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'Green' garden good for the planet

By MARY COLLISTER Times Correspondent
Published May 4, 2007


Other than needing more rain, the weather has been great for the garden. I've not been working too hard, just spending springtime enjoying the yard.

This includes sitting outside under the maple tree reading the morning paper and wandering around looking at new growth as the dogs run around.

I hope everyone was aware of Earth Day 2007. I preferred to keep out of the politics of the day and just concentrate on what I can do to help our planet.

If you have run out of ideas to green up your life, pick up a magazine, look on the Internet, check out a book from the library or have a conversation with a friend who seems to be in the know.

Our goal should be to make the least impact on our environment as possible.

Here are a few reminders about ways you may lessen the impact while still enjoying gardening.

Cut the fuel consumption by using tools that are powered by us and not fossil fuel. That may mean using a push mower instead of a gasoline-powered mower or hand trimming instead of using the weed whacker and, yes, they still make the edger that you just push along - no noisy, gas-guzzling contraption here.

Of course, it looks good in print, but actually forsaking our power equipment may be easier said than done. If you have managed to decrease the amount of grass in your yard, perhaps muscle power can replace the gasoline-powered engine.

We talk about compost often, but again it may not always be practical in our urban or suburban gardens. I don't feel too badly about this, since I separate my yard waste from my household garbage and the county does shred it, and then it's available as mulch.

Perhaps a less obvious way we can help our planet is by shopping at the local farmers market or growing some of our own food.

Those selling produce from our area have cut out the transportation necessary to get the food to us and this helps lessen the amount of fuel used. I have always enjoyed buying from the local stands, as I think the quality is often better and the prices are sometimes lower also.

It's a good idea to support our local farmers - no matter how small they may be. If you concentrate on buying those fruits and vegetables that are in season, once again you can decrease the transportation costs and impact.

Native plants are easier and less demanding than others. Using native plants enables you to use fewer chemicals and less water to keep them healthy and thriving.

Use natural fertilizers, which release nutrients slowly throughout the year, won't leach away, and help support the variety of soil organisms that improve fertility and combat diseases.

Water deeply but infrequently. Grasses do best when the whole root zone is wetted, and then dries out between waterings.

Avoid frequent shallow watering that causes poor root development. Overwatering also promotes lawn disease. Follow our water restrictions, making sure you water deeply on the appropriate day.

Aerate in the spring or fall. Use a rented power-aerator, or insert a garden fork 6 inches deep every 4 inches and lever back and forth to loosen the soil.

Remove weeds using pincer-type weed pullers, which work great in moist soil and can be used standing up. Or, if you must, spot-spray problem weeds.

Crowd out weeds by growing a dense lawn. Mow higher, leave the clippings, fertilize properly, and improve thin areas with aeration, overseeding, plugging or sodding, and top dressing.

Create healthy soil. Earthworms and other soil organisms keep the soil healthy. By moving through the soil, they allow water and air to penetrate, and they recycle thatch back into nutrients that the grass can use.

Take a few minutes this weekend and see what ways you can become a friendlier gardener and then share your ideas with the rest of us.

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[Last modified May 3, 2007, 06:41:18]

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