25 Easy Ways to Garden Greener
Going "green" is the thing, and, lucky for Planet Earth, this movement seems more than just a passing trend. But living an environmentally conscious lifestyle doesn't have to be hard—you can start by making some simple changes to your gardening routine. Not only will you be doing your part, you'll save time and money by letting nature lead the way. Here are 25 easy-to-implement tips to get you thinking green...
By Melinda Myers, Horticulture Expert
All images: RDA, Inc./GID
#8: Dig shredded leaves into the top 6 to 8 inches of your soil. You'll improve drainage in heavy clay soils and increase the water-holding capacity in sandy and rocky soils.
Taking a second look at your watering practices may not only mean utility-bill savings—you're helping to conserve one of this planet's most precious resources.
- Select plants suited to your region's moisture conditions, including native plants that naturally thrive in your locale. In areas with limited rainfall, choose drought-tolerant plants.
- Group moisture-loving plants together and near a water source.
By concentrating watering chores into one area, you conserve water and reduce maintenance. Try drip irrigation to reduce evaporation and to direct the water right where it is needed.
- Add rain barrels to your landscape. Use collected rainwater for container plantings or run a soaker hose to a nearby garden.
- Mulch container gardens with wood chips or other natural materials, like seashells or acorns. It's pretty, plus it conserves moisture while reducing weeds and moderating soil temperatures.
- Create a rain garden to channel rainwater back into the ground. A well-planned rain garden captures runoff from your home's roof, walks and drives. Not only is it good for your garden, it reduces the amount of storm water that enters your municipal sewer system.
Turn Yard Trash into Treasure
Spring cleanup, summer weeding and winter pruning generate piles of green debris that can easily be converted into useful, rich organic matter.
- Start a compost pile to convert yard waste into a wonderful soil amendment. Gather pest-free plant debris, herbicide-free grass clippings, fall leaves and noninvasive weeds before they go
to seed. Mix with a bit of soil and fertilizer, and moisten until it's the consistency of a damp sponge. Pile it into a heap, and let it rot.
- Shred fall leaves lying on your lawn with a mower. As long as you can see the grass through the leaves, the lawn will be fine.
- Dig shredded leaves into the top 6 to 8 inches of your soil. You'll
improve drainage in heavy clay soils and increase the water-holding capacity in sandy and rocky soils.
- Use shredded leaves, evergreen needles and wood chips as mulch. A thin layer of organic material conserves moisture, insulates plant roots from temperature extremes and enhances the soil.
- Create wattle fences, arbors, trellises and even garden art from the twigs and branches you're left with after pruning.
- Make your own compost tea instead of using commercial liquid fertilizers. Place compost in a permeable bag and soak it in water.
Stir once a day until the water turns brown. Use as needed.
- Put red worms to work recycling kitchen scraps. You'll need
a plastic container, shredded paper, a handful of soil and a pound of red worms for every half pound of kitchen scraps you generate. For more details, here for a link to my worm-composting flyer.
- Reduce yard waste by selecting plants suited to your growing conditions. Healthy plants with space to grow need less pruning.
Chemical-Free Carpet of Green
Here are five tips to keep your lawn lovely...and your conscience clear.
- Substitute drought-tolerant grasses where you have water-loving types. Try native buffalo grass or rhizomatous tall fescue (RTF) to create a luxurious lawn that needs less fertilizer and water.
- Mow your lawn high and often, removing only one-third of the grass blade at each mowing. Grow bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass at least 2-1/2, preferably 3-1/2 inches tall; Bermuda grass, carpet grass, centipede grass and zoysia, 1 or, better yet, 2 inches tall; and St. Augustine, 2 to, more desirably, 3 inches tall.
- Leaving grass clippings on your lawn adds nutrients, organic matter and moisture to the soil. A season of clippings is equal to applying 1 pound of actual nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 square feet.
- Replace your traditional lawn with no-mow grass or ground cover. No-mow lawns look like meadows, while ground cover styles can range from casual to formal.
- Use the right type and amount of Earth-friendly fertilizer at the right time. Even one application of fertilizer can reduce weeds by as much as 50 percent. Consider using a low-nitrogen, slow-release fertilizer, and never apply fertilizer to frozen soil.
- Sweep grass clippings, chemicals and fertilizers off walks, drives and other hard surfaces. This prevents them from being washed into storm sewers and polluting our water.
Earth-Conscious Garden Chores
It's easy to make Earth-friendly choices as you battle weeds, consider power options and care for old tools.
- Dig out your weeds—don't spray them. You'll burn more calories and use fewer pesticides.
- When you need a weed killer, choose environmentally friendly products. Corn gluten helps prevent many weed seeds from sprouting. Look for grass and weed killers that use vinegar, soaps and plant oils to burn the tops off of unwanted plants.
- Think solar power. Harness the sun to light your landscape, power your fountain or run your irrigation system.
- Use hand tools or electric-powered equipment whenever possible. Running a gas-powered mower for an hour produces as much pollution as driving a car 100 miles.
- Consider permeable pavers or stepping-stones when adding new walks to your landscape. These reduce water runoff by allowing water to filter through the soil.
- Donate or recycle old tools, or turn them into creative works of garden art.