By Sherri A. Affrunti
As we have mentioned, gardening reduces stress, improves physical and mental health, and can help you create your own source of good nourishment! With Spring upon us, you might consider starting a backyard garden (whether in containers or in the ground), or planting some flowers for some backyard cheer. To the extent you can incorporate “sustainable” (i.e., eco-friendly) practices, you’ll use less chemicals and boost the richness of your home-grown food in both nutrients and taste!
Here are some tips to get you going:
Consider container gardening for vegetables. Herbs grow particularly well in containers, and can be planted together. Cherry and grape tomatoes, along with a variety of other small vegetables, can also be grown in pots and can then be easily plucked to include in salads made at home. In cooler months, such as Spring and Fall, lettuce and other leafy green vegetables do well in containers.
A popular sustainable gardening practice is composting of food and other natural waste for use as organic fertilizer. Instead of tossing dead leaves, flower heads, grass clippings, banana peels, coffee grinds and other biodegradable materials into the trash can, you can compost them into a nutrient-rich organic garden fertilizer. You can find more detailed tips from the EPA for composting at home online at https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home#basics.
Avoid the use of herbicides, and instead use organic methods to control your weeds and pests. For instance, you can pull weeds out by hand. Also, you can research the benefits of having certain plants proximate to others – for example, basil planted near tomatoes will make your tomatoes grow sweeter (and also help repel certain pests, such as the tomato hornworm). Marigolds planted near tomatoes will also deter pests.
Planting lavender, mint, rosemary, basil, thyme, sage and parsley near your door will not only smell nice, but will repel insects (including ants!) from your entryway. Chives on your property will repel aphids and Japanese beetles – and both the chive leaves and the flowers are edible!
After flowers and vegetables have matured, collect their seeds and store them in a cool, dry place for use the following year.
Mulch your garden. Mulch has a number of benefits, including suppressing weeds, preventing soil from drying out, adding soil nutrients, preventing erosion, and adding to the beauty of the garden. When purchasing mulch, avoid the cheap, dyed mulches and instead opt for a natural much, such as once made of wood chips, bark or straw.
Get creative (and cost-effective) with your garden markers! Instead of purchasing plastic markers from a store, recycle/repurpose items you already have. For instance, old silverware makes a fun and attractive marker for your plants. Pinterest has a number of additional, fun ideas for garden markers – including the use of popsicle sticks, wine corks or tin can tops.
Incorporate a rain barrel into your garden to conserve water. There are a lot of resources, such as https://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/outdoors/structures/how-to-create-a-rain-barrel online, that will provide you a step by step guide on how to make one!