Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Eco-Santa’s Favorite Garden Gift? A hoe, hoe, hoe

Weeds, of course, are a challenge for any gardener. For eco-minded gardeners, who try to abstain from using chemicals, the challenges are even greater.

It is important to try to eliminate chemicals when possible, however, to help cut down on non-point source pollution which is a leading cause of pollution for local water supplies. Sure, you can take the path of least resistence and choose to see the weeds as welcome wildflowers. Or you can spot treat weeds with eco-friendly products or pull them by hand. But if you would like a quicker way to control what gets to stay and what has to go in your garden, then a hoe, hoe, hoe is the perfect solution.

 Controlling weeds with a hoe is a lot quicker and easier than hand pulling. Hoes allow you to get the entire root, without the disruption to nearby plants that a rotary tiller would cause. Long handled hoes allow you to do the dirty work from a standing position, causing less strain on your knees and back. Since they dig down into the dirt, hoes can allow you to remove the weeds before they even reach the surface.

 Hoes are also useful for loosening soil and creating troughs to plant seeds. The Virginia Cooperative Extension Service, in their document Weeds in the Home Vegetable Garden, says this about the benefits of hoes:

There are several ways to rid the garden of most problem plants. Since mature weeds extract large quantities of moisture and nutrients from the soil, removing the weeds when they are young is beneficial. Hand-pulling suffices for small gardens and raised beds, but a hoe is critical for larger gardens. Manual-powered rotary cultivators do a good job on long rows and pathways, provided the soil is not too wet or dry and the weeds are small. In large gardens with widely spaced rows, a rotary tiller of appropriate size makes the work easy and fast. Manual and powered rotary cultivators are usually unable to turn under weeds close to vegetable plants without damaging the vegetables. Hand-pulling or hoeing are best for removing weeds near vegetable plants. Deep cultivation with any instrument is likely to damage roots or stems of crop plants.

There are many different types of hoes and long-time gardeners generally have their favorite. They come with flat heads, pointed heads, curved heads and even swivel heads. Whatever style is preferred, it is important to keep the hoe sharpened. Just surf on over to your favorite garden center website and do a quick search to see all of the different types of hoes available.

Here is a cute blog post that has photos of many different types.

 And for more information about environmentally friendly weed control, check out these guidelines from Montgomery County and Fairfax County. Pesticide Alternatives, Montgomery County Watershed A Corny Solution for Weeds (pdf file) about corn gluten Going Solar to Set Your Soil Straight (pdf file) Weed Control – Fairfax County

Eco-friendly gardening: It's a Wonderful Life

Taking care of the planet, by practicing eco-friendly gardening techniques, is a great way to help local birds, butterflies and other garden wildlife. It is also a way to create a WONDER-full life.

Every time you garden green, you are helping to protect and preserve habitat for local wildlife. The process is so magical and mystical that it reminds me of the classic line from one of my favorite Christmas movies, It's a Wonderful Life. At the end of this happily-ever-after movie, George Bailey and his friends and family are singing Christmas carols when a bell on their Christmas tree rings, reminding young daughter Zuzu that "every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings."

In widlife gardens, the surprises are just as magical. Eliminating chemicals, using native plants and conserving water are all great for the planet and for local wildlife.

So to give your family a gift that lasts a lifetime, make plans to start (or continue) an eco-friendly garden this spring. You will soon feel the same way that I do: that being a green gardener IS a Wonderful Life. And every time you garden green, a butterfly gets its wings. 
Four tips for an eco-friendly garden:

1) Eliminate chemicals - spot treat weeds or pull them by hand

2) Choose native plants - they adapt better to local conditions

3) Conserve water- waterwise landscapes are a great start

4) Garden for wildlife - turn everyday gardening into a WONDER-FULL way of life

I hope you will join us on the Metro DC Lawn and Garden blog as we learn to create environmentally friendly landscapes together. You can subscribe (at right) and follow us on Facebook to join in the conversation. Be sure to add any suggestions or questions you'd like to learn more about!

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