Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tips for A Really Green Luscious Garden

The week leading up to Earth Day was so eventful- George Bush admits that climate change is a problem, Al Sharpton and Pat Buchanan join forces to warn about a planet in peril, alternative fuels spark food shortages, I got to hear in person at the Oberlin College climate change conference, the dynamic black prince of the green economy, Van Jones-yet, I choose to write about greening your garden. Why? Because gardening is such a simple, pure, relaxing, stress relieving and rewarding activity. It's also easy for me to write about as I have 13 years of hard earned experience digging in the dirt. Being a single parent I found it was an outdoor activity that could replace running until my son grew older. I started out as most gardeners using chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, only to find out later that some of these things are carcinogenic. I watered like crazy, purchased tons of roses for my shady garden, rototilled the soil to death and immediately cut down any plant that didn't look like anything I saw in the garden center. Over the years I saw the light and became an organic gardener and today although there is still a lot to learn, I have a beautiful thriving garden. Here are some of my tips for a lush, healthy, earth friendly garden:

  • Take your time with it - a beautiful, healthy garden, like a relationship, takes years to establish
  • Go natural - there are chemical free organic alternatives for resolving your gardening problems. Look for these products at the garden center or home improvement store
  • Know your soil - is it clay, sandy, wet or loamy? Is it acidic or alkalinic? Very important
  • Mix it up - Every year enhance your soil with homemade or store bought compost
  • Know the light conditions of your property - shady,sunny or partially shady? Select plants that grow in those conditions. This makes a big difference
  • Get familiar - Contact your local extension center to get a list of plants that are native to your region. These plants being adapted to your climate, are tough, cheap to grow and attract birds and butterflies like crazy
  • Get buck wild!! -Wildlife in your garden will bring dimension, music and balance, while eliminating many of your pesky pest problems
  • Use your hands - machines in the average sized garden are for wusses! They are noisy and do more harm than good. Enjoy the physical benefits of gardening and just go for it with some old school tools likes pruners, hedge clippers, rakes, edgers, shovels and spades (Confession: I am a wuss when it comes to cutting the grass and chopping leaves)
  • Water wisely - water early in the morning or early evening, buy drought tolerant plants, use a rain barrel to capture water coming off of your gutters, use leftover kitchen water for your potted plants. Mulch, Mulch, Mulch...retains moisture, blocks weeds
  • Get help - take free classes at the garden center, call the master gardener in your area, join a garden club, volunteer in a community garden, talk to the vendors at the farmers market, check out books from the library, ask the neighbor down the street or have the family gardener come over and share their green wisdom
  • Have fun - be crazy, creative and experimental, if something doesn't work you can always pull it out and start over with something new

Gardening is a great way to feel connected to the earth, especially if you approach your natural area as something to be one with and not won over. So please take the time to educate yourself on earth friendly gardening practices and you will be rewarded with great beauty and enjoyment for years to come. The compliments you'll get aren't bad either!

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