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5 Tips for a Green Garden

May 10, 2013 | By | 4 Replies More

green garden

Instead of a lawn, how about food?

You’d be surprised at how many people who love to garden don’t necessarily make the connection that their garden should be eco-friendly.  In fact, when I first started gardening, I didn’t make the connection at all.

I had unrealistic expectations that my yard had to look like something from the pages of Fine Gardening magazine, green and lush at all times, and not a chewed leaf or brown spot in sight.  I’m ashamed to admit that I used lots of water and an arsenal of toxic chemicals to kill anything and everything that could stand in the way of perfection.

green garden

Honeybees need chemical-free flowers

These days, I can appreciate the natural beauty of my garden, and more importantly, the journey of constantly improving it in a responsible way.  Sometimes it looks damn-near perfect, and other times, not so much.  But, now that it’s an organic garden, it  coexists with nature and improves the environment.

1.  Harvest rainwater – Besides my perennial and vegetable garden, I have lots of potted flowers situated all over our outdoor living space.  Because these are not in the ground, they require frequent watering, sometimes daily in the hottest parts of the summer.  To water them without turning on the hose, I use water that I’ve collected in a rain barrel.

All sorts of rainwater collection barrels exist, but I chose a large one that looks attractive since it sits near where we eat.  It even has a little planter on top for more flowers!  These barrels connect right to a downspout on your home or garage, and you’ll be amazed at how much water you can get with just one decent storm.  Your township may even provide these at no charge because using them helps to ease the burden on storm sewers and reduce storm water runoff.

2.  Compost – Regular garden clean-up, lawn mowing, leaf collecting, and pruning can produce lots of plant debris that should be put right back into your garden as compost.  When you add waste from your kitchen like vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and egg shells, you’ll end up with “gardeners’ gold”, or rich, odorless compost that will work miracles in your garden.

And, instead of diverting even more trash to anaerobic landfills, you’ll be allowing old vegetables to do what they do best:  rot.   Find a spot in your yard where you can hide your compost pile or look for a self-contained, tumbling unit that keeps everything inside and can produce compost in a short period of time.

Don’t compost diseased plants since sometimes the disease can persist in finished compost and spread to other plants.

P10207533.  Install soaker hoses – When I was a kid, watering meant setting the sprinkler out for hours at a time.  I cringe when I think of all the water that’s wasted by landing on plant leaves and simply evaporating before it can get to plants’ roots.

Drip irrigation systems, or soaker hoses, are the very best way to water your plants, and I have them snaked all through my raised vegetable beds.  You can mulch right over them to keep even more water from evaporating.  When the hose is turned on, the water seeps directly into the soil surrounding your plants.  Plant leaves are kept dry to keep diseases at bay and virtually no water is wasted.  Water your plants deeply and less frequently to ensure the best root development and drought tolerance.

green garden

 

4.  Be Anti-Lawn – Lawns are high maintenance, requiring lots of water.  Not to mention frequent mowing with gas-powered mowers and chemicals to keep them looking their manicured best.  Although a sweeping green lawn may look pretty, it offers little else.

Instead, remove a little of your lawn each year and turn that space into perennial beds with drought-tolerant, native plantings that will be easy to maintain.  Your local extension or garden center can help you select the right plants for your area.

Better yet, put some of that space to work growing food for you and your family.  In some areas, front yard vegetable gardens have become all the rage since they are beautiful and practical.  Your yard can become a haven for native plants, birds, butterflies, and bees.

green garden

Sex and food. Does it get any better?

5.  Learn to coexist with bugs – Insects are a natural part of…ummmm…nature.  Some bugs are beneficial, and they’ll help to keep your “bad” bug population in check.

Every spring, I buy ladybugs at my local garden center and sprinkle them around my honeysuckle and spirea that are already loaded with aphids.  Within days, I notice a big improvement.  Within weeks, I start to see ladybug larvae hatching and eating aphids, too.  Not only is this fascinating to watch, but it eliminates the need for harmful chemicals.

Chemicals don’t know which bugs are good and which are bad, they just kill ’em all.  And, chemicals sprayed in the vicinity of vegetables will find their way into your food supply not to mention the harm they can do to your backyard birds when they eat insects covered in poison.

Garden pesticides kill honeybees, the pollinators we need to produce food!

If you want to be a “green” or organic gardener, you’ll need to learn to tolerate some pest damage.  Things may not always look picture-perfect automater.  For me, that’s a small price to pay in exchange for knowing I’m not harming the environment, my family’s food, or the other wildlife in my yard.  Dealing with insect pests organically sometimes means hand-picking (Japanese Beetles, I’m ready for you this year!) or very selective application of an organic insecticidal soap.

green garden

Hand pick Japanese beetles and drop into a jar of soapy water.

 

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Category: General, Green Living

Comments (4)

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  1. Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular article!
    It’s the little changes that produce the biggest changes.
    Many thanks for sharing!

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