After a long and very cold and rainy spring, it appears the temperatures are beginning to trend upward as we head into Memorial Day weekend. Finally we have the opportunity to get outside in our gardens and begin the clean up and planting process that many of us have longed for.
Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate with our gardening aspirations but none-the-less, to keep our planet healthy, we must honor her by employing a few sustainable practices, such as using less polluting chemicals and conserving water and other natural resources as much as possible.
Here are a few ideas that you can implement right in your own backyard:
1) Manage Pesky Weeds Naturally.
Weeds are annoying and it’s definitely easier to spray them with a form of weed killer than it is to bend over for hours and pluck them. Whacking them is more fun however it is a less permanent solution and usually requires a gas powered weed whacker, which is not environmentally friendly.
Many weed and insect killers can be harmful to people and the environment, especially if used on plants and herbs you intend to eat. Your best bet is to use organic products or even natural mixtures such as sprinkling corn meal on the weeds, or pouring boiling water on those that grow between cracks on your walkways or driveways. (Just don’t pour the boiling water on plants, flowers or grass you want to keep)
2) Mulch Everything.
Another weed stopper is mulch, but that’s not all mulch is good for. It also keeps the soil below it moist, which in turn means you are conserving water. And while you’re conserving water, consider collecting your water from Mother Nature to use on your plants by installing a rain barrel at the base of one or more of your gutter downspouts.
3) More Plants, Less Grass
We all envy our neighbor’s lush and green lawn, but it takes a lot of water to keep it that way and most likely, chemical treatments to rid it of weed. Try shrinking your lawn footprint by using blooming ground covers, such as pachysandra or phlox (just to name a few). Also consider rocked gardens, which eliminate the need for grass and make your yard more interesting. When selecting plants, try to find those that are indigenous to your area. Because they are used to the weather conditions of your area, they adapt better, are much stronger and require less water.
4) Plant Perennials
Perennials are those plants and flowers that keep coming back every year much to our amazement at times. And every year, they typically come back bigger and stronger. Check labels to make sure you’re planting them in the proper area (shady or sunny) Planting perennials is also the best way to save money on your gardening budget each year because you’re not re-buying all the time.
5) Grow Your Own Food
This is a given. What better way to be sustainable than to eat what you grow. Some herbs can even be grown year-round indoors. Using raised garden beds are great ways to not only keep from having to bend over when you garden but they keep pathway weeds from your garden soil, prevent soil compaction, provide good drainage, and serve as a barrier to pests such as slugs and snails.
6) Consider Composting
Composting isn’t always the most pleasant (or fragrant) thing to do, but it’s definitely a great way to save energy, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, which helps to tackle climate change. It will also help you improve your flower gardens and provide feed for your growing veggies. There are many different ways to go about it, so doing a little research will provide you with the best composting method for your needs.
7) Use an Electric or (ugh) Manual Mower
I can hear the moans already when it comes to manual mowing and more power to you if this is the route you take. For the rest of us, consider using an electric mower over a gas mower to be more environmentally conscientious. The reason being, they don’t leak gas into our soil, they don’t produce emissions, they are less noisy, and cost less to operate.
These are just a few ideas. We welcome your suggestions! Working together, we can do our part to shrink our carbon footprint, starting in our own backyards.