A Greater Green Thumb

Make Your Garden Environmentally Green

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A Greater Green Thumb: Make Your Garden Environmentally Green We hear so much about "going green" in the news today that we sometimes forget that one of the best ways to be environmentally friendly is through a green thumb! Whether through careful design of a major landscape renovation or small changes to a few habits, making your garden green can be as simple or complex as you want. In fact, don't expect to make major changes in how you care for your yard overnight. Instead, consider some ideas you can implement now and then slowly add to them. As you begin to implement new gardening techniques you will also discover that making your landscape environmentally friendly is not just about saving mother nature - it can also save you money! Here are a few quick ideas to get you started on your new green garden: Pesky weeds: Yes, dousing them with weed killer is easier. However, most are not children, pet or nature friendly. Some old fashioned weed pulling can be great exercise or way to get the kids to earn their allowance. - Try to get weeds early in the year as this will mean less pulling later on. - Pulling a little at a time as you walk down a path is much better than a whole day of work. - Putting down mulch can help prevent weeds. - If you have an area that is overtaken by weeds instead of lawn, you might want to consider replanting the area with low native plants that need little attention. Return of the native: Using native plants in your landscaping is a great way of choosing plants that are accustomed to the climate and resistant to pests in your area. Although not foolproof, you will find native plants much easier to care for than many imports. - Also, many imports can be harmful to the native plants of the area. For example, English Ivy may look pretty when you care for it, but left on its own, it is a weed that quickly overtakes native plants and even trees! Research non-native plants beforehand to make certain they are not really noxious weeds for your environment. Homebrewed compost: Adding a compost bin is a great way to recycle food and yard waste and get something in return for it! Composting does take about 3-6 months before you get to use any results, but once you get the cycle going you will have a great way to decrease your garbage and increase your plants. - There are many styles of compost bins from indoor to outdoor, homemade to store bought - you can even find stylized ones that give character to your décor! - If you don't have a garden but have yard removal, check with your waste company's policies, many companies now offer to take the same items you would put in a compost bin (i.e. vegetable and fruit skins). They in turn use this to make compost for city parks. Even if you aren't using the compost, it is a great way to get this type of waste out of the landfill and to areas where it will be more beneficial. Harvest the rain: While your out picking up a compost bin, add a rain barrel too! These barrels can be placed directly under you gutter downspout or out from under the eaves. It is ideal to use the water regularly to keep it circulating. Overall this will help save on your water usage and bills! Water thoughtfully: Watering your plants properly will avoid unnecessary waste. - Use drip hoses for more even watering and to help decrease your water bill. - When watering plants, pay attention to their roots and water them before the sun is high so the plant has time to drink before it evaporates. - Using mulch around your plants can keep natural moisture in. Just make sure the mulch is not too deep and you leave some space at the base of the plant stem. Grow your groceries: What is more green then eating from your own garden? If you have never gardened before, start with a small plot and easier to grow veggies. For local advice, check out your neighborhood gardening associations which often offer free classes. Getting garden fresh foods on your table not only helps the environment but offers you better flavor and ease of mind as you know exactly what went into your produce. - Don't have a large yard? Urban community gardens are a fun way to build a sense of community, get free gardening help and again, harvest some great tasting produce. - Another way to garden in small spaces are through container gardens. Using containers to grow herbs and smaller vegetables like onions or spinach is a great alternative. - As you garden more, you will begin to start your veggies from seeds rather than buying starts at the store. When making starts of your own, use old milk cartons or other containers that you can recycle and use again and again. Invite the birds and the bees: Utilizing plants in your garden that are naturally appealing to beneficial insects and birds is a great way to improve the life of your plants. These good allies will help cut down on bad bug pests and can be fun to watch too! - Plant flowers and plants that are attractive to butterflies, bees and other naturally beneficial insects. Encouraging natural pollinators and cutting down your use of pesticides is a great combo for these natural little friends. - Some nurseries even sell lady bugs as they are a great natural defense for bug problems. - Invite birds into your yard with berry plants, flowers, and a water bath. Birds are some of your best pest reducers. - If you have berries you want to keep for yourself instead of the birds, there are safe netting options out there that don't trap birds but keep them off your berries! Plan your garden: As we have mentioned in earlier articles, planning out a garden can save you a lot of headache and money down the road. But it can also allow you to be more green. When planning your layout you may pay closer attention to what areas of the yard get more sun or rain and install plants that are suitable for different locations. - You can also minimize your gardening chores by planning certain "wild" areas or buffers using native plants that require little upkeep. Hardscapes: Finally, when planning or renovating your yard, consider the non-organic features. From the paths to the containers, consider what impacts the materials you use will have on the environment and your garden's health. - Recycled materials are becoming more readily available for constructing everything from paths to patios. Take a look at all the options and give these recycled materials a chance. - Try to get planters and containers made of recycled material. Some people get very creative with old items that they turn into planters (i.e. an old sink or wheelbarrow). - Try some of the new solar lights to add lighting features to your yard. They are earth friendly and can save you money! Useful Links EPA: Greenscapes www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/green/ Information about going green provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Includes ideas for homes, businesses and recreational areas. USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/ "This section of our Web site will help you find your nearest Cooperative Extension office. The Cooperative Extension System is a nationwide, non-credit educational network. Each U.S. state and territory has a state office at its land-grant university and a network of local or regional offices. These offices are staffed by one or more experts who provide useful, practical, and research-based information to agricultural producers, small business owners, youth, consumers, and others in rural areas and communities of all sizes." This resource will help you find state specific plant information. American Horticultural Society List of Mater Gardeners www.ahs.org/master_gardeners/ "The map below links to Master Gardener websites in the United States. Links to Master Gardener programs in three Canadian provinces are listed below as well. Clicking on the map and links below will connect you to some of the best, regionally-specific advice you can get on gardening." To find out more about classes, gardening tips and the best plants for your area, check out these state sites. Buy Green, Going Green, Green Savvy, Eco Products Green Cleaning Products http://www.buygreensavvy.com Quality green and eco friendly products at the best prices! 6/1/2008 12:00:00 AM