Greening Your Garden
There are four basic areas to consider when looking after your lawn or garden:
- Use Native Plants
- Feeding the Soil - Compost
- Unwanted Guests - pests & weeds
Use Native Plants
Native plants thrive in your climate. They are accustomed to the length of the growing season, normal high and low temperature range, the wet and dry seasons and the local pests. That Kentucky Bluegrass may look nice in the spring, but given a long dry summer and it may burn to a crisp.
Just picking native plants is not enough. Make sure you plant them in the appropriate place. Many plants have a preference for direct sunlight or shade. Also pay attention to what is growing beside them. When in doubt, ask. Your local greenhouse supplier will be more than happy to answer your questions.
Check the pH level of your soil and use plants that thrive within your pH range. Here's a list of flower, vegetables, grasses and shrubs with their preferred pH levels: Preferred pH Levels of Plants
Feeding The Soil
If you look after the soil, you don't need to feed the plants directly (other than water). By far, the best thing you can add is your own compost. Composting really is easy. Make sure you get a compost bin that allows you to easily turn the compost. Tall narrow bins don't work that well. I prefer a large rectangular bin, located in a corner of the yard, close to my vegetable garden and the rain barrel. Just keep adding your kitchen waste, yard waste, leaves and grass and turn the pile every week. I toss in a shovel of dirt from the garden each time I'm adding a significant about of material. The dirt has all the enzymes needed to get everything working.
Get a soil test done. If you send your soil sample away to a lab, ask for an organic analysis. The report will tell you exactly what nutrients you need to add, including the amount per unit of area. Does this really matter? Having healthy soil will give you health plants. Ever found brown spots on the bottom of your tomatoes? This is a prime example of a deficiency in the soil nutrients - your soil is low in calcium.
Fertilizers: Know what you are getting. Organic fertilizer is a good example. In many locals, by law, an "organic" fertilizer only needs to contain 15% organic material, the rest, 85% can be synthetic fertilizers. A good organic fertilizer will contain only plant and mineral materials, such as Alfalfa and Corn Gluten. While Hen Manure, Human Waste and Animal Renderings can be considered organic, they can contain trace amounts of Heavy Metals, Bio Stimulants, Pathogens and Salts. Know what you are adding to your garden and lawn.
Most people over water their lawns and gardens. If you water your lawn, it should be done early in the morning while it's still cool and before the sun can evaporate the water. Control the rate of watering to ensure you are not causing runoff. And most importantly, use rain water captured in your rain barrels. You can easily make your own rain barrels and add several together to store as much water as you'll need. We have instructions on how to make your own rain barrels at a fraction of the priced charged by the hardware stores. Additionally, you can also divert the gray water from your house for use on your lawn and trees. This process diverts the water from sinks, showers, bath tub and washing machine, though a filtering system and into a holding area. The filtering systems is often a series of gravel and sand. The holding system can by a lovely backyard reed pond. The reeds add additional filtering.
Pests & Weeds
A healthy lawn and garden will naturally withstand pests and weeds. What few weeds you do find popping up should be pulled by hand. There are various devices for sale that allow you to pick the weeds without even bending over. Want to try a spot killer? Use straight vinegar or an equal mix of vinegar and soap. Be careful just to spray the weeds.
Pest control varies of course, based on the pest. However, soapy water tends to work well on ants, cockroaches and other crawling creatures. To keep many flying pests away, dry cloves or mint. We wrap cloves in cheesecloth and leave it hanging about. We've noticed some of the outside bars and restaurants doing the same.
Thai lemon grass plants also help to keep mosquitoes away as will citronella plants, though the Thai lemon grass plants are reportedly more effective.
In the vegetable garden, try planting mint. You'll need to keep the mint under control as it has a tendency to spread out. Basil and Dill also attract beneficial insects to your garden.
Peat, found in most potting soils, is non-renewable. Harvesting peat is viewed as harmful and the highly esteemed British Royal Horticultural Society considers "the purchase of peat to be unacceptable". Save the bogs and help stop global warming by substituting peat with manure compost or coir. Coir is the highly renewable fibrous outer husk of a coconut.