Organic Gardening and Other Eco-Friendly Options
The pros and cons of organic gardening are hotly debated. In truth, most of us would prefer not to use chemicals if we could avoid the need for them, and we would be happier to rely on natural, organic products to ensure that our plants remain healthy and well-fed.
Incorporating organic matter into your soil should supplement it with all the nutrients that plants need for healthy growth. Both manure and compost are particularly good for replacing nitrogen, which is soluble and easily washed out of soil by rain, or lost through the action of certain types of bacteria. Moreover, they release it gradually as they decay, thus feeding plants throughout the growing season.
Some of the creatures you might initially think of as pests are in fact the very opposite: they’re natural predators. And they can be employed to tackle the bugs that really do threaten your plants and flowers.
A combination of mixed planting and leaving a few areas of your garden less than immaculately neat will help attract bees, ladybugs, hoverflies, lacewings, and other beneficial insects. You could also dig a pond to provide frogs and toads with a home. You might even try introducing some specialist contract killers yourself—slug-destroying nematodes, for example.
There are alternatives to synthetic pesticides and weedkillers. Derris, pyrethrum, and insecticidal soaps are effective against certain insects and are all derived from plant extracts. Weeds that can’t be dug up can usually be killed off by covering the ground with plastic or by using a flame weeder.
With pressure on water supplies growing and summers arguably becoming increasingly dry, water conservation is important. A rain barrel can collect rainwater from downspouts or from house and garage roofs. In larger yards, you can link barrels together with an overflow pipe. Make sure a rain barrel stands on a hard, stable surface, and is high enough for you to get a can under the spigot. Cover the top with a lid to keep out debris. Conservation issues aside, rainwater is best for plants; in some areas, tap water contains high levels of lime and is described as “hard”; this is unsuitable for acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons. ”Gray water,” or waste household water, can also be used in the garden, especially during a drought. Do not use water that has passed through a water-softener or a dishwasher, as it contains chemicals that damage plants. You can use dishwater that is not fatty or full of detergent, bath water with no bath oil and not too much bubble bath or shampoo in it, and water from rinsing clothes. Let the water cool, and then use it as soon as possible to prevent bacteria from building up. Water onto the soil, not over the foliage. Do not add gray water to a rain barrel or use it in irrigation systems, and avoid using it on acid-loving plants, edible crops, seedlings or young plants, and lawns.