Thursday, January 13, 2011

Should anyone else be able to tell you how you "should" garden?

I was reading a lawn and garden post called Green Yard Care Tips written by Alisa Gilbert this morning and this was the first sentence:

One responsibility of being a homeowner is keeping a clean, well-manicured yard.

I had to read that line a few times to see if I agreed with it in any way, and I have to say, I just don’t. (Although I do agree with some of the writer’s other tips, which I have listed below).

My personal opinion is that landscapes should NOT be forced into being well-manicured. In fact, I don’t believe that anyone else should try to tell a person what their yard should or shouldn’t look like at all, unless it is just a dangerous eyesore.

I think that leaves should be allowed to lay where they fall to provide nutrients to the soil and cover for crawling critters. I think that plants should be allowed to go to seed to provide food for passing birds. I think piles of rotting compost should be perfectly acceptable in any yard. And like the wild, uninhibited residents of DC who participated in the 4th Annual No Pants Metro Ride this year, I think that native plants should be allowed to do their own thing in the garden.

If there is any “should-ing” to be done when it comes to gardens, I think that people should pay a little bit more attention to keeping poisons out of their yard and not wasting water and protecting our waterways. But when it comes to how you manicure your share of the earth, and what you wear when you do it, there really shouldn’t be any shoulding about it.

Excerpts from Green Yard Care Tips with my links added.

1) The author suggests that you ditch the lawn crew. Instead, I suggest that you find an eco-friendly one.

2) Use natural fertilizers and weed killers. Use natural pesticides and other insect prevention methods.

3) Make your own compost.

4) Do you use a gasoline lawnmower? If so, consider ways to offset that carbon footprint.

5) Understand the climate and what is best, naturally, for your yard.

Anyone can compost

Many people think that they can't compost because they don't have the room for it. However, there are new, smaller compost tumblers which make composting easy for everyone.

Composting is, of course, the process of turning food and plant wastes into valuable organic soil amendments.

This video, which I first saw on, shows local resident Christiana Aretta creating compost on her small apartment porch in Washington, D.C.

Aretta explains that no matter how big or small your garden is, you can still help keep waste out of the landfill by creating compost.

For those that don't have ANY backyard, Compost Cab can still help you to create compost.

Compost Cab is a new business which was started in March of 2010 to help more DC residents create compost.

They provide you with a container and instructions and then pick up your compost and deliver it to a nearby not-for-profit urban farm, where they’re transformed into the fertile soil needed to grow good, nutritious food for the local community. Everybody wins.

For more information about Compost Cab, visit their website.

And here is a link to the full article on Voice of America.

For links to many more articles on creating compost, see our resources page.

Selected Winter Garden Tips

The Home and Garden Information Center of the University of Maryland puts out a great e-newsletter. Here are a few of the gardening tips that they list for January in the home landscape.

• Hand pull winter annual weeds to keep them from going to seed this spring. Some common annual weeds include chickweed , henbit , and dead nettle . Here are more tips for eco-friendly weed control.
• Avoid excessive walking on your grass when it is frozen to avoid damaging the crowns of your grass plants.  

Woody Ornamental Tips
• Protect shrubs from winter winds by surrounding them with burlap or cardboard, or constructing small, solid windbreaks located 18 inches from the plant on the windward side.
• Try to prevent snow and ice from building up on gutters and eaves above shrubs. Gently sweep snow loads off of shrubs to prevent breakage.
• Prune damaged branches.  

• Fall bearing raspberries can be cut down to the ground. The spent fruiting canes of June bearers can also be removed now.
• Consider covering your strawberry patch with a piece of floating row cover. This material can help prevent winter injury and promote early growth in the spring.  

Vegetables and Herbs
• Plan for spring seeding now. Check the germination rate of old, questionable seed (see newsletter to learn how)  

• Keep all ice melting materials away from landscape plants. Do not attempt to melt ice with granular garden fertilizers.

• If you have not mulched your garden, apply mulch now to perennial beds, trees and shrubs. This will help to protect plant crowns and shallow root systems from severe cold weather.

• Keep bird feeders and baths cleaned and replenished throughout the winter months.

For more tips from this excellent newsletter, download the winter edition here.

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