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Northwest Gardening: Sustainable Garden Tips

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Want a garden that's organic and sustainable? Here are five tips for the Northwest by Lowe's regional gardening expert Marianne Binetti.

A rain chain and barrel fit right in.
rain barrel and orbs

Sustainable gardening means using up less of our natural resources -- and keeping Mother Nature happy. Here are five tips to save organic gardeners money and time.

Tip 1: Collect roof runoff and conserve water.

Save time: You can use a gutter and traditional rain barrel, but I love the look of my Tuscan-style urn with floating orange orbs positioned beneath a decorative rain chain. No need to drag out the hose when you can dip in a watering can and take care of the patio pots in no time.

Save money: Have you noticed how water rates are going up? Don't let your liquid assets disappear down the drainpipe.

mulching mower product image

Tip 2: Use a mulching mower - and keep the green out of our landfills.

Save time: No need to empty that bag of grass clippings. A mulching mower will cut the grass blades into tiny pieces so they can drop back onto the soil.

Save money: By leaving the clippings on the lawn, you'll be returning up to one third of the nitrogen in the grass to your soil. That means you'll spend less money on fertilizer.

large wooden compost bin

Tip 3: Build a three-bin compost system -- mine was a memorable anniversary gift and creates a closed loop for garden refuse.

Save time: I don't ever need to spend time turning compost with my passive three-bin system. One bin is for adding new material, one bin is for resting and rotting, and a third bin is for the finished product. Wire mesh sides allow for good airflow, and removable slats in the front of each bin make for easy access. This was an easy weekend project and a lovely gift that keeps giving back.

Save money: Adding compost to my vegetable plots each spring means growing more food with less fertilizer.

overturned clay pot

Tip 4: Clay pots trap only the guilty! They protect beneficial insects and reduce the need for chemical pesticides

Save time: No need to bait, spray, or search for tiny slugs, earwigs, and sow bugs. Overturned clay pots are cool and damp inside, attracting the critters that feed on your plants. I prop up one side of an overturned pot to lure them in, and then squish only the guilty. I let beneficial insects such as black beetles scurry away to safety - and continue their search for slug eggs.

Save money: No sprayer, no chemicals, no worries.

Tip 5: Mulch is magic -- seal in moisture, smother weeds, and regulate soil temperature

Save time: An organic mulch takes time to spread on top of the soil, but it cuts back on the time you'll spend weeding, feeding, and watering. Plus, it lasts for two or three years.

Save money: I watch for sales and then stockpile bags of bark chips and other mulching material rather than having a giant pile delivered in the middle of the driveway. This way I can take my time to refresh mulch every few years, and I don't have to pay to have the job done in a day. I've found that sealed bags of mulch are less likely to contain airborne weed seeds than a giant pile.