We are told all the time about what you can do to be “greener.” Things ranging from changing the light bulbs in your home to setting the heat back a few degrees are common tips we hear but what about in the garden? There are several things we can do to enhance our environmental “greenness” in the garden and here’s a few suggestions on being “greener” for St. Patrick’s Day and everyday thereafter!
Go native. Native plants are used to the climate and don’t need extra watering or extreme amounts of care like some non-native plants. In general since there is a natural balance already established in the wild damage from any possible escape from cultivation by seed dispersalis minimal.
Reuse materials. If something can be used again in another way or washed and reused it prevents it from going to the landfill. Things like plastic nursery pots, yogurt cups(see my heuchera seedlings for that one), and old lumber can always be reused. Some nurseries collect their old pots for reuse so check with them when you buy your plants if you don’t want to reuse them for yourself.
Ease up on or eliminate chemicals. I believe that chemical use is the enemy of sustainability. That’s not to say that chemicals aren’t necessary sometimes but we should do what we can to reduce their use. If you give up on having that picture perfect lawn (or at least take a more relaxed approach) and allow the clover to grow you’ll give the bees and other pollinators a great food source. Who’s going to pollinate your squash when the bees are gone? The gardener will have to bring stamen to pistol since the bees are essential for pollination. I’d rather have the bees do the work! If a few weeds here and there are too much for you then just spot treat the weeds instead of covering the whole lawn with chemicals. If you lay off the insecticides beneficial insects will be more likely to visit your garden. In fact insects like lady beetles and praying mantises can even be purchased to add to your garden. If you’ve ever seen lady beetle larvae eat aphids you know what good they can do!
Efficiently utilize water. Drought issues have been very common for us here in the Southeast over the last couple years. It just underlines the importance of good water management. When we water we should water deep to encourage the roots to follow the water. The roots will still follow the water if you water shallow but the problems but they won’t grow deep. They will become shallow and will stay in the first couple inches of the soil. The deeper roots can get to the moist ground underneath which allows the plants to become more drought tolerant. Watering deeper means you will have to water less often and you will save water and money in the long run.
Irrigate your garden with soaker hoses or drip lines underneath the mulch to prevent water evaporation. Soaker hoses and drip lines put the water on the ground while sprinklers send it into the air. Once in the air it begins evaporating and much of it is wasted.
Consider installing rain barrels along downspouts to collect water when it rains and utilize it for your plants. You could do what I have done and take a plastic storage tote and drill a bunch of 1/16″ hiles in the lid. I leave it out in the garden and rain water gradually collects inside. The small holes won’t let mosquitoes in and I have an extra source of water for my vegetables.
Never Throw Away Compost! Compost is the best thing for gardens! If you save your vegetative food scraps and toss them in a pile or compost bin over time they decompose and become the best additive you can find for your garden. Not only is it good for your plants but it keeps unnecessary food waste from entering our landfills.
There’s just a few tips for “greening” up your gardening for this St. Patrick’s Day. Of course it really doesn’t matter what you or I do on March 17th, it matters what we do the rest of the year!