Saturday, August 31, 2013

Growing Your Garden the Green Way

How Does Your Garden Grow?

As a gardener, you love the feel of earth between your fingers. 

The look and smell of fresh flowers serves as a reward for the hours you spend on your hands and knees. 

Or you may supplement your diet with fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs from your garden. 

Either way, it seems counterproductive to douse your plants with chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers just to get them to grow. Fortunately, there are a number of alternate strategies that you can utilize to maintain the health of your plants, keep pests away and grow your garden the green way.

 You can incorporate the principles behind growing a green garden into an overall strategy of environmental consciousness for yourself and your family.  By encouraging conversations about energy, sustainability and scarce resources with your children, you can instill good habits that will say with them for the rest of their lives.

Good Bugs, Bad Bugs

Aphids, beetles, slugs and snails can all be detrimental to your flowers and food plants. However, the majority of insects are actually beneficial because they prey on harmful insects. For instance, bees and butterflies pollinate many food crops. Other beneficial insects include ladybugs, praying mantis and earthworms.

Encourage beneficial bugs by incorporating plants that they like into your garden. As an added benefit, many plants that attract beneficial bugs are also desirable as herbs or produce beautiful flowers. Examples include butterfly weed, cilantro, dill, spearmint, thyme, sunflower and most wildflowers.

Protective Measures

 Protect fragile seedlings by ringing them with toilet paper cartridges or paper towel tubes cut into small sections. Incorporate plants that pests prefer away from your garden plants. Another strategy is to plant a cover plant, such as Kentucky bluegrass or white clover along with your food plants to confuse pests. Plant your or flowers in alternating rows, for instance, tomatoes on one row, greens on another. Avoid having a monoculture environment in your garden, that is, all one type of flower or plant. A varied flower garden is more visually interesting and a varied food or herb garden produces a wider variety of fresh produce and herbs.

Rotate and Mulch

Mulch your garden to preserve soil moisture, provide a natural barrier for weeds and maintain a cooler surface temperature. Earthworms, beneficial microorganisms and plant roots benefit from mulch. In addition, mulch repels harmful pests.

Compost your plants whenever they have outlived their useful lives, rather than allowing them to rot in your garden. Plant different flowers or crops every year. Composting and rotating flowers and crops provides a dual benefit for your garden. You will have more luck keeping pests away by practicing plant rotation. You will also prevent soil depletion by replenishing the soil in your garden with composting, which reintroduces organic materials back into the soil.

Why Avoid Pesticides?

Think about it. Chemical substances that are strong enough to kill bugs can hardly be beneficial to pets and children. Indeed, pesticides have been linked to cancer, neurological disorders and hormone disruption. Poisoning from pesticides is a common cause of injury or death among children a well.

Beyond the immediate harm to members of your household, pesticides are detrimental to the larger environment, for instance, pesticides have also been linked to honeybee colony collapse disorder, which has been a serious concern worldwide.  Pesticides can also be absorbed into groundwater, causing drinking water to become contaminated.

Lily Stopford, our guest blogger, is a longtime gardener and writer. You'll find her informative articles on various Internet websites.

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