Wednesday, May 21, 2014

35 Ways to Succeed at Organic Gardening

Here are nearly three dozen easy, green ways to care for your yard and garden.
By Colleen Vanderlinden
Harper Woods, MI, USA | Jul 23  2009
Going green in the garden is a great way to start living a greener life overall. Here are some simple ideas to help you grow a greener, healthier garden.
Water Wisely
1.            Mulch everything (vegetable gardens, perennial borders, containers) to conserve water.
               Organic materials, such as shredded bark, chopped leaves, grass clippings, or straw, are
2.            Water at soil level through drip irrigation or soaker hoses. Overhead watering is wasteful
               and can contribute to plant fungal issues.
3.            Or, even better, use a watering can, and selectively water only those plants that need it
               rather than watering an entire area.
4.            When you water the garden, do so deeply and infrequently. Don't water until the top
                inch of soil feels dry, then be sure to really give plants a good watering. This
                encourages the roots to grow deep, making the plant more drought-tolerant
                and healthier overall.
5.            Consider using gray water to irrigate flowerbeds or perennial borders.
Green Pest and Disease Control
6.            Say it with me: "No chemical pesticides!" Thank you.
7.            The best way to deal with large insect pests such as beetles, larvae, and slugs, is to pick
               them off of your plants by hand and drop them into a cup of soapy water.
8.            For smaller pests, you can try spraying them with soapy water. The soap breaks down their
               outer coating and the result is deadly for them.
9.            A blast of water from the hose will take care of many insect pests, including aphids.
10.          Help prevent powdery mildew by not planting too closely, and not watering the foliage.
11.          Mulching heavily (at least 3 inches) around garden plants helps protect them from many
               soil-borne fungi, including black spot, tomato leaf spot, and powdery mildew.
12.          Protect vegetable garden crops from pests like cabbage loopers, Colorado potato beetles,
               and cucumber beetles by covering the plants with floating row covers.
Organic Lawn Care
13.          Mow high. Set your mower at its highest setting. Taller grass shades the soil, which helps
                keep it cool and moist, and also prevents weed seeds from sprouting.
14.          Use a mulching mower. Mulching mowers (there are reel mowers that mulch as well!) help
               your lawn by returning all of those clippings to the soil, where they nourish the grass and
               help conserve moisture.
15.          Clover in the lawn is a good thing. The clover fixes nitrogen in its roots, making it available
               to the surrounding turfgrass. The result? Greener, healthier grass. Plus, the clover provides
               food for the bees.
16.          Fertilize with manure, fish emulsion, or a top-dressing of compost in early spring where
               winters are frigid and late fall where winters are mild. Do it again in late summer, if you
17.          Apply corn gluten meal, an all-natural, organic material, as a pre-emergent crabgrass and
               dandelion treatment.
18.          You noticed that I didn't mention watering ? That's because you really don't have to
                water your lawn. Cool season lawn grasses naturally go dormant in the hottest,
                driest part of the year, and naturally green up again when temperatures
                and precipitation normalize. Trying to keep them green when they would
                naturally go dormant is a waste of time and resources.
19.          Oh, you don't want a brown lawn? Consider replacing it with a ground cover, meadow
               planting, or other lawn alternative.
Getting Sane About Weeds
20.          Pulling weeds is the single most effective organic method for removing them. Yes, it takes
               time. But it works.
21.          Decide whether having a weed free garden really matters (but I can assure you that
               there is no such thing as "weed-free.") Many weeds, including dandelions, provide
               valuable food sources for beneficial insects.
22.          If lawn weeds are driving you nuts, consider reducing your lawn area or removing it all
               together. Replace it with mulched garden beds or patio areas and kiss your lawn weed
               problems good-bye.
23.          If you have weeds growing in sidewalk or driveway cracks, either pull them or hit them
               with a dose of boiling water---no chemicals necessary!
24.          When you do pull those weeds, compost them!
Compost is King
25.          Make a compost pile where it is accessible to the garden, because you will be putting items
               into the pile often.
26.          Composting doesn't have to be complicated. Any pile of organic matter will break down
               over time. The important thing is to do it, rather than obsessing over perfection.
27.          Keeping the pile moist, but not soaking wet, will help the contents break down faster.
28.          Anything from a freestanding pile to a fancy tumbler will work well. What you
               choose depends on the available space you have, how much material you expect
               to add to your compost, and your own aesthetic preferences. You can spend as
               much or as little as you want.
29.          No yard? Try vermicomposting. A worm bin can fit in a cabinet under your kitchen sink, in
               a corner of a room, or in a basement.
30.          While many surprising things can be added to a compost pile, a few things should be
               avoided. Don't add meat or dairy to your pile. It will stink and attract pests.
Encourage Beneficials
31.          If you can entice a toad to take up residence in your yard, he or she will repay you
               by eating all types of insect pests. Provide a home for toads by setting a clay pot
               on its side in the garden – this is an excellent re-use for a broken pot.
32.          Plant flowering plants to provide food sources for pollinating insects.
33.          Attract beneficial insects, such as lady bugs and lacewings, by planting plenty
               of flowering plants, providing areas for them to hide (if you mulch or have shrubs,
               you've got this covered) and, of course, not using chemical pesticides.
34.          Bats can eat up to 3,000 mosquitoes per night – definitely worth inviting to stay a while.
               You can entice them to your yard by buying or building a bat box and installing it in your
               yard in early spring.
35.          Let's not forget the earth-movers beneath our feet. Keep earthworms happy and busy
               aerating and fertilizing your garden by covering any bare soil with mulch and not disrupting
               the soil more than you have to.
Greening your yard and garden isn't complicated, expensive, or difficult. If you pay attention, spend some time checking for signs of trouble, and make your yard a haven for all types of life, you'll have the greenest yard on the block.