For saving space and soil, this method also has several
other benefits, including no soil-borne diseases, no
weeds to pull and no soil to till, run-of-the-mill side
benefits of soil-less gardening.

4 Tips For Keeping Your Yard Environmentally Friendly

Thanks to eco-minded people like you, our planet is being spared toxic damage. Organic practices are a much healthier alternative to chemical use, yielding outstanding results. Here are four ways to maintain a sustainable lawn and garden.

Harvest Your Rainwater
You'll benefit in five ways, by:

  • conserving water
  • saving money on water bills
  • reducing storm water runoff
  • preventing erosion
  • avoiding flooding
To harvest rainwater, you need a collection area, transportation system, and storage facility. The rain gutters on your roof are the collectors. The downspouts along the roof edges are the transportation system. They can be either aluminum or plastic. However, they must be at least 3-4 inches wide to ferry water to your storage barrels. These are available online from specialty garden suppliers. 

Position the barrels under downspouts near your garden. Place them on a foundation of cinder blocks. To set the blocks, dig a 4-inch-deep trough the length and width of each block. Then, fill the trench with 1/4-inch pea gravel. The gravel creates a level base and keeps the foundation dry. Raise the barrels high enough on the blocks to fit a watering can underneath the spigots.

On top of the barrels, at the ends of the downspouts, attach a fine-mesh, aluminum window screen. It will keep debris from clogging the pipes and prevent insects from gravitating to the standing water.

Set up enough barrels to collect adequate water for your lawn and garden. To prevent overflow from heavy rain, attach a hose to the top of each barrel and position the end in your garden. To irrigate your lawn, install an electric pump, creating the water pressure to power your sprinkler system. Here are details on how to build a rainwater harvesting system.

Make Your Own Compost
Recycle kitchen and yard waste to make compost, a rich soil conditioner. It adds nutrients to soil, aids water retention, and strengthens plants against disease and harmful insects. By gradually releasing nutrients, compost prevents the rapid leaching common with chemical fertilizers. 

By composting, you'll also reduce garbage output. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that yard waste and food residues comprise 20 to 30 percent of what Americans discard. Recycling household waste keeps it out of landfills and reduces associated methane emissions.

To make compost, you need brown and green materials, water, and warmth. Browns supply carbon, greens provide nitrogen, and water and warmth decompose the waste into organic matter. Here are items you can compost:

  • shredded paper products that aren't glossy or colored, such as cardboard, toilet paper rolls, newspaper, and printer paper
  • dry yard waste, including pine needles, straw, and leaves
  • wood waste, like clean sawdust, wood chips, and ashes

  • kitchen waste - chopped fruit scraps, vegetable waste, coffee grounds, tea bags (staples removed), and crushed eggshells
  • yard waste - non-chemically treated grass clippings, flowers, and green leaves

For outdoor composting, designate a 3 x 3' area in a sunny spot of your yard. Mix two parts brown materials with one part green. Layer the waste, turning it with a pitchfork each time you add new roughage. Keep the pile covered with a tarp, consolidating the heat needed to kill pathogens and weed seeds. Your compost will be ready within six weeks to nine months when it's decomposed and dark in color.

If you lack sufficient yard space for a compost pile, you can opt for an enclosed bin. Garden centers typically sell three types:
  • Open-Top - Costing between $40-$200, this container is made of wood, plastic, or wire mesh, with side openings for aeration. You'll still need to turn the waste periodically.
  • Closed-Top - Priced between $100-$400, this type is available as cones, drums, cylinders, and boxes. The containers are usually plastic, with a top lid for receiving waste and bottom door for removing mature compost. Since there are no holes, you add water to the waste. You can't turn the materials, so it takes longer for them to decompose.
  • Tumbler - Retailing for $250-$800, a tumbler is a plastic or metal barrel, supported by a frame, allowing it to rotate. To add waste, open the hinged door. Then close it and flip the barrel to turn the materials. You'll also need to add water.

Using Compost
Lawn - Before seeding a new lawn, till a 2-inch layer of compost into the soil. For an established lawn, apply a top dressing of finely-screened compost in the spring or fall, after aerating your lawn.

Garden - One month before spring planting, spread compost over your growing area. In the fall, after the first killing frost and before the soil freezes, mix compost in with your garden soil.

Seedlings - Make a planting mix of 1/3 compost, 1/3 soil, and 1/3 perlite or coarse sand.

Potting Soil - Combine 1/3 strained compost and 2/3 soil. Mulch - Apply mature, screened compost around flowers and vegetables.

Here you can learn more composting tips.

Thwart Garden Pests Naturally

Preventive Practices
Healthy plants are a strong defense against harmful insects. Start with adding compost to your soil. Keep your garden free of weeds, where insects like to nest. Since bugs are often plant-specific, rotate crops each year or plant new varieties. 

To prevent fungus, water early in the morning. Spraying with seaweed fertilizer adds strength to plants by supplying trace elements. Mulching with seaweed repels slugs. When working with infested plants, disinfect your tools before moving to other garden areas.

Beneficial Bugs
Lure insects to your yard that feed on harmful adults and their larvae. Some predatory bugs are sold through online garden suppliers. 

Wasps - Certain species eat caterpillars. Draw them to your yard by planting carrots, parsley, and Queen Anne's lace. Allow them to flower, since the blooms attract wasps.

Ladybugs - These beetles consume whiteflies, aphids, scale, and mites. Attract them with yarrow and tansy. You can also buy ladybugs online.

Lacewings - Named for their delicate wings, these bugs feed on aphids. Beckon them with black-eyed Susan, aster, goldenrod, and yarrow. Lacewings are also available online.

Praying Mantis - This huge insect has a voracious appetite for most garden pests. Buy eggs online and set them in your garden, where they will quickly hatch and grow into adults.

Natural Remedies

All-Purpose Insecticide - Create a pepper spray. Wear gloves and protective clothing, so your skin doesn't get burned. Mix 2 tablespoons of cayenne or hot pepper sauce with 3 drops of Ivory soap and 1 quart of water. Allow the mixture to stand overnight. Then, stir and pour into a spray bottle. Shake frequently while applying to tops and bottoms of plant leaves. 

Aphids, Mites, Mealybugs - Make an oil spray. Mix 3 drops of Ivory soap and 1 tablespoon of canola oil with 1 quart of water. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle, and shake well. Spray plants from above and below, coating both sides of their leaves. The oil will smother the bugs.

Japanese Beetle Grubs - Spread milky spore granules on the soil, causing grubs to contract a lethal disease.

Earwigs, Slugs, Snails - Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around garden beds. The sharp particles injure the exoskeletons of these insects. Slugs and snails also favor beer. Fill yogurt cups with beer, and sink the rims level with the ground. The bugs will be enticed to drink, subsequently drowning.

Fungus - Mix 2 tablespoons of baking soda with 1 gallon of water. Pour into a spray bottle for application, using every three days until the fungus abates.

Powdery Mildew - Mix equal parts milk and water and pour into a spray container. Apply every other week for three weeks. 

Both Insects and Fungus - Combine 3 drops Ivory soap, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and 2 tablespoons of baking soda with 1 gallon of water. Pour into a sprayer and spritz all leaf surfaces.

NOTE - Since sprays kill both good and bad bugs, use them selectively, only on infested plants. Apply them early in the morning and after rain. 

Barriers and Traps

Floating Row Cover - Drape this fine netting over garden beds, anchoring it against wind with rocks or boards. The material allows sunshine and water to penetrate while keeping bugs off plants. Since the cover is lightweight, plants push it up while growing. 

Yellow Flypaper - The sticky surface traps aphids and whiteflies.

From TreeHugger, here are additional ways to create a sustainable garden.

Groom Your Lawn Without Chemicals

Weeds and Pests
If dandelions are rampant, try lowering the soil pH with sulfur. Clover can indicate your soil needs nitrogen, which you can supply with corn gluten. Within a few days of application, it kills weed seeds. The key to effectiveness is applying corn gluten before weeds emerge. With yearly use, its efficacy increases.

Eradicate lawn grubs with milky spore bacteria. Spread the granules on your lawn, and the grubs will quickly die. 

Rather than feeding your grass with chemicals, use organic fertilizer. Chemicals disrupt soil pH and increase susceptibility to pests. However, organics strengthen grass. Acting as soil conditioners, they improve its structure so it retains water and nutrients. They also support the growth of beneficial soil microbes. 

Unlike chemical fertilizers, with organics, there's no risk of toxic buildup. Nutrients are released slowly rather than quickly leaching. With organic products such as Nature Safe, the rate of release is controlled by soil microbes, temperature, and moisture. Here you can learn more about the merits of natural fertilizers. 

Organic Farming

Your Vibrant Yard
Picture your flourishing yard, nourished by compost and collected rainwater. You've lured beneficial insects to keep bugs under control. At the ready are traps, barriers, and ingredients for natural insecticides. 

You're growing an abundance of toxic-free produce. Meanwhile, you're protecting both the local environment and our world at large. You can almost hear nature sigh with relief, saying "Thank you!" 


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