We all, at least deep in our hearts, want to use only gardening practices that are safe for the environment. I know that sometimes a problem, such as a pesky bug infiltration that doesn’t seem to respond to anything can make you want to put on a haz-mat suit and ‘go to town’ on the buggers! Hopefully we can put extreme measures behind us and treat each day in the garden as though the garden were our friend (it is after all..)
So what can you do outside the house to be an earth-friendly gardener?
Lose That Gas-Powered Mower – Using an old fashioned rotary push mower, or a more modern electric mower stops carbon emissions. You know those days in summer when there’s no wind… the grass is growing taller and taller and the news says ‘refrain from mowing”? Well there’s a reason for that. Too many people using carbon emitting machines. Did you know a gas powered mower ran for an hour produces as much emissions as 11 new cars driven for an hour.
Plantings – Use trees and shrubs effectively. Do you have a heat & air unit on the west side of the house that gets beat down by the sun in the hot temps of summertime? Consider planting shrubs just to the west to effectively shade the unit. A well placed tree can do the same. You can also plant shrubs and trees around your garden. This is especially effective if you have a spot that needs dappled shade versus full sun. (Don’t shade your tomatoes!)
Go Native – Sure, that beautiful flower you spotted on vacation is beautiful, but will it grow well in your planting zone? You’re better off honing in on plants that are native to your area and your planting zone. Think outside the box (store). Notice what friends and family have in their own gardens. Perhaps you can get a cutting or a start!
Use Permeable When Possible – In order to save the water tables and to avoide runoff one should use permeable coverings wherever possible. While an asphalt or concrete driveway or patio may make a nice surface you’ll be prone to runoff. Consider a gravel or stone driveway, the newer permeable pavers, or mulch
Plant Diversity – Choose different varieties of plants for your garden. Sometimes your old favorite varieties might not do well as the weather was too cold, too hot, too wet this year. Consider bringing in different varieties of your favorite plants. Go native! Visit your local horticultural nurseries and look for native plants. Do you have a Native Plant Society in your area? Plants that are native to your area, your zone will undoubtedly grow better and produce good results.
Choose Perennials – Those flats of Johnny Jump Ups that appear at the nursery early in the spring sure are tempting. So are the petunias, rose moss, and other annuals. Annuals are good for a splash of early color and quick color but if you plant perennials you only have to do it ‘once’. Perennials don’t have to be dug/redug unless you decide to split or move to a new spot. Choose your spots wisely and you’ll be done… for years!
Don’t Go Naked – You ‘probably’ don’t go outside naked. Your garden shouldn’t be naked either! After your garden season is over for the year cover that bare soil with mulch, leaves, straw, compost or plant a winter cover crop (to be tilled in in the spring.)
Less Work – When you’re dreaming of that garden, and designing it on paper be mindful about future maintenance. You don’t want to plant a water loving plant at the long end of a row of drought tolerant flowers. That would entail extra work to water or to move to a better spot. Think about possible issues and cover them. Plant nasturtiums with your cukes (to help avoid cucumber bugs) marigolds with tomatoes… all pretty and beneficial. Mulching rows helps hold down weeds which means less hoeing. Be mindful when planting and creating
Water – Can you legally collect rainwater in your area? Your garden plantings will love rainwater. No place to collect? You’d be surprised how much rainwater you can collect from a small surface area such as a garden shed. One inch of rain falling on a 10×12’ shed will give you 75 gallons of water. That’s more than a barrel!
Enriching the soil by adding compost and mulching helps conserve the amount of water needed to grow a garden.
Working ‘with’ nature helps to conserve.