It doesn’t get much greener than growing your own fruits and vegetables right at home! But there are some things you can do to make your garden even more eco-friendly, while at the same time enhancing the health, beauty, and productivity of your garden.
Keeping a compost bin not only provides a nutritious (and free!) source of fertilizer for your garden, but also reduces the amount of food wastes that end up in landfills and incinerators. Add organic materials like weeds, grass clippings, plant trimmings, fruit and vegetable leftovers, eggshells, and coffee grounds. Just avoid meat, dairy, bones, anything fatty, and pet/human wastes. Add earthworms to the mix to get “vermicompost,” which contains beneficial nutrients from worm “casings.”
2. Natural fertilizers
Compost will go a long way toward boosting the nutrient content of your soil, but a few natural fertilizers will help even more. Wood ash from the fireplace, coffee grounds, grass clippings (not too green or moist), and rinsed seaweed from the beach all make good fertilizers when dug into the soil a bit. You can also buy organic manure and guano to mix in to your soil bed before you begin planting.
3. Pest control
Attract some natural pest-eaters to your garden by hanging a bird feeder nearby, leaving a pile of mulch near your garden to attract ground beetles, or making a toad house (an upside-down pot with an opening chipped out). And if a pest makes it past these defenses, find out exactly what it is—odds are you can easily find ways to welcome in its natural predators, or concoct a simply organic treatment to deter it.
Add a layer of mulch over your topsoil. This will help the soil bed retain water and prevent much evaporation.
Water in the morning to prevent evaporation, and use a drip or soaker hose to waste less water. Or if possible, install a rain collector with a lid and a faucet so no water is wasted at all. Water around roots, not surface growth.
6. Attract butterflies and bees
Gardens with ten or more bee-friendly plants do a great job of attracting bees, whose dwindling numbers need some help, and who will help pollinate your garden to give you the best yield. Leave some flowers on your vegetable plants, and include some flowers that bloom late into the fall to keep ‘em coming. Butterflies will help pollinate too, and make a beautiful addition to the scenery.
Look for recycled products whenever possible. You can find recycled wood mulch, pots and planters from recycled materials, and more. When possible, reuse old materials around the house to build your own planter, etc., before going out and buying a new one.
8. Choose carefully
Choosing hearty, drought-resistant plants will help you save water, as will native plants that are already in tune with the local climate. Choose foodstuffs over ornamentals to save on groceries and cut down on your eco-footprint.
9. Community gardens
If you live in an urban area, you can still get in on the fun by finding a local community garden that will give you a plot. Such gardens also usually have a community compost pile, which gives the added benefit of allowing you to compost even without a yard at home.
If possible, let an area nearby your garden go wild to give insects a place to live other than your garden, and to attract friendly insects to help you control your pests.
Compost tips: http://www.compost-info-guide.com/beginner_guide.htm
Bee & butterfly attractors: http://www.growsonyou.com/gardening/plants-to-attract-bees-and-butterflies
Native plant search: http://www.wildflower.org/plants/
Natural pest predators: http://www.nysaes.cornell.edu/ent/biocontrol/
Find a community garden: http://acga.localharvest.org/
Compost! Compost! Compost! The best thing you can do to reduce waste and help out your garden is to compost the uneaten or rotten food you would normally throw out. Store your kitchen waste in a large tub and turn it every one to two weeks. Or, if you want to take composting to the next level, invest in a rotating bin you can buy from the link cited below.
Grow flowers that promote bee and other insect populations and will help keep pests at bay. You can grow certain flowers to attract bugs like ladybugs, lacewings, and ground beetles that eat irritating insects like aphids that will eat up your hard-earned produce plants. Great flowers to grow to help promote these populations include bachelor’s buttons, sweet alyssum, anise hyssop, fennel, mountain mints, and other plants. In addition to attracting good insects that will keep away the bad ones, having more flowers around will raise the insect population in your garden, helping all of your plants to be successfully pollinated and produce more produce.
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