Organic gardening can be intensely rewarding, but it doesn't have to be labor-intensive. Start small with these eco-friendly gardening tips.
Select two or three plantings that will attract activity from butterflies and bees. Not only are bees fun to watch, these tiny pollinators work hard to help fertilize your landscape. Bees love lavender, clematis, black-eyed Susan, salvia, and Autumn Joy sedum. Try butterfly bushes, zinnia and cosmos to lure butterflies.
Most chemical fertilizers have phosphorous, which promotes growth but also has a tendency to soak down into the water tables—not very good for the environment. Look for products with reduced amounts of phosphorous, as well as products that are made to stay in the ground instead of washing into the water tables.
Insecticidal soap is a good choice; it's an oil-based soap that you spray on plants. But, realize that different methods work for different types of plants, so don't have a one-size-fits-all mentality.
Make a time investment in your garden, and get back to things like good old-fashioned hand-weeding. Many insect problems can be dealt with by hand, too. If you have bag worms on your blue spruce, for example, there is an easy chemical-free solution: Pluck them off, put them in a bag and dispose of them.
Mulch serves many “green” ends: It helps lessen watering needs, reduces weeds, regulates soil temperature, nourishes and protects soil life, and prevents soil erosion. Options include pine straw, hardwood and pine bark.
Look for drought-tolerant plants that will adapt to your soil conditions (have your soil tested so you know what you’re dealing with). The more drought-tolerant a plant is, the less you have to irrigate—which saves resources.
When attracting bees and butterflies, don't forget to invite birds, bats, frogs and toads. A water feature will do this nicely. Not only does it make your garden more interesting, but also those creatures help keep other creatures you don’t want (insects, namely) in check.
Consider purchasing a mulching mower versus a traditional bag mower. Mulching mowers actually recycle the grass clippings. Also, look for spreaders that allow you to target the spread of your organic fertilizer—that way you don't use too much and none is wasted.
Compost is oil for the soil. It helps loosen clay-bound soils, nourish plants, reduce disease, and lessen the damaging effect of soil erosion.
It can be as simple as planting more vegetables and then using them in your cooking. Or, select shade trees and plant them near the windows in your home to help block the sun and give your air conditioner a break. As you learn how to be greener in the garden, teach your kids as well.
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