Going Green in your Garden

You’ve probably noticed that being “green” is more than just a popular phrase; it’s a movement sweeping the nation. So, why not have a green garden? Here are some proactive gardening steps you can take to protect the planet – and many double as cost-savers, too.

  1. Choose disease- and insect-resistant plants. These don’t require pesticides.
  2. Use natural pest control. Regulate pests the earth-friendly way by using only products that minimize harm to beneficial insects like butterflies and bees. Pollinators affect 35 percent of the world’s crop production, so extending a little garden hospitality to these insects ultimately helps us all. Use traps and lures to identify and control the pests, then barriers and repellents to keep away undesirables while encouraging the beneficial bugs. Finally, use pesticides, soaps and oils – including the more toxic (but short-lived) botanical or natural insecticides – only if necessary.
  3. Grow pollinator-attracting plants. Planting at least 10 such varieties has been found to entice bees and butterflies to your garden.
  4. Mulch your garden. Besides being attractive, a good 3- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch will hold in soil moisture and conserve water. It will also enrich your soil resulting in healthier, more vigorous plants. Also, mulch discourages weeds. Hoeing and hand weeding will keep unwanted weeds from diminishing the beauty of your garden and robbing your plants of water. I’ve also used a weed torch to burn weeds, as well as sprayed an aromatic mixture of vinegar and clove oil or lemon juice to kill undesirables.
  5. Garden with water-wise plants. Succulents such as sedum and many native plants require minimum amounts of water.
  6. Be water smart. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation are water efficient, using only 50 percent of what a sprinkler would use. Water early in the day so you can avoid evaporation and winds. Also, the best place to water plants is directly on thirsty roots. Spot watering the soil around your plants with a watering can or hose can also help conserve water.
  7. Harvest rainwater. Capturing and recycling rain not only cuts your water bill, but it also improves water quality. Using rain barrels or creating a “rain garden” are both wonderful ways to collect and maximize natural rainfall.
  8. Compost and recycle. Make your own compost by collecting leaves, twigs, weeds (without seeds), spent annuals and kitchen waste. Compost is the ultimate gift you can give your soil and plants. It improves soil quality while providing nutrients for plants. Many resources are available to get you started. One of my favorites is the Environmental Protective Agency’s “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” website. You’ll also find ideas for recycling plastic garden containers and purchasing recycled products.
  9. Be sensible about lawn care. Mow your lawn at the highest setting on your mower. This encourages turf roots to grow deeper and be more tolerant of drought. Tall lawns also have fewer weeds because the seeds can’t compete with the grass for light and water. The clippings from a mulching mower provide a slow-release fertilizer for your lawn.
See Also:  Thyme To Plant Your Herb Garden

Dr. Sue Hamilton, director of the UT Gardens, writes the gardening column for Tennessee Home & Farm.

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