For the past couple of weeks, I have been writing about pests, and there do seem to be a lot more of them to write about. This week, the topic is a new program to help people deal with those pests.

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension, in cooperation with a number of garden centers and other pesticide retailers, has recently launched the Green Bug Education Program designed to help people deal with pests without using unnecessary pesticides.

“It’s an amazing thing,” said James Dill, a pest management specialist with the extension, “but from 1995 to 2007, the use of lawn pesticides in Maine has gone from 800,000 pounds a year to 6.2 million pounds. There is really no need for that kind of increase.”

Under the Green Bug program, seven retailers so far have agreed to charge an extra 20 cents for every package of lawn or garden pesticides sold to help pay for the extension’s Home and Garden Integrated Pest Management Program.

Integrated Pest Management is an approach that uses a variety of methods, including changing physical structures of growing areas, biological controls, accurate identification of the specific pest causing the problem and more to make sure pests are controlled in the most environmentally sound way possible.

The extra 20 cents per package will be a tax-deductible donation for the retailers. “People paying $19 on a package of weed and feed aren’t going to mind paying $19.20,” Dill said.

The retailers will put up a Green Bug logo near their supplies of pesticides, and also may carry a rack of cards describing a number of the pests.

Dill said his office gets more than 3,000 calls and specimens in the mail each year from people wanting to know what is damaging their plants.

“We don’t mind that,” he said. “It is what we are here to do.”

But the Home and Garden IPM website at umaine.edu/home-and-garden-ipm has a variety of ways that people can identify pests on their own, including a photo gallery of pests and other insects divided into whether they affect fruits, vegetables, ornamental gardens, households or other areas.

It also shows beneficials, and has a section called “Curiosities” about some of the unusual things you might find.

If you think you know what you have, an easier way to check it might be the alphabetical list.

For more information about the Green Bug program, go to the Home and Garden IPM website and click on the green bug at the left of the page.

GETTING AWAY from pests, the Maine Landscape and Nursery Association earlier this month landscaped a group home in South Portland for people with traumatic brain injuries as its annual volunteer work project. 

MELNA president Betty Ann Listowich of Norpine Landscaping in Kingfield said workers from landscaping companies from Kingfield to Berwick worked on the project. Other members donated plants, bark mulch and equipment for use.

Pride Place, on Westbrook Street, is home to eight people, and is one of 22 group homes in Maine operated by Goodwill.

The work included removing some sod, planting a variety of ornamental plants and blueberry bushes, putting down some mulch and removing some junk trees in the area. 

David Babbin, program manager at Pride Place, said Goodwill and the residents are extremely pleased with the work done by the MELNA volunteers.

“This would have been a tremendous expense for us,” Babbin said. “They put in some blueberry bushes and a lot of flowering shrubs, which we will all enjoy.”

Babbin said that Pride Place and the other Goodwill homes around the state are all supported by money earned from Goodwill stores and other donations.

The Maine Landscape and Nursery Association does one major volunteer project each year.

The 2011 project was at Camp Sunshine in Casco, and the 2010 project was at the Morrison Developmental Center in Scarborough.

A FROST HAS HIT most, if not all, of the state by now, so you might have time to take some classes — and O’Donal’s and Skillin’s have some.

Skillin’s will be teaching pumpkin carving from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at all three of its locations — Brunswick, Cumberland and Falmouth. Classes on making wreaths and kissing balls are scheduled for Nov. 3. There is a $15 fee for each class.

The Falmouth classes are filled for Nov. 3, so O’Donals has scheduled encore classes there — on wreaths at 1 p.m. Nov. 4 and on kissing balls at 5 p.m. Nov. 7.

Classes on holiday arrangements will be at all Skillin’s locations at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Nov. 10. Again, this class has already sold out in Falmouth, so an encore class is scheduled for that town at 1 p.m. Nov. 11. There is a $20 fee for the holiday arrangement class.

At O’Donal’s Nursery in Gorham, classes include landscape design with Portland city arborist Jeff Tarling at 10 a.m. today; pruning small fruits with David Handley, a small fruit educator, at 11 a.m. Saturday; starting a garden from scratch at 1 p.m. Saturday; and beekeeping with Kevin Kearns of the Morrison Center at 2 p.m. Nov. 18.

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

tomatwell@me.com