We’ve taken so much from Mother Earth, it’s time to give back

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Opinion: It takes surprisingly little effort to change the way we garden.

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Yesterday was officially Earth Day, but in reality it should be an everyday event.

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Sustainability is a key practice in maintaining an eco-friendly garden, and in reality it means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. So, as gardeners, we have to be very creative and thoughtful in our use of all materials and plants. Here is a reminder of the things we can all do to improve the sustainability of our gardens.

Water consumption is one of the most critical issues. For those of us who live in cities where water use is restricted during hot summers, we have to be very resourceful, not only in our homes, but also in our gardens. Proper soil preparation and incorporation of good moisture-retaining materials is the first step. To ensure deep rooting and conserve moisture, mulching with compost or “non-herbicide” grass clippings is an excellent solution, especially around shallow-rooting plants, such as rhododendrons, azaleas and many cedars. .

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The way we water is also very important. Whenever possible, drip systems are by far the most efficient way to water containers, baskets and planters. Soaker pipes are useful because they only put water into the root zones of plants and do not waste it through evaporation. Watering by hand with a hose fitted with a soft rain nozzle is also very effective.

Grow plants that are more drought tolerant and you'll spend less time watering your garden and more time enjoying it.
Grow plants that are more drought tolerant and you’ll spend less time watering your garden and more time enjoying it. Photo by Minter Country Garden /PNG

Unless you have in-ground irrigation, lawns will require sprinklers, but again there are many efficient models that can be adjusted to avoid overlapping on driveways and sidewalks. Even during the hottest summer temperatures, a thorough watering of our lawns, just once a week, should suffice.

Lawns can be allowed to turn brown without any water use during the summer, but with recent heat domes weekly deep watering is recommended as many lawns have not recovered in the last year. It is important to understand that lawns help cool our homes and gardens, as well as sequester carbon.

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Water harvesting is also becoming more popular than ever. Rain barrels, placed under gutter downspouts, are perhaps the most efficient way to collect clean water. If you keep the barrels closed, there is little danger of them becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes. There are many other techniques for collecting water, but the important thing is to conserve as much water as possible for our gardens.

Composting is an invaluable activity. Fully composted materials can be useful in many ways. Small twigs, recyclable cardboard and newspaper can be mixed with grass clippings and other “green” kitchen and garden waste. Make sure that no animal waste or rotting meat contaminates your compost.

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Planting for pollinators is truly a year-round activity, and they will appreciate your efforts!
Planting for pollinators is truly a year-round activity, and they will appreciate your efforts! Photo by Minter Country Garden /PNG

To keep the rotting material loose, with good air pockets throughout, be sure to build a “layer cake” of compost, adding soil to help break up potentially sticky and dense material like grass wet and kitchen scraps. It will probably take about six months to decompose your raw materials, so it’s a good idea to run a few composters at the same time. Composting is the ultimate form of recycling, and the resulting decomposed materials can be used beneficially almost anywhere in our gardens.

In the long run, the organic nutrients in compost are the best way to nourish your plants because if the right materials are used, the soil will eventually replenish itself. Composting is a learned process. It doesn’t work quickly, but it gives great results, both for short-term crops, like vegetables and annuals, as well as long-term benefits for perennials, trees, shrubs, and lawns. . Fortunately, today there is a large selection of organic alternatives for indoor and outdoor plants. They are a bit more expensive and slower working, but over time they greatly enrich our soils and benefit both our plants and all of us.

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Today the word pesticide is treated like an evil alien, when in fact it actually means something used to control pests that cause serious damage to our plants. We find more environmentally friendly alternatives for pest control, but careful observation and smart cultivation techniques are the best controls.

It’s true that healthy, well-maintained plants are the least susceptible to insects and disease, but it also comes down to choosing plants wisely. The “right plant, right place” philosophy should be a guiding principle, as this concept, more than anything else, will minimize pest damage.

Explore container garden options that thrive in pots and you can convert even the smallest spaces into green space.
Explore container garden options that thrive in pots and you can convert even the smallest spaces into green space. Picture of Burpee Home Garden /PNG

A key factor today is the number of new plants bred to have a high tolerance to insect and disease problems. From rust maggot resistant carrots and black spot blight resistant tomatoes, to mildew resistant roses and scab free apples, there is now a huge opportunity to take advantage of plants that have high pest tolerance.

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The correct use of predatory insects and floating covers makes insect control much easier and more effective. Organic acetic acid (vinegar) concentrates are increasingly effective in controlling weeds and fatty acid soaps are proving more effective in controlling insects. We are also increasingly attracting birds and other wildlife, such as “good” insects, to our gardens, and they help us control mosquitoes and many other annoying insects.

Planting the right kind of tree around our homes is still one of the greenest things we can do. By the right kind, I mean a tree that is both more tolerant of heat and drought and resistant to insects and disease. Trees help cool our homes and neighborhoods, as well as collect pollution and sequester carbon. They provide habitat for beneficial insects and birds and open up the ground to absorb heavy rains.

It takes surprisingly little effort to change the way we garden, but in truth, it’s time to become more sustainable and make it a regular practice. We have taken so much from Mother Earth, it is time to give back.

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