Live Greener - Environmentally Conscious Gardens

Here are some tips to living more green and enjoying your garden that is more environmentally friendly, which is what many people refer to as -"green gardening".

1. Water-Wise Gardening. Taking a second look at your watering practices may not only mean utility-bill savings—you're helping to conserve one of this planet's most precious resources. Select plants suited to your region's moisture conditions and group moisture-loving plants together and near a water source. Try drip irrigation to reduce evaporation and to direct the water right where it is needed. Add rain barrels to your landscape. Use collected rainwater for container plantings or run a soaker hose to a nearby garden. Use mulch container gardens with wood chips or other natural materials, like seashells or acorns. It's pretty, plus it conserves moisture while reducing weeds and moderating soil temperatures. Create a rain garden to channel rainwater back into the ground. A well-planned rain garden captures runoff from your home's roof, walks and drives. Not only is it good for your garden, it reduces the amount of storm water that enters your municipal sewer system.

2. Turn Garden Trash Into Treasure. Spring cleanup, summer weeding and winter pruning generate piles of green debris that can easily be converted into useful, rich organic matter. Start a compost pile to convert yard waste into a wonderful soil amendment. Gather pest-free plant debris, herbicide-free grass clippings, fall leaves and noninvasive weeds before they go to seed. Mix with a bit of soil and fertilizer, and moisten until it's the consistency of a damp sponge. Pile it into a heap, and let it rot. Add shredded leaves into the top 6 to 8 inches of your soil. You'll improve drainage in heavy clay soils and increase the water-holding capacity in sandy and rocky soils. Put red worms to work recycling kitchen scraps. You'll need a plastic container, shredded paper, a handful of soil and a pound of red worms for every half pound of kitchen scraps you generate.

3. Chemical Free Weed Control. Dig out your weeds—don't spray them. You'll burn more calories and use fewer pesticides. When you need a weed killer, choose environmentally friendly products. Corn gluten helps prevent many weed seeds from sprouting. Look for grass and weed killers that use vinegar, soaps and plant oils to burn the tops off of unwanted plants. Use hand tools or electric-powered equipment whenever possible. Running a gas-powered mower for an hour produces as much pollution as driving a car 100 miles. Consider permeable pavers or stepping-stones when adding new walks to your landscape. These reduce water runoff by allowing water to filter through the soil.

4. Mulching. Mulch helps keep water in the soil and available to the plant, rather than evaporating into the air. This can help reduce water consumption. As mulch breaks down, it provides nutrients to the soil, which can help reduce or eliminate the need for additional fertilizers. Be sure to use mulches that are from sustainable forestry practices (not Cypress tree mulch), and that are free from pests and diseases. Your cooperative extension office can help you find sources of mulch in your local community.

5. Remove Invasive Species and Restore Native Plant Communitites. Native plants are better for the environment than exotic plants, generally requiring less fertilizer and other additives, less water, and less effort in pest control. They are especially important to native wildlife, such as pollinators, that may have coevolved with a particular species. Pollinators often rely on a certain type of flower as a source of food, while the flower depends on the pollinator to transport its pollen to other flowers for reproduction.

Fall flower bulbs

When non-native plants are used, they often times upset the delicate balance of a local ecosystem and sometimes even out-compete native species to the point of extinction. Wildlife benefit more when native plant communities remain intact, or are restored to their natural habitats, providing the best source of food for wildlife.