We've just gone through the Top 3 of the Top 5 Ways to Garden Greener. Hopefully you've been implementing some of these ideas all along. The final 2 tips have been the hardest to get gardeners to embrace. I'm sure you'll have no problem.
4. Reduce, Reuse, RecycleLet’s face it, there are a lot of leftovers when you finish planting. In particular, there are all those empty pots and cell packs, not to mention the plastic bags the mulch comes in. Even before you get outdoors, there’s the pile of seed catalogs you’ve finished with for the year.
Alternative materials will help to some degree and recyclable or biodegradable are good options. But we need to start by reducing the amount of stuff required to get our gardens planted in the first place.
If it’s not compost-able, it should be recyclable. I’m sure that when 90% of the population was employed in agriculture, we were a lot more thrifty. Here are some ways to get us thinking about more responsible disposal of our leftovers.
What Should You Do?:
- Compost. This sounds like a no-brainer, but every year I’m amazed at the piles of leaves raked to the curb for pick-up. It takes no more effort to compost than to bag leaves for pick-up. As they say, compost happens. It makes no sense to spend hundreds of dollars buying mulch and fertilizer when you are throwing away the free stuff.
- Clean and reuse cell packs for seed starting next year. If you don’t start seeds, check with local nurseries and find out which ones will accept your used cell packs. Or find a local youth gardening program that’s in need of more pots.
- Use larger nursery pots for container gardening. You can hide them behind your more attractive pots, where no one will see them, and save a bundle. Or spray paint them with one of the wonderful new faux stone paints. They look convincing and are much lighter to move around.
- Biodegradable pots can be expensive, but you can make your own from old newspaper. Paper pots almost start decomposing before you have a chance to plant them.
- Use the rest of your old newspaper as a soil moistener. Add shredded newspaper to the bottom of plant containers. They soak up the extra water that would drain off and hold some of it until the soil is able to take in more.
- Consider having mulch and soil delivered by the yard, instead of buying dozens of plastic bag fulls. There is a fee for delivery, but it is often offset by the much cheaper price of buying in bulk. And if you have your own truck, most businesses have designated hours where you can pick it up yourself.
- Save the branches you prune in the spring to reuse as plants stakes in the garden. They look more natural and the dark color helps them disappear when the plants grow over them. Bushy branches work especially well at holding up floppers.
- Do more seed and plant shopping online. You can log onto the free service CatalogChoice.org and have your name removed from companies you no longer want catalogs from.
5.Take the Focus off the Lawn and Limit the HardscapingA lush, green lawn and an extravagant outdoor room for entertaining have become symbols of success. Unfortunately they both contribute greatly to pollution, run-off, flooding and ecological imbalance. It’s not that turf grass and stone are bad materials, it’s the way we use and care for them.
What Should You Do?:
- Less lawn is good. Less emphasis on the perfect, weed-free lawn is better. Lawn paths and play areas will always be a part of our landscapes. But that doesn’t mean we have to douse them with chemicals and fertilizer every spring. Start by planting grass seed that’s appropriate for your sun exposure and lawn usage. Kentucky Blue grass is pretty, but in most places it’s a water hog and a pest magnate.
- Use organic lawn care products. They’re safer for your family, your pets and the environment. (You won’t see yellow flags on your lawn after an organic feeding.) Organic lawn care won’t destroy the eco-system of the soil, so you’ll have less pest problems. There will be no chemical run-off into the storm drain and eventually into your water supply. Once your lawn becomes accustomed to organic care, it’s cheaper and much less work to maintain it. Check out SafeLawns.org for help getting your lawn off of chemicals.
- Don’t mow so often. Aside from all the very expensive gas you won’t be using, letting your lawn grow to a height of about 3" will result in healthier grass. It will be better able to handle periods of drought and the thicker cover will crowd out weeds.
- Talk with someone knowledgeable in landscape architecture before you start paving and hardscaping. The less soil available for drainage, the less the water is purified before it makes its way back into the watershed. Also keep in mind the materials used to clean and seal your outdoor flooring. What goes into the ground eventually makes its way back to us.