Sustainable Gardening – Greens Grown Green?

Sustainable Gardening is all about building a garden that is closely in tune with nature. In other words, your garden will have as little negative impact on nature as possible. A garden grown this way will include growing plants organically, use native plants and trees, composting, vermicomposting (worms), drip irrigation, mulching, beneficial insects and recycling.

Embracing the components of organic gardening such as not using petroleum based pesticides, herbicides and inorganic fertilizers gets you started right. Avoiding these prevents pollution of your soil and our water supplies. Not to mention the poisons that you don’t have to ingest when eating fruits and vegetables direct from your garden.

Growing native plants and trees happens to be one of the best ways to work with nature. When you match your garden plants with what grows naturally in the area you get plants that require less care and will likely be healthier than plants that have been imported from some other climate. Water usage will typically be lower as well. A side benefit is that birds, insect, and other wildlife have developed along with the natural vegetation and will thrive better as well.

Backyard composting, both with worms and without, is a wonderful way of returning rich organic matter and nutrients back to your soil and a key part of your sustainable garden. All of your plant trimmings, end of season growth and vegetable food waste can all be composted and used again in your garden. The castings that worms produce are a great fertilizer for your plants providing nutrients needed by your plants.

While drip irrigation is not natural, it does make the best use of our precious water resources. The controlled slow application of water to the exact point it is needed makes for efficient water use.

Mulch helps your soil retain moisture, discourages weeds and helps protect plants from temperature extremes. Typically, mulch is made up of wood chips, tree bark, straw, nut shells, sawdust, seaweed, grass clippings or compost material. Mulching is another way to recycle plant waste and improve the soil in your garden.

Pest control can be a challenge if you are used to just getting out the chemical sprays available at garden centers and killing both the bad and good bugs, but there is a better way. Make your own pesticides from non-harmful ingredients like borax, beer and ammonia. Work to bring beneficial insects and animals into your yard that controls the unwanted critters. Begin by learning which critters are bad and which ones are good to have around.

Creatures That Help Control Pests

Here are a few of the beneficial creatures you should invite into your yard in order to help control or eliminate the bad pests.

Ladybugs — This cute little aphid loving beetle is worth its weight in gold and a favorite in any garden.

Lizards — Alligator lizards will search dark basements, garages and bushes for their favorite meal – black widow spiders.

Spiders — The average spider eats about 100 insects a year. He's one of the good guys with a few exceptions, like the black widow.

Toads — A toad can eat between 10,000 and 20,000 slugs, flies, grubs, cutworms or grasshoppers per year. All I can say is wow!

Bats — These much misunderstood creatures consume large quantities of insects, besides they are valuable as pollinators. A single little brown bat can catch 600 mosquitoes in one hour.

Bees — Over forty–two different nut, fruit, vegetable, and seed crops rely directly on bee pollination for reproduction. Green Lacewings — The Green Lacewing will eat aphids, mites, mealy bugs and other small insects.

Ground Beetles — A ground beetles favorite meals include cutworms, grubs and root maggots. Some even love slugs and snails. To invite them into your garden, place a log or board at one end of your garden.

Hover Flies — Hover flies look like little flying helicopters, hence their name. They are some of your garden's greatest allies. They feed on flower nectar and in doing so pollinate your plants. Their favorite meals are aphids and mealy bugs.

Hummingbirds — These tiny speed demons consume more than half their total weight in food everyday and a big part of their diet is insects.

Plants That Encourage Good Insects

There are a number of plants that will encourage beneficial insect to take up residence in your sustainable garden. A few are listed here.

Aster (Aster)

Baby blue eyes (Nemophila)

Calendula (Calendula)

California Lilac (Ceanothus)

California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)

Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum)

Coriander (Coriander sativum)

Cosmos (Cosmos)

Coyote bush (Baccharis pilularis)

Dill (Anethum graveolens)

Elderberry (Sambucus mexicana)

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Fleabane (Erigeron)

Holly–leaved cherry (Prunus ilicifolia)

Monkey flower (Mimulus)

Native buckwheat (Eriogonum)

Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rudbeckia (Rudbeckia)

Sunflower (Helianthus)

Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritime)

Tidy–tips (Lobularia maritime)

Toyon (Heteromeles)

Yarrow (Achillea spp.)

Final Thought

Making your yard and garden a sustainable garden is one of the easiest and most fun ways of “going green”. Growing organic and adopting non-chemical means of pest control and supplying nutrients helps you live a healthier lifestyle.

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