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EcoGardening

Page history last edited by Gardener 7 years, 7 months ago

EcoGardening

Make energy and resource conservation a routine part of your life. Here are measures to help promote biodiversity.

 

Conserve water

 Photo credits: Matt Levanowitz

Collect runoff rainwater in rain barrels or a pond. You may desire to elevate your rain barrel on three sets of level concrete blocks so you can get a watering can underneath the spigot and for a faster flow. You may also opt to connect a soaker hose to the spigot. Read the Rain Barrels page.

 

Water generously when necessary. Rule of thumb is 1 inch of rain per week to establish/maintain deep roots to help plants survive dry periods. Short, frequent watering is wasteful because it yields shallow roots. Stick your finger in the soil to see if you need to water. If your soil is dry 1 inch down and you have new plants or plants requiring at least moderate moisture then you need to water.

 

To minimize evaporation, water in the early morning or late evening. 

 

Maximize water retention with mulch. Mulch also helps maintain a steady soil temperature and decrease weeds. 2 - 3 inches of mulch is adequate. Deeper mulching prevents water from reaching plant roots. Keep mulch about 5 inches from trunks to avoid bark deterioration by rodents or moist mulch against bark.

 

Further info at VA Tech's Irrigating the Home Garden, which  includes use of soaker hoses and mulching. It takes about 2/3 gallon of water for each square foot of garden area to soak the average soil to 5-6 inches, which is about 1 inch applied at a time.

 

Sweep walks and driveways rather than hosing off or using a blower to conserve water and energy.

 

Protect streamsides by planting or maintaining a riparian buffer (vegetative growth beside a body of water)  to prevent erosion, improve water quality, and increase wildlife and fish habitats. Check with your County Conservation District before making any plans since state and local regulations apply to wetlands and waterways. If action is needed remember to use native plants to protect our biodiversity. Trees, shrubs, and tall grasses along waterways discourage Canada geese. Mowed lawn to the edge of a water body encourages Canada geese which chase away native birds and leave large feces in the water and on land.

 

Inside your house remember to save water which you run from the tap while waiting for water to get hot or cold. Use the water to water your plants. In PA, water that has been in contact with people (bath, shower, dishwasher) may not be used on plants. Info from Penn State article, How to garden during drought conditions. You may also use the water collected in your dehumidifier to water plants.

 

Read the PA Dept of Environmental Protection Fact Sheet Drop by Drop: Use Water Wisely for more water conservation ideas and to determine how much water you use each day. The average person in PA uses 62 gallons per day.

 

For a real eye opener watch FLOW (For Love of Water) to better understand our world water crisis; DVD available through Netflix, Bucknell U. library, and for purchase.

 

Plant the right plant in the right place.

Choose the plant based on the site. Before you dig, call Pennsylvania One-Call System 811 to have all underground utility lines marked.

 

Light - Most plants are now labeled for full sun, part shade or shade. Full sun means at least 6 hrs. of direct sunlight during the growing season. Part shade is 3 - 6 hrs. of sun, morning sun is less stressful than hot, late afternoon sun. Shade is less than 3 hrs. of direct sunlight or filtered light. To determine how much light the various sections of your yard actually receive you'll need to keep a record on sunny days during the growing season. Where is the sun shining in your yard at 8 am, 11 am, etc.? What areas are in shade or dappled light?

 

Moisture - Dry, moist or wet. Dry areas are where water does not remain after a rain. Moist refers to sites where the soil is damp and may occasionally be saturated. A wet site is saturated much of the growing season. Plants designated for wet sites usually tolerate specific ranges of water depths. New plants will require regular moisture until established. Plants for dry areas are considered drought tolerant. Is there a water source near where you will be planting? If not, is there a downspout near the site so you could collect water in a rain barrel? Even drought tolerant plants will need to be watered until they are established.

 

Soil pH and type - Obtain a soil test from a commercial lab or through the Penn State Extension prior to planting. On the soil test form state what you plan to grow at the site. The results will state what amendments, if any, need to be made based on what you plan to plant. It is best to select plants suited for the existing site conditions rather than amending the soil as this may be difficult and expensive to accomplish and may need to be repeated over time.

 

Height and/or Spread - At maturity will the plant fit in the given space? Are there utility wires overhead to consider? Will the plant grow into a structure or another plant?

 

Native - Does the plant occur naturally at the site without human intervention? Generally, species native to a particular region occurred prior to European settlement. Non-native plants are species that were introduced to a site from other continents, states, ecosystems, and habitats. Many non-native plants have value and pose no problem to our natural ecosystems. The problem ones are the invasive plants that reproduce rapidly, spread quickly over large areas, produce prolific seeds, and disperse seeds at a distance from the parent plant through such means as wind, water, wildlife, and people. Read the Invasive Plants page to learn what plants to avoid. We need native plants to maintain biodiversity. Rampant land development means each home/business needs to plant native plants to enable species to survive; plants, insects and wildlife. Why? Read Douglas W. Tallamy's book Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, pub April 2009. To learn which plants are native and which ones are invasive read the Native Plant Landscaping page. Invasive plants should be removed and replaced with native plants.

 

Wildlife - Does the plant have value for wildlife? What wildlife may eat the plants in your garden? Deer will eat most any plant under stressful conditions so fencing is the only sure way to keep out deer. See the Gardening for Wildlife page to find out what native plants to grow to attract such creatures as bluebirds, butterflies and moths.

 

Avoid using peat

Peat bogs are an essential part of our ecosystem. Once they are harvested they are gone forever. The best way to eliminate the sale of a product is to avoid buying it. If a product does not sell places will not carry it. Use recycled newspaper or toilet rolls in place of peat pots. Use compost as a soil amendment. Read the peat article in the Montgomery County Composters The Earthworm Spring 2000 newsletter. If you know a source that harvests peat sustainably then you may desire to go that route. Sustainable harvesting is controversal.

 

Compost garden waste

Attend a Penn State Extension Master Gardener composting class to learn how to turn garden and kitchen waste into nutrients for your garden rather than landfill waste. Read the Composting page.

 

Minimize the use of chemicals

Use the most environmentally safe products to solve a problem. Follow Integrated Pest Management practices to protect our planet.

A row cover is a mechanical means of reducing pests on your plants. Remove the covers when the plants start to flower to enable pollinators to reach the flowers.

Using a diversity of plants will help prevent susceptibility to disease as seen in monocultures.

Learn to identify Beneficial Insects that provide natural control of harmful pests. See the Insects page for details.

Consider going organic....Perhaps start with your vegetable bed...Going "Organic" in the Vegetable Garden.

 

Leave natural areas in your garden for wildlife

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Provide habitat for beneficial wildlife to promote a healthy garden. See the Gardening for Wildlife page to find out what native plants to grow to attract such creatures as bluebirds, butterflies and moths, and hummingbirds. Leave a pile of branches in your yard as a perch for birds and cover for chipmunks and rabbits. Sticks may be cut up and added to your compost pile. Timing and tolerance are needed for butterflies. Flowers blooming spring through fall to provide nectar for butterflies to eat and tolerance in seeing leaves eaten by caterpillars.

 

Consider the source 

When purchasing plants be sure they are nursery propagated, not collected from the wild. Native plants help maintain our biodiversity.  Check the Invasive Plants page to avoid buying invasive plants which limit the biodiversity of our planet. Native Plant Sources in our area.

 

Could you use a recycled product? Try Freecycle, an international grassroots nonprofit organization seeking to keep usable items out of landfills. Sign in at the site to read postings, either items Wanted or Offered.  All items must be free. Enter your city or county and state to find the group nearest you. Lewisburg, for example, is listed under Union County, PA.

 

Other thoughts:

Was the product ecologically harvested? Do you really need the item? Is the item well made so that it is more likely to last a long time? Buy locally made products to reduce transportation pollution. To reduce solid waste buy items with limited packaging. Either bring your own shopping bags or carry out your items without a bag. Could you mow your lawn with a human-powered push mower? Or use an electric mower such as the neuton? Could you reduce the size of your lawn and replace it with native plants?           

 

Dark skies at night

Avoid light pollution. Protect the night sky. Follow the recommendations of the International Dark-Sky Association IDA when considering outdoor lights.

 

Ecosystem Gardening Blog & Facebook 

Check out Carole Sevilla Brown's informative blog & Facebook sites.

 

Become a backyard farmer

Why are Americans turning back to home gardening? - by  A.E. Luloff, Ph.D, professor of rural sociology in PSU College of Agricultural Sciences.

Growing Your Own Food - Penn State Extension Southeast Region; links to resources for growing specific produce.

Become a Master Gardener or attend area classes to learn how to grow your own fruits and vegetables. Read the Ohio State University Fact Sheet on Edible Landscaping

 

To supplement your garden buy locally grown food to limit transportation pollution and costs. Check out area farmers offering Community Supported Agriculture CSA's, Farmers' Markets, and U Picks.  Another option is to find someone willing to start a Your Backyard Farmer program like the one started by two women in Portland, OR who grow organic produce in their clients' backyards. Consider a Community Garden.  

 

A Farm for the Future - documentary filmed in UK about need to decrease our oil dependence by incorporating permaculture methods. Biodiversity is key to our future.

 

Other Resources listed in SideBar in column on right.

 

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