Tips for an Eco-Friendly Garden
Adapted from The Old Farmer’s Almanac
1. Choose native plants
Native plants can be defined as plants that were growing in North America before European settlement. They will be adapted to your climate and region. They require less care and provide food and habitat for wildlife. When choosing your native plants, pay attention to the microclimate of your garden: Will your plants need to be shade-lovers or will they love some full-sun? Visit one of our local nurseries, where they will be sure to advise you on your native plant choices.
2. Welcome pollinators and other beneficial species
Pollinators are vital to flowering plants, many of which are critical for our food supply. Native bees (a group that includes mason bees, miner bees and leafcutter bees) are the most important pollinators in most ecosystems -- even more so than their European cousins, the honey bees. These bees are solitary, meaning they do not live in colonies. In addition to providing them with native habitat in your yard, you can help native bees by building them a house.
Flies, butterflies, beetles and wasps are also important pollinators. Other insects, such as praying mantises, ladybugs and green lacewings, are nature's pest killers. For example, they will eat the aphids that can decimate your vegetable crops. A garden with diverse nectar sources (native shrubs, trees and flowers) that bloom throughout the growing season will attract pollinators and benefit the entire garden.
3. Encourage Birds
To attract birds to your garden, offer a mixture of plants that produce flowers, seeds, berries and nuts. Birds will happily snack on the slugs, snails, grubs, caterpillars and other pests that will harm your garden plants. Offer bird feeders year-round, and nesting boxes. Here are some more tips for a bird-friendly backyard.
4. Be Water-Wise
Using water thoughtfully is an important part of an eco-friendly garden and will reduce your costs as well. When selecting plants for a dry area, choose plants that are drought-tolerant (such as lavender, sedum, Dianthus or speedwell). Use a hose and water at soil level instead of sprinklers whenever possible. If you use a sprinkler, use one with a timer. Consider investing in a drip irrigation system.
Harvest your rain water. Rain gardens are a fun and pretty way to use that water running off your roof or down your driveway.
You can also collect your rainwater in a rain barrel and use it to water your gardens.
Consider reducing your lawn size by converting part of your lawn into a wildflower meadow, or planting grasses with low watering needs.
Join the fun of the national competition that Fairfield is participating in this April at www.mywaterpledge.com. You can learn some great water conservation tips, help Fairfield in the competition and be in the running for prizes!
5. Mix in companion plants
When paired together, certain plants improve each other's health and yields. Companion plants can offer necessary nutrients to the soil or ward off pests. For example, dill and basil planted among tomatoes can protect the tomatoes from hornworms.
Mix flowers and vegetables together. Many types of flowers confuse the pests and help you grow a healthier garden.
Here is more info about companion planting.
6. Avoid harmful chemicals
All gardens have pests, but deter them in ways that don't harm the food you are growing or the habitat for beneficial species in your backyard.
Slugs and snails can be discouraged by creating a barrier of crushed eggshells around your plants, or by putting a dab of petroleum jelly around your containers. An age-old tactic is to sink tuna cans filled with beer in your garden. Here is more info on slug prevention.
There are many alternatives to chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Talk to your local nursery about safer products or refer to this video for some tips.
7. Try Composting
Instead of throwing your kitchen scraps and yard trimmings in the trash, start a compost pile in one corner of your yard. You'll encourage compost-making worms and insects that help create rich, fertile soil for your garden.
Here's a "recipe" for making perfect compost. Once you get started, it's much easier than you might think!
And here are some reasons to consider adding fruits and vegetables to your gardening mix, and some tips for getting started: