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Green Gardening Tips

Plan a garden for this summer with our green gardinging tips. For more great green tips all year long, sign up for daily green tips from The Green Life.

Grow Your Own Herbs
A small indoor herb garden adds greenery to a home while providing fresh, flavorful accents for winter recipes. Basil, thyme, oregano, sage, and parsley are great herbs for beginning gardeners. Place your plants in a spot where they'll receive at least five hours of sunlight. A south-facing windowsill is ideal. Keep the soil moist and enjoy your locally grown herbs all winter. Find gardening tutorials here and here.

Turn Food Scraps Into "Gardener's Gold"
Reduce waste and give your garden a healthy dose of nutrients by composting food scraps and yard clippings. Or, if wigglers don't give you the willies, give vermicomposting a try. Using compost, or "worm tea," is a great way to fertilize your garden naturally. Short on space? Not to worry: compost bins and worm condos come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Some communities also pool their resources and form massive compost heaps.

Start a Communal Garden
Community gardens are a terrific way to transform unused space in your town. They beautify neighborhoods, supply low-cost produce, and unite people in learning how to grow resources locally and with their own two hands. Design your garden with your community's needs in mind, and enlist a coordinator (you?) to organize and oversee a work schedule. Donate leftovers to food charities or to a local school lunch program.

Catch Greens in the Gutter
The gutters that bring April showers to your May flowers can also bring delicious greens to your dinner table. Attach a few rows of gutter to your wall, cap the ends, fill with potting mix, and plant your favorite lettuce, spinach, chard, or arugula. Harvest your greens' baby leaves and pair with other fresh veggies for a homegrown salad. This sleek garden is best for shady walls to prevent the soil from drying out too quickly.

Protect Plants Without Pesticides
If you're a new gardener, chances are you'll be surprised by some sort of infestation before the growing season is over. Connect with local gardeners to determine the most common problems in your region, then look for organic fixes. Many pest control solutions can be concocted from household items: For example, aphids are deterred by garlic and cayenne pepper, slugs find eggshells unappealing, and ants (who can exacerbate an aphid problem) dislike coffee grounds and vinegar. Before you apply organic treatments, be sure to research their effect on beneficial insects like ladybugs.

Get into worm poop
Synthetic and chemical-laden fertilizers do the environment no favors. Instead, consider making your own compost, getting into vermiculture, or using manure (from your own backyard chickens, perhaps?), kelp meal, or other organic fertilizers.

Be Water-Wise
Water is a precious resource, so when you're designing a garden, consider options for collecting or reusing water that would normally be "wasted." Set up a rainwater collection system or reuse bathwater with a graywater recycling system. Once you've collected the water, remember that the best time to give plants a drink is in the morning, when less will be lost to evaporation.

Buying your seeds from family-owned businesses that sell organic, non-GMO, or heirloom varieties.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, owned by Jere and Emilee Gettle for example, sells more than 1,400 varieties of heirloom vegetables, herbs, and flowers, perusable in the company’s beautiful annual catalog. The couple also turned a historic building in Petaluma, California, into a seed bank -- a must-visit for any gardening aficionado in the area.

Vermont's High Mowing Organic Seeds sells hundreds of organic, heirloom varieties by mail order. For more ambitious horticulturalists, particularly those in northern climes, New York state's St. Lawrence Nurseries specializes in cold-tolerant varieties of fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, and other edible landscaping. They ship all over the country.

Encourage Green-Thumbed Children
Eco-parents, consider giving kids a garden patch that they can design and cultivate on their own (younger children will need some supervision, of course). Cornell University's "Greener Voices" study suggests that children are more engaged in learning when they are responsible for planning and decision making. Even if your child's mini-garden turns out to be a disaster, he or she will still learn a small-scale lesson about the challenges and rewards of caring for the Earth. Check out Cornell's Garden-Based Learning Web site for additional child-friendly garden activities.

Got a Lawn? Make it a Garden!
Taking care of your lawn can be exasperating -- and harmful to the Earth. We're happy to know, then, that a movement to do away with manicured lawns and replace them with functional (and beautiful!) gardens is catching on across America. Lawns decrease biodiversity; many of the most common pesticides used on them kill birds and fish and cause cancer and birth defects in humans. The chemicals also run off lawns after rainstorms, flowing into drains, rivers, and lakes.

So enough with the bad news -- what can we do to change this? Well, we can dig up some of the grass in our lawns and create some raised beds instead, to allow for improved soil quality. If you keep some grass, use a push mower instead of gas-powered one. And when planting your garden, choose plants that thrive in your climate so that you don’t have to over-water them or use artificial fertilizers. Finally, opt for fruits and vegetables that you know you’ll enjoy so that your hard work pays off in a refreshing salad or delicious soup.


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