Green gardening is a way to improve your little corner of the world. It’s growing fresh, organic food for your family, and it is more eco-friendly. It means not using as many commercial fertilizers and pesticides on your lawn and garden.
It’s making and using your own compost, and conserving water with a rain barrel or a rain garden. It’s using native plants as much as possible and it’s a way to welcome nature into your outdoor environment. In addition you are actually attracting insects to your garden that work for you.
Not all insects are bad. The ones that help your garden are called beneficials, and by planting the right things you can attract them and then they will feast on such things as aphids that you previously got rid of with pesticides.
But now it’s January and the closest we can get to the garden is to dream about it. It’s January and it’s when everyone makes and tries to keep new resolutions. So what are your resolutions and dreams for the garden this year?
Is this the year you’re going to tackle that empty spot in the yard that is just crying for a garden? Don’t let the glossy pictures in magazines deter you. You don’t need a lot of know how to start a garden and once you take the plunge you’ll learn as you go along.
Perhaps you have a garden, but want to enlarge it or maybe you want to do your part to protect the environment and a garden seems like it would be a way to improve your little part of the world.
If you’ve never had a garden before, it might be a little easier to start with a vegetable garden because so many things grow readily from seeds and even in a container you could grow salad greens, and a few herbs. If this is all you do, you’ve already improved your diet. Peas and beans are also very easy to grow and both can be trained to grow up on stakes or trellises and so they too could be grown in a small space.
If your resolution is to eat healthier (in other words more vegetables) why not grow your own. Some of the healthiest foods out there are easily grown in small gardens. Think kale, broccoli, chard, spinach and pumpkin to name a few. Then take it a step further and plant some blueberry bushes along the back of your property.
In fact, this month’s issue of Real Simple, mention’s all of these vegetables and includes some very easy recipes to use all of them. Check it out.
We live in a stressful world, but our personal spaces can be a green refuge from that scene. Now is the time to start planning your personal oasis.
You don’t have to spend a fortune either to create a green space, or a patio or deck garden, or even a small water feature. Use your imagination to reuse things you might already own.
Now is the time to clean the basement. Maybe you can find some old containers that could have a new life as a plant pot. Take the time now to clean and maybe repaint them. By the time spring comes, you’ll be very eager to plant your new container garden.
An unused chair in the attic might be perfect on the porch this spring with a new slip cover, and maybe the peas and beans you want to plant but have no room for, could double as a privacy screen and shelter one corner of the porch.
Use fishing line and attach several strings from the ground to the ceiling of the porch. Then plant your seeds in the garden near each string. They will quickly find your strings. Eventually, you’ll be able to harvest peas and beans right from your porch.
Maybe you have wanted to start a garden, but are worried about watering it. Now would be a good time to research native plants to your area. Native plants take less water, and need less help from the gardener to thrive. They also encourage the local wildlife to visit your yard because they are natural sources of food and shelter.
Native plants usually are not as vibrant as some of their cultivars, but that is changing some, and perhaps you’ll get your pops of color from the butterflies and song birds that might visit your garden.
Earlier, I mentioned beneficials. Planting things like parsley, cilantro, and oregano would attract butterflies and lady bugs, as would allowing a few lettuces and broccoli plants to flower and go to seed. The insects that you attract would eat other insects that destroy your bounty, and they further work to pollinate your flowers.
All of the plants I’ve mentioned thus far also attract birds and if your resolution is to attract more of these beauties to your yard, you are well on your way. The best recipe for attracting birds is actually very simple. If you meet a bird’s need for food, water, and security, they will be more than happy to grace your yard with their presence.
Evergreens at the back of your property gives you great privacy and gives the birds a thick, safe haven to retreat to for safety or protection from the elements. In front of this, plant flowering bushes. The berries on many of these bushes are natural sources of food for the birds and incredible beauty in your garden.
Now you need a source of fresh water, a few feeders with supplemental food, and perhaps a few assorted bird houses around the edges of your property. It doesn’t all have to be done in one year either.
Start with the big things like perhaps the trees and gradually add a new element to your yard as you are able. Don’t be afraid to experiment. You will succeed and each success will encourage you to try one more thing.
Another thing to research is a rain garden. I’m not completely informed about this, but I believe it involves directing your downspouts underground to come up somewhere in the yard. The garden is built here and the ground is mounded up some and perhaps layered with water absorbing materials. The result is you conserve rain water and hardly ever need to water the garden. It is one of my New Year’s resolutions to further research this idea.
Do you have a compost bin? Would you like one? If you plan these projects now when you can’t get outside, you’ll be more likely to commit to them in the spring.
However, if you wait until planting season, you are going to be too busy and the dream projects will get relegated to the back burner again.
You can buy compost bins, but you can also build one if you have someone handy in your house. This is a project that school age children can get very involved in and if you are a scout leader why not do it as a troop project.
I can’t say enough about the benefits of mulch. It keeps weeds down, improves the quality of the soil, and reduces water evaporation. Making your own mulch reduces yard and kitchen waste and converts it into wonderful fertilizer for the garden. It’s a win, win, win situation.
A community garden is another garden you might want to think about if you don’t have the space or time to have one of your own. Maybe three or four families or even a church could get together to plant and tend a garden that everyone could share.
There are many ways to make our homes and communities healthier and greener. January is the time to get inspired and start dreaming. Hopefully, “Gardening with Julie” will give you the confidence and persistence to go forward with your dream.
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