“Green” may be the new buzzword, but when it comes to gardening, eco-friendly techniques have been around for years. Here are four simple, inexpensive methods that can turn your garden into a model of green efficiency.
1. Watch the way you water.
As the mercury rises, so will your water bill this summer if you spend hours soaking your plants with a hose. There are two easy ways to improve your watering habits. The first is to catch and store rain water to use in your garden. Make sure that you cover your barrel with a screen or use the water frequently to ensure that mosquitoes do not use your barrel as a breeding ground. Secondly, cover your garden with two to three inches of mulch to conserve moisture. Mulch serves the dual purpose of conserving moisture and preventing soil erosion from heavy rain. Anything from dead leaves to newspapers make excellent mulch. Using newspaper rather than landscape fabric lets the water soak to the soil. Often landscape fabric simply allows the water to run off and away from the plants. Even grass clippings are great to use.
2. Deter animals the natural way.
Deer and rabbits have long been the bane of gardeners worldwide. Instead of spending money on harmful animal repellants, try using plants and herbs that act as natural repellants. Mint and oregano both work well, as well as lavender, which repels pests with an oil that it secretes. One bloom to buy: May Night Salvia. This dark-blue to purple flowering plant wards off deer and -bonus- they look great with roses. And even if the mint and oregano don’t work completely, you’ll have grown the start of a great salad dressing.
3. Compost, Nature’s Fertilizer.
This may be the most efficient and eco-friendly practice that you can adopt. According to a 2006 Environmental Protection Agency study, the average person generates 4.6 pounds of trash per day. Much of that waste can be transformed into nutrient rich fertilizer for your garden. The most effective compost pile layers are what are known as brown materials (grass clippings, dead leaves, dead plants, etc.) and green materials (vegetable peelings, apple cores, tea bags, coffee grounds, newspapers, even seaweed). By layering brown and green materials, the heat produced by the decomposing organic matter begins to break down the mixture.
The most important part of a compost pile is heat. The internal temperature needs to stay somewhere between 104 and 131 degrees Fahrenheit. That high heat, coupled with moisture (keep the mixture as wet as a wrung-out sponge) and aeration that you produce by turning the pile with a shovel or garden fork, produces a mixture that can kill the weeds in your garden when spread. In turn, it helps produce vibrant, healthy plant life. Start your pile in early spring, as a good compost pile will take 3-4 weeks to produce a finished product.
4. Birds: Nature’s Winged Insecticide.
One of the most natural approaches to insecticides is to plant a garden that attracts birds. Sunflowers, Zinnias and the Black-Eyed Susan are all bird favorites. The feathered visitors will do more than any insecticide could in controlling harmful insects.
In addition to these natural methods, most nurseries stock many different natural brands, like Espoma and Safer. Inquire at your local nursery or garden center for more ways that you and your garden can grow greener.
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