You’ve been waiting for the big spring thaw since Christmas. Now that it’s here, you’re hoping to make your garden more eco-friendly. Here’s a spring guide to eco-friendly gardening that will get you pointed in the right direction.
The fastest way to have an eco-friendly impact is by choosing plants that are native to your climate. “Native” means plants that naturally grow in the area. Most home and garden stores carry seeds of regional plants. In Texas, this might mean choosing bluebonnets. In Virginia, you might plant the fiery orange Turk’s Cap lily instead.
One of the main benefits of native plants is that you won’t be fighting Mother Nature to keep them alive and thriving. They also contribute to your local ecosystem, feeding the insects and birds and other native wildlife.
Don’t sprinkle, drip
This is a pricier solution, but it pays off with a healthier garden and a lower water bill. A soaker hose drip irrigation system delivers water directly to the soil and plant roots. You’ll no longer need that spray of water arcing through the air in the early morning and late evening. Soaker hose drip irrigation makes your plants a little more resistant to disease by watering them right where it matters. Since the water is not flying through the air and landing on top of plants and grass, less of it evaporates. That means you use less water, especially if you have it on a timer.
Nix the chemical pesticides and herbicides
Some of your best friends in the garden are vinegar, salt, and dish detergent. A combination of all three is a less-toxic weedkiller. Pouring apple cider vinegar into an anthill will kill the nest. In a pinch, plain boiling water will kill weeds growing up in the crevices in your driveway or back patio. You can get rid of slugs by setting out dishes of beer. Slugs are notorious beer lovers and will drown after drinking themselves into a stupor. Coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, and something called diatomaceous earth are snail repellents. They work by tearing up their soft, slimy underbellies. You may already have most of this in your kitchen and don’t have to shell out the money for weed killers and pesticides that will linger long after you’ve forgotten them.
Maintain your lawn
There’s a lot of bad information out there about lawns, that they aren’t environmentally friendly. This couldn’t be further from the truth in that there are many benefits of lawns. A yard full of grass make prevents water from evaporating and prevents flooding and soil erosion. The trick is choosing the right kind of grass for your region. You can always ask at your local garden store which types of grass are best suited for your climate. Maintaining your grass also makes your lawn eco-friendly. You don’t want to give your lawn a close shave, because longer blades of grass will help conserve water.
Not sure how to compost? It’s a simple way to recycle scraps from your kitchen and replenish the soil in your garden. All you need are the browns (like the twigs and leaves in your yard), the greens (vegetable scraps from the kitchen, coffee grounds, et cetera) and water. Composting also enriches your soil without the need for chemical fertilizers and helps reduce methane emissions from your landfill.
Your yard and lawn can be environmentally friendly in several different ways. They can help you conserve water. They can improve air quality. They can attract native insects and animals as part of the natural ecosystem in your region. This spring guide to eco-friendly gardening should help you get started as soon as winter thaws.
Larry Wilkinson is a garden and landscaping writer. Larry prides himself on finding the easiest way to do anything he can — you can bet he’s tried to make his entire garden self-watering. Of course, he isn’t just about convenience either, adding a unique design flair to everything he does.