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#SwitchtoSafer in Your Garden
I love to garden. Always have. But as a kid, I remember taking a container of RoundUp and spraying weeds growing in the cracks of the driveway at my parents home. God knows what cumulative exposure to that horrible substance did to me, and thank God that now I know better that to ever go near that stuff again. The same goes for MiracleGrow and all the other conventional fertilizers, weed killers, and pest control products on the market.
I have come to appreciate the natural order and balance of my garden and to release control that I will ever have the “perfect” garden. Instead, I want color and life. I want to have a wildlife oasis where birds, turtles, butterflies, chipmunks, fox, and deer can come visit and not be poisoned.
A few of my green tips are as follows:
- Compost. – Use compost to nourish and amend your potting soil. Take the liquid from the compost, also called “compost tea” and use it in your containers and houseplants. Composting is such a good way to reduce your waste and put it to work again outside. Get the kids involved and watch as they learn to be good stewards of the earth. My favorite tumbling composter is this one. I also like this bucket for my kitchen scraps.
- Choose organic soil for your container and beds. – Every major big box and specialty garden store carries a multitude of organic soils, and they are priced very close to other soils.
- Choose organic seeds and seedlings. – Organic seeds and seedlings are also ubiquitous nowadays and only for pennies more than conventional.
- Choose plants native to your area. – They will require less work as they are perfectly adapted to the water and soil conditions of your area. In Maryland, the Department of Natural Resources has published an amazing guide that has helped informed my garden. You might also visit a local nursery and ask to speak to a master gardener about native plants in your area. Many nurseries now have sections dedicated to native plants. Native plants often have the added benefit of attracting beautiful and beneficial visitors like bees, butterflies, and many varieties of birds.
- Just say no to herbicides and pesticides. – Herbicides and pesticides not only damage human health, they kill bees and other pollinators, putting the entire food supply at risk. Choose instead natural ways to get rid of pests and disease. Use natural products like insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. Introduce beneficial insects (see #6).
- Control mosquitoes and ticks naturally. – The #1 best thing to do to keep mosquitoes at bay is to eliminate breeding sites of standing water. After every rain, make sure to empty any receptacles in your garden that could give mosquito a place to breed. Also, plant mosquito-repelling plants in abundance. I like lemon balm, basil, and lavender, all of which have many other uses. Also, use mosquito dunks in your rain barrels. For ticks, I like to use Damminix Tick Tubes which help treat the field mice that are often the carriers for ticks. We put these around our garden wall and in the shed and they work great. If you feel like you need professional help, call in a mosquito control company that will use a natural substance made from garlic. More and more companies are offering this option.
- Introduce beneficial insects. – Go to the garden store and buy some lady bugs. The lady bugs will eat aphids and other pests. Plus, I adore lady bugs! They make me smile.