The Five Steps to an Eco-Friendly Garden

The Five Steps to an Eco-Friendly Garden

Guest post by Katie Myers

Did you know that 44% of young people are unhappy with the current state of the environment? There are many ways that we can help to improve the state of the environment, and many of these we try to practise daily such as recycling and leaving the car at home when we can. However, whilst many of us often try so hard to make our homes eco-friendly, we often forget about our gardens.

Becoming an eco-friendly gardener is not nearly as hard as it sounds. There are just five easy changes that you can make to transform your outdoor space into an eco-friendly one. The right gardening techniques will not only help you to achieve your eco-friendly status, but will also attract a wider range of wildlife into your garden, help you save money on your water bills and can even help you to lose weight.

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Effective pest control without the harmful chemicals

Effective pest control without the harmful chemicals

If you have grown plants for food or aesthetics, you have probably experienced the frustration of losing some of your crops to insects and other pests. That is just a part of gardening, although if you grow crops year-round, you’ve probably realized that the upside of winter gardening is that you don’t have to spend much time fighting herbivores, since the cold weather kills them or drives them into a dormant stage. Animals are a different story, however, and you may find that hungry squirrels, deer, raccoons, or other critters are helping themselves to your plants even through the cold season.

To get rid of insect herbivores, many gardeners resort to using insecticide-pesticides. (Pesticides consist of a number of substances, including weed killers like RoundUp, insect-killing chemicals, and molluscucides, or “snail bait.”) In fact, most commercial (and many non-commercial) plants are grown with the aid of pesticides. While this may seem like a solution to the problem of insect herbivores ruining all your hard work, it has many downsides that have implications for your plants’ health, the health of the environment, and your own as well.

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7 things you’re doing wrong in your garden (and how to fix them)

7 things you’re doing wrong in your garden (and how to fix them)

If you have been gardening for a while, you’ve probably realized that making mistakes is a big part of the process of learning. Even the most experienced gardeners make errors of judgment that can lead to a failing or otherwise unsuccessful harvest. Some problems are inevitable when it comes to growing your own food: weather changes can ruin a harvest in a single day, so if you are not prepared (or available) to act fast in case of unexpected frost, heat wave, extended periods of rain or humidity, or sudden insect infestation, all of your hard work can be ruined very quickly…

Whether you’re a neophyte, a seasoned grower, or a business owner looking to make a profit from your harvest (or just earn a little extra cash on the side from your farm), you may be making some of these common mistakes that growers make, all of which affect the health, productivity, and viability of your garden in a major way.

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Preparing Your Bee-Attracting Garden for Winter

Preparing Your Bee-Attracting Garden for Winter

Guest post by Clara Beaufort

Bees, unfortunately, are disappearing at a rapid rate. Those of us who are already gardeners are doing their part to sole the problem by setting up a bee-friendly series of plants. The Honey Bee Conservancy offers some tips for those who are not aware of what makes a garden attractive to pollinators like bees. Bee-friendly gardening is a year-round task, and with fall approaching it’s important to prepare. Winterizing your garden and planting cool weather-blooming species that will keep the bees coming back are crucial steps in making fall adjustments.

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Companion planting: how to do it, mistakes to avoid

Companion planting: how to do it, mistakes to avoid

Companion planting is a small-scale method of intercropping, which refers to the practice of planting one kind of plant next to another or others that help it thrive. It is often associated with small-scale organic gardening (the type of gardening I have exclusively done for the past 18 years) or other biodynamic planting methods, and it is a favorite technique of farmers seeking to produce more yield in less space.

Although popular literature touts the benefits of intercropping over monocropping, there is a lot of debate, and consequently, confusion over which plants go well together, and whether some of the reported benefits of companion planting are consistent or coincidental. This is partly a debate between using scientific methods (usually in controlled, laboratory stings) and using personal experience to determine how to companion plant. There are benefits to both methods, though admittedly, I prefer to rely mostly on experience (my own and that of successful gardeners I know) with a smattering of science to help me understand why certain combinations have seemed to work well in my own garden, while others don’t seem to have much effect one way or another.

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How to Build A Bug Hotel (Infographic)

How to Build A Bug Hotel (Infographic)

Guest post by Eamon Fennelly

For the environmentally-conscious gardener, building a bug hotel can be a wonderful and rewarding DIY project. Not only do bug hotels provide an attractive garden feature, but they also attract beneficial insects that provide natural pollination and pest control. What’s more, building a bug hotel is a fun activity that the whole family can enjoy, and is a great way to teach children about the natural world.

Constructed from plant materials and common garden odds and ends, bug hotels offer a cost-effective and fun way to help preserve local wildlife by giving nearby insects a safe place to shelter. When it comes to designing a bug hotel, there aren’t any set rules, meaning you can get as creative as you want.

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Container Gardening 101: Small Spaces, Big Yields

Container Gardening 101: Small Spaces, Big Yields

This summer I’ve been blogging about container gardening quite a bit (that is, when I managed to blog! We’re undergoing some big changes here at Green and Prosperous that have taken up most of my blogging time, including developing an online course on container gardening for beginners and experienced growers alike). This post continues our summer theme, with a focus on how you can grow more in less space.

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Room to Grow: 8 things you need to do to make your container garden thrive this summer

Room to Grow: 8 things you need to do to make your container garden thrive this summer

Whether you have already begun your container gardening adventure or are just getting started, you’ve probably realized that container gardening presents many advantages over traditional in-ground gardening. Aside from being a great way to grow some of your own food in small spaces, as a container gardener you can exert more control over a number of variables that can sabotage an in-ground garden, like weather, pests, and soil quality. I covered these and other matters in last month’s post on container gardening. This post addresses some of the practical matters involved in not only starting your container garden, but helping it to thrive. Here are 8 things you should be doing to keep your container garden healthy, happy, and productive well into the fall season.

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Installing and Maintaining a Japanese Zen Garden in Your Backyard

Installing and Maintaining a Japanese Zen Garden in Your Backyard

guest post by Craig Scott

Zen gardens were originally created by Buddhist monks as a place for meditation and contemplation. In earlier times, they became known as a space for the ruling elite in Japan – a place where they could find calm and peace while the country was in the midst of war or strife. But with the passing of time, Zen gardens became associated with a way of life deeply rooted in Japanese culture.

A traditional Zen garden is a miniature landscape of mountains and water. It is created using artistry infused with tranquility that can inspire a homeowner as well as visitors seeking peace and comfort in their lives. Installing and maintaining a Japanese Zen garden in your garden will not only add beauty to your premises, but will also add value to your house. Here are the steps you should take in building this type of garden in your home.

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Short on outdoor space? Why you should try container gardening

Short on outdoor space? Why you should try container gardening

Spring is here! For some of us, spring is finally here. Although the crazy weather patterns we’ve been experiencing in the mid-Atlantic region where I live have left many of us anxious to go out and dig around in the dirt, others may only be thinking about making this the year they grow some of their own food (or the year they grow more of their own food). If you’re ready to stop thinking about it and start doing but are challenged for space (maybe you live in an apartment of condo, or maybe you have a tiny yard, or your yard doubles as your dog’s bathroom), this post is for you. Maybe you have a healthy growing operation in place already but are starting to suffer from back problems because of all the bending involved in maintaining your garden. If so, this post is for you, too. Or maybe you’re just interested in trying something new or adding new elements to your garden. This post is for you, too.

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How Growing a Garden Improves Your Health

How Growing a Garden Improves Your Health

Guest post by Clara Beaufort

If you’re looking for a way to get more active, eat healthier, and improve your overall mental and physical health, look no further than your backyard. Gardening is one of the best activities people can do to benefit their overall health and well-being, and we explore how growing vegetables and flowers can pack such a powerful punch below.

Gardening Benefits Your Mental Health

You don’t have to be an adventurous whitewater rafter or mountain climber to get the mental health benefits of being in nature. When you work with the soil and plant bulbs and seeds, you are beginning a journey to better mental health. Gardening has therapeutic value, and spending time outdoors boosts people’s moods, reduces their depression and feelings of isolation, and relieves their stress.

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What Gardens Can Teach Us about the Power and Challenge of Community

What Gardens Can Teach Us about the Power and Challenge of Community

(part 1 of 2)

There are many advantages to community gardens, but also a lot of misconceptions about them. Most studies have focused on their health benefits, with some citing reduced risk of obesity, improved mental health, and encouraging diets that are richer in fruits and vegetables. Other studies challenge these views, pointing out that people who engage in community gardening are already likely to maintain fairly healthy lifestyles. Some have also pointed out that community gardeners engage in gardening practices that create a high carbon footprint (using synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides and growing things that require large amounts of water are 2 such practices), and that most urban gardeners demonstrate a lack of agricultural experience.

Doubtless, community gardens can have a dark side, but overall, the consensus is that they are a positive development, improving the life and health of local communities and addressing problems like urban blight, food deserts, and stormwater runoff.

The view from history, though, suggests that there is another important aspect of community gardens that is hardly explored. My interviews with Brother Rashad and Pastor Willie Wilson of Union Temple Baptist Church in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, DC suggest that community gardens embody our collective pasts as well as enable us to build new relationships of trust and mutual appreciation. This post is the first of two posts that explore some of these aspects of community gardening in the Washington, DC area.

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How to Build a Sustainable Garden

How to Build a Sustainable Garden

Guest post by Matthew Smith

According to the Brundtland Report, created by the United Nations back in 1978, sustainability or sustainable development includes design, construction, operations and maintenance practices that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. In other words, being sustainable means being able to recognize the importance of thinking ahead, not looking for and applying short-term solutions for benefit.

Nowadays, it is becoming even more important to be aware of the exact impact of your actions on your community and ways to minimize the possibility of further, unnecessary damage.

Even though humans are becoming well aware of the terrible influence they've had on the planet, green solutions are usually expensive. There are, though, solutions which are cost friendly.

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How to Jump Start Your Spring Planting

How to Jump Start Your Spring Planting

This is the first in a 3-part series of posts on gardening

Are you excited about the idea of unplugging for a while and getting in the garden to grow delicious fruits, herbs, and veggies, but still haven’t quite gotten to the point of translating that enthusiasm into action? Or maybe the weather hasn’t quite cooperated – if you’re living in a climate like mine that’s cold one week and hot the next, rainy for two days in a row and boiling hot afterwards, then you may have to take a few extra steps this growing season. But there’s certainly plenty of time to still have a healthy, abundant harvest in as little as a few weeks.

If you want to go beyond planting just a thing or two to eat, or need detailed advice about how to grow food you can eat every week, even if you don’t have much space to work with, you can find out a lot more information in my second green guidebook, Go Green without Going Broke.

On the other hand, if you just want a few bits of advice, read on...

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Spring planting: how to have an abundant harvest from late spring into late fall

Spring planting: how to have an abundant harvest from late spring into late fall

Growing some of your own food has numerous, scientifically proven physical, emotional, and mental health benefits. To anyone who has committed to a healthy lifestyle, it’s no surprise that eating a mostly plant-based diet is better for your health and can help you avoid some common pitfalls of aging, such as developing chronic inflammation and its associated illnesses. In the United States, food gardening is at its highest levels in the past decade, with the largest growth in participation among young households.

In my book, Go Green without Going Broke, I have written in detail about some of the benefits of growing your own food, and offered advice about how to do so, even if you’ve never grown anything before. Depending on the growing zone you live in, or the equipment at your disposal, you may have already started preparing your vegetable and herb garden by sowing seeds or transplanting seedlings. Today’s post focuses on a few key strategies that I have found to be very effective for reaping an abundant harvest that starts in spring and continues throughout the fall season, producing fresh food for you to enjoy for many months to come.

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