How Green is your Garden?

March 21, 2010 by Mario  
Filed under 20

Canadians love their gardens – whether that means a patch of grass and a few sturdy shrubs by the deck, or a full-scale, blowsy English garden of roses, perennials and vegetables. Our little patches of green tend to be our personal sanctuaries and play spaces – away from the stresses of the world.

Well, for our gardens to be our sanctuaries, it would be best if they were health-inducing – and that means eco-friendly.

Here’s some tips for “green” landscaping to improve your outdoor living this summer:

Begin With The Trees

Your trees are your best landscaping asset. Deciduous trees let winter sun into your house when you need it most, and shield you from the sweltering rays of summer. If your house is blessed with shade, you’re already a leafy 10 degrees cooler than properties exposed to full sun. Mature trees provide the best air conditioning possible — clean, free, and majestic! Evergreens planted on the north side of your home will help stave off the winter chill. There are other important health benefits to trees, too: all types of trees will clean the air around you. It’s no surprise that many homeowners are paying big bucks for big trees. But if you start planting now, before you know it (with patience and minimal care). you too can enjoy the many benefits that trees freely offer.

Birds And Bees

Butterflies and ladybugs too. You want to attract all sorts of good creatures to your garden for pest control. Birds love thick shrubbery, shallow birdbaths, native plantings, and fruit, nut and seed-bearing plants. They also love to have a little trickle of water. A small pump will help create the best effect: the slightest stream of water flowing into a shallow plate or rock depression.

Provide butterflies with sheltered sunny spots filled with brightly coloured blooms, and a flat warm rock for butterfly sunbathing. Bees love nectar-producing flowers, ladybugs love Queen Anne’s Lace, and all of these treasures thrive in a chemical free environment.

These are the creatures that will help establish a healthy, happy garden – and protect your plants from the nasty pests.

Go Native

Nurseries offering indigenous plants are springing up everywhere now, making it easier for you to find native plants. There are all kinds of reasons for showcasing hardy native plantings in your garden; they are generally pest and disease free, resistant to drought, and attractive to beneficial wildlife.

Queen Anne’s Lace, tansy, all sorts of daisies and lilies – the roll call of our native plants is impressively long and beautiful.

Roll Out The Barrel

We’re talking rain barrels here — ideally several for maximum water collection. The volume of water captured after an even seemingly brief rainfall will surprise you. Your plants will be happier with warm untreated water instead of the freezing cold chlorinated water that comes out of your garden hoses — and you’ll save on your water bill too.

Black gold

Start composting now and by next year you will have the most amazingly rich black stuff to sprinkle onto your lawn and flowerbeds. Many communities offer plastic compost barrels, but it is more efficient (and aesthetically pleasing) to build a wooden three-solid-sided unit with a slatted moveable front piece.

Just remember not to put in any animal by-products — most kitchen and garden waste (not weeds) is acceptable. Keep your compost pile slightly moist (positioning it in a shaded spot helps) and poke a stick in it once in a while. That’s it.

Acceptable pest and weed control

Synthetic garden chemicals do your garden no favours – upsetting the balance of healthy soil, earthworms, good insects, birds and other creatures. Declare a no-chemical season in your garden. Kill weeds with vinegar, or a dose of boiling water. Use soapy sprays to control aphids, and diatomaceous earth to stop slugs.

Put up a bat box; a bat will eat thousands of mosquitoes, and don’t deserve their Halloween-y reputation. Garden-friendly insects such as ladybugs and praying mantis will patrol for a range of problem insects. Physical trapping is also good (i.e. dishes of beer for slugs etc.) Don’t hesitate to use the good old methods of hosing off, and squashing too!

Mr. Toad

A clay toad-house or other cool spot may attract a

toad: one of your garden’s best friends.

Push mower renaissance

Remember the delightful “clackety” sound of your grandfather’s old push mower? Cancel your gym membership for the summer: low-tech and clean, push mowers cut your grass efficiently, quietly, and give you a bit of a workout too.

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