Six Tips for Your Eco-Friendly Garden

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Spring is just around the corner! As the winter drags on, we longingly look outside for hints that our garden is still there, buried beneath snow, but waiting patiently for warm air and cleansing rains. If you are starting to think spring, and think gardens, it’s time to think about what it will take to make your gardens and planted areas eco-friendly.

Here are some thoughts on ways you can go “greener” this year with your gardens:

- Use Natives – You’ve probably already heard that using native plants is a very ecologically sound practice, and it’s true. Natives are better suited to your gardens because they are used to the conditions that the climate and region you live in provide. This means they are more resistant to native pests, and do better with the amount of water that is provided through rainfall, and are better adapted to the soil conditions in your area. This saves headaches, time, and water and significantly diminishes the need for chemical intervention. Using native plants doesn’t mean you will end up with a weedy, wild looking garden. All areas have beautiful and interesting native plants that you can create a wonderful garden with. Take time to research the natives in your area and find good suppliers that can provide you with locally grown natives.

- Plan for water conservation – If you are using natives, you will automatically have less need for supplemental water once the plants are established. If you aren’t using natives, or not a lot of natives, you can still conserve water by never watering in the heat of the day - water early in the morning. You can also use soaker hoses that are placed strategically throughout your planted areas. These allow water to soak into the ground at a slow pace and reduce evaporation while watering the soil thoroughly.

- Compost – Composting your grass cuttings (as long as they haven’t been chemically treated) and your non-meat food scraps is a great way to fertilize your plants, make the soil rich and keep your scraps and trimmings from ending up in a landfill.

- Use natural pest repellants – If you have slugs, snails, aphids, mites or other plant pests, you will want to get rid of them. But, if you can avoid doing so by using chemicals, you and your garden are much better off. You can attract slugs away from your plants by offering them a bowl (buried to the rim) of beer. They will belly-up and drown. Diatomaceous earth works well at deterring slugs, snails, earwigs and ants. Bt will kill larvae and caterpillars that like to eat leaves and roots, and your can spray a solution of water, garlic juice and a drop or two of dish soap on aphids.

- Use natural weed controls – No one likes weeds in their gardens, or anywhere else for that matter. You can pull them by hand and be sure to use a good barrier that will keep them from getting sunlight – one good way to do this is to lay down old newspaper and cover with mulch (mulch that is not chemically treated). This will keep weeds from getting the sunlight that they need to grow, and the old newspaper will eventually degrade.

- Use recycled stuff – You can get pots made from recycled plastic and even cow manure (yes, it’s true) and garden edging made from your recycled milk jugs.

As we look forward to spring, and the renewal of our gardens, we should begin to think about how we can make our planted areas more Earth-friendly. If you incorporate even a couple of these ideas into your gardening season, you’ll be doing the Earth a big favor, and your garden as well.

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