The climate is changing, but eco-friendly gardening is a way to help the planet while keeping our homes looking great. What’s more, it’s not hard to be a truly green gardener; it just takes a little know-how. Here are five ways you can go greener.
Be kind to the soil
Healthy soil means healthy plants, whether they’re flowers or vegetables, as well as a thriving population of microorganisms which are essential to our planet’s life cycle. Adding homemade compost from kitchen waste, grass clippings and other materials is one of the best things you can do for garden soil (it’s also free!), and a compost bin takes up very little room in your backyard. Learn how to compost here.
Say yes to native plants
Native plants are best-suited to Canadian growing conditions, so they should need less watering and other maintenance than non-local varieties. As well, our pollinators, including bees, recognize these plants. The Nature Conservancy of Canada is a good guide to selecting native plants as part of your eco-friendly gardening plans.
We have so much fresh water in Canada that it’s easy to forget how precious a resource it is and that we need to protect it. Rain barrels, which collect water from eavestrough, are a great way to irrigate gardens (check Ottawa-based Lee Valley for barrels and associated equipment). Remember not to water gardens in the heat of the day because much of the water evaporates and to use a soaker hose that directs water at the base of plants so it sinks into the soil. Using mulch as part of your eco-friendly gardening will help all your vegetation flourish by conserving life-giving moisture in the soil.
Giving grass the boot
Grass is fine but caring for it consumes not just a lot of your time and money but extensive resources as well, from water to the energy required to produce and ship fertilizer, weed killer and other products. That’s why some homeowners are looking at alternatives to pristine grass, including ornamental grasses, chamomile and white Dutch white clover, which is resilient, fixes nitrogen in the soil, requires little maintenance and provides food pollinators. More alternatives here.
Companion planting, as you might guess from the term, means putting plants that complement each close together and separating those that don’t get along. For example, green beans repel the Colorado potato beetle, but onions shouldn’t be planted near asparagus or peas. And remember to ensure tall plants like tomatoes don’t block the sun from reaching lower-growing plants like beans. The Canadian Wildlife Federation lists many plants that provide others with protection from insects.