Learning how to sustain our environment begins in our own backyard. Here are five tips to help you to grow a more sustainable and organic garden.
Tip 1: Shrink the Lawn
Conventional residential lawns and high-maintenance landscaping require an estimated 900 million gallons of water daily in Florida alone. Be wise -- reduce the size of your thirsty lawn. Combine site-appropriate native plants and regionally adapted plants to create more planting beds. A garden that relies predominantly on rainfall saves hundreds of gallons of water each year. Your water bill will reflect the savings, too.
Tip 2: Know Your Bugs
This region is plagued with pests and bugs year-round due to a naturally mild climate. Pesticides often don't discriminate and can wipe out beneficial bugs along with nuisance bugs.
Let nature do the dirty work of eliminating the small percentage of harmful insects. I'm always happy to see earwigs crawling through the dirt as I dig. They feed on chinch bugs, mole crickets, and pesky sod webworms. Nymph and adult dragonflies and damselflies reduce the mosquito population. A balanced habitat means wildlife thrives in my organic garden.
Tip 3: Mulch
Apply 2-3 inches of mulch to your planting beds twice a year to help retain moisture in our sandy soil. This also reduces erosion and storm water runoff.
Make use of natural resources in your yard such as fallen leaves and pine needles. As organic materials break down, they help improve soil fertility.
Tip 4: Recycle
Return valuable nutrients to the soil by recycling yard waste such as leaves and plant trimmings in the compost pile. Kitchen scraps from raw fruits and vegetables feed the beneficial insects that break down the pile.
Grass clippings left on the lawn naturally return nitrogen to the earth. Save money by using your own organic compost in your planting beds to improve sandy soils.
Tip 5: Fertilize Appropriately
With abundant waterways in Florida, homeowners are essential to keeping our drinking water free of pollutants and contaminates. Don't overfertilize. Excessive applications can seep past the root zone and run off into the aquifer.
Remember that fertilizer can't cure plants with disease or pest problems. If you do want to use fertilizers, stick with slow-release fertilizers and organics. They are kinder to the environment, provide nutrients longer, and save you money and time.
What principles are you practicing to maintain a low-maintenance sustainable garden?
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