jersey-Friendly Yard (Live on August 9 at 7 pm)
Step 8: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle in the Yard (Live on September 13 at 7pm)

If you have any questions about the webinar series or how to register, please contact kwalzer@ocean.edu.
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