Think Green...in the Garden
Hosing aphids off daily is an environmentally friendly way to keep their population in check.
My grandfather taught me to give back to the earth, so I'm doing my part to read labels and select products that are safe, clean, and green. Many products sold to help beautify our backyards are also considered hazardous waste and must be disposed of at designated sites. Check with your local landfill for more details and begin ridding your storage shed of anything considered toxic or dangerous. Here are more suggestions for "going green."
- Start a compost pile. The materials you compost would otherwise go into the trash and on to the landfill. Compost is a free source of nutrients for your garden. What goes into compost? It's easy: Repeat the mantra, "What comes from the garden can go back to the garden." This typically includes plant material such as vegetable and fruit waste, trimmings and weeds, and plant-based kitchen scraps. Place a compost pail under your kitchen sink and add to your compost pile daily.
- Replace synthetic chemical fertilizers that you use on your lawn, garden, and potted plants with organic alternatives, such as seaweed- and fish emulsion-based fertilizers.
- To restore the health of your soil and reduce the need for fertilizers, build it up with green cover crops such as clover, buckwheat, and annual ryegrass.
- Improve soil nutrient levels in the spring and again in the fall by adding compost, well-rotted manure, and coconut coir, a more environmentally healthy choice than non-renewable peat moss.
- To keep crabgrass under control naturally, try using a corn gluten-based herbicide. Corn gluten inhibits seed germination, so it helps keep annual weeds like crabgrass from spreading by seed. Although it may take a little longer than chemical herbicides, with annual applications corn gluten has proven to keep crabgrass under control in as little as three years.
- Select organic alternatives for controlling insects. Manage Japanese beetle grubs with milky spore and/or beneficial nematodes, both of which are biological controls. Insecticidal soap and neem-based products are helpful in controlling many garden pests.
- Encourage beneficial insects, such as lady beetles, lacewings, and praying mantises, in your garden by growing a variety of plants and flowers. Find out more about the beneficial insects native to your region and encourage these with special plantings.
Select lawn fertilizer that contains slow-release nitrogen and low phosphorus levels, and use it sparingly. Or, spread a thin layer of compost over your entire lawn each spring. You'll minimize fertilizer runoff and you'll need to mow less often, too. An annual soil test will help you determine just what nutrients your lawn needs.
- When mowing, leave grass clippings on the grass to "grass-cycle." The clippings will decompose quickly and add nitrogen back to the soil. If clippings clump, rake them and add to your compost pile, fluffing them and layering with carbon-rich plant matter.
- Recycle newspaper as a weed barrier. Place in layers 4 or more sheets thick, sprinkle with water, and cover with mulch. By season's end the paper can be tilled into the soil.