Earth Friendly Gardening Tips

Metro’s Natural Gardening and Toxics Reduction Specialist, Carl Grimm, had tips for greening your garden shopping list.

This is a time when many of us are heading to the hardware stores and nurseries to buy stuff for our gardens and lawns. Fortunately, many nontoxic products are now widely available. Here are a few tips to help us choose the best products for getting our gardens growing.

Before buying any new stuff, you may want to get rid of the old. Tri-county region residents have free household hazardous waste drop off facilities operated by Metro and located in Oregon City and NW Portland. Use these facilities or Metro’s community hazardous waste roundup events – not your regular trash – for safely disposing garden chemicals.

Now … are you ready to make a new, GREENER shopping list for your garden?

1. Instead of weed and feed for your lawn, try lime and seed. Moss in the lawn is common in our climate and a good groundcover since it’s so low maintenance. However, if you’re attached to the manicured look, sprinkle some ground limestone and over seed with a northwest-appropriate grass seed blend. As long as you don’t have dense shade, the lime should knock back the moss for the season and the new seeds should grow to out-compete the moss and weeds later. If your soil is solid clay, you may also need to renovate by spreading a thin layer of weed-seed-free compost and quarter-ten grit or crushed rock over your whole lawn. Then when you mow, leave your clippings on the lawn. They’ll function as free fertilizer and you save time and trouble by not having to rake or bag the clippings.

2. Instead of fast-acting chemical fertilizer, try slow-release organic fertilizer and use compost. This will provide nutrients over time, so you have less work and there’s less chance of fertilizer-polluted runoff into our rivers and streams through storm drains.

3. Instead of possibly-pet-poisoning metaldehyde-based slug baits (the stuff you’ve seen for years on store shelves), use the newer, safer, iron-phosphate slug baits or copper tape around your beds and pots.

4. Instead of systemic pesticides for aphids or other insects, buy a good hose-end multi-nozzle and blast your aphids with a hard stream of pure water. If that’s not enough, you could buy a soap spray, otherwise known as “insecticidal soap” to combat aphids and many other common insect pests.

4. But ultimately, the best cure is prevention. Plant a greater diversity of flowers (especially native ones) and you’ll attract beneficial insects and birds that’ll eat your pests for you. With a pesticide-free yard these little pest-eaters are likely to stay around longer. You’ll also know the edibles you plant for future barbeques will be all-organic and not just delicious.

For more green gardening ideas, attend one of Metro’s popular Gardens of Natural Delights tours. Get your free tickets to the Hillsboro area tour set for May 3rd, 2009 (while supplies last) by calling Metro’s Recycling Information Center at 503-234-3000.

For more information click here or call 503-234-3000.


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