Green Up Your Green Space - Finding Earth-Friendly Ways to Cultivate Your Corner of the Earth

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For most of us, gardening serves many purposes: it gives us exercise, allows us to relax and enjoy nature, and produces splendid food and flowers for our home and kitchens.
It is both practical and spiritual.
But could the way we're tilling the earth be dampening the beauty of our outdoor spaces? Harsh chemicals, overuse of water, and insensitive gardening methods can actually harm the space we want to bring health and enjoyment to our lives, so choosing eco-friendly gardening methods will go a long way to making this right.
Start with healthy soil.
Robust, bountiful soil is the bedrock of a healthy, eco-friendly garden.
Healthy soil helps nourish plants and animals, prevents pests and disease, and retains water.
You can begin to improve your soil by first determining your soil type (sandy, clay, or loamy) and then doing a soil test to determine its pH.
If you've got acidic soil, you can raise the pH by applying nontoxic lime.
These simple steps will help bolster your chances of developing a healthy garden.
A little planning goes a long way.
Choose native plants and seeds that are suitable for our climate.
These species, having been growing wildly in your area for centuries, have adapted to the climate.
This gives them ability to thrive without human intervention, requiring no water but the rain and no soil amendments other than what comes to them on the wind.
They'll make your garden space much less labor-intensive and will reduce your consumption of water and chemicals dramatically.
Make it chemical-free.
Pesticides and herbicides are highly toxic: they've been linked to cancer, developmental delays, and autism, and they contaminate our drinking supplies as well as our rivers, lakes, and streams.
And since they're haphazard wildlife killers, they stamp out both harmful and beneficial plants and insects, sometimes even increasing pest problems.
Natural pest control methods include hand-picking weeds and pests, introducing companion insects and plants, and using nontoxic solutions as a last resort.
Choosing organic fertilizers, such as homemade compost or pre-packaged seaweed solutions are great options for the green gardener, too.
Mulch, mulch, mulch.
Applying mulch to the top surface of your soil will cut evaporation, prevent weeds, stabilize pH, maintain even soil temperature, and more.
There are many options from which to choose, including organic materials such as wood chips, grass clippings, hay or straw, as well as inorganic materials like pebbles, shredded plastics, and stones.
Generally, the larger the particles the better, as they'll allow more water to penetrate the soil.
Conserve water.
There are many ways you can cut your overall garden water consumption.
Start by collecting rainwater by installing a rain barrel.
Use this to apply water through a hose or with a pitcher to your plants around the garden.
Next, remember that root-watering is far superior to surface-watering.
Therefore, if feasible, install a drip irrigation system that will funnel moisture to where it's needed most.
If this is not possible, some habitual watering techniques will help.
For instance, remember to water in the cool of the day when evaporation will be at its lowest.
And instead of using a sprinkler, use soaker hoses that emit water close to the soil's surface rather than indiscriminately into the air.
Attract beneficial creatures.
Many birds and bugs help keep bad pests at bay and so killing these do-gooders opens the door to an increase in pesky pests.
You can make your garden a haven for these creatures by using nontoxic gardening methods and choosing plants and flowers that they'll love to visit.
Read more about attracting insects at The Grinning Planet Protecting diversity.
If you haven't already, check out heirloom plants (those that were cultivated for centuries but are no longer in common use).
These precious plants will add unique elements to your garden and will assist in sustaining the earth's biodiversity in the long term, which could be key to warding off super-pests that are predicted to cause serious harm to the world's food supplies.
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