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Southern California Gardening: Simple, Sustainable Gardening

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Try these simple organic tips for a sustainable garden. Reuse, repurpose, and recycle what you have on hand for sensible solutions to garden problems.

A drink of tea for my blueberries
Blotting out aphids with tape on fingers

Sometimes, when I feel overwhelmed by the daily upkeep of my bountiful gardens, I take a deep breath, sit down, and just enjoy them. This short breather combats my panic and helps me organize and streamline my daily chores into little steps (and little chunks of time) that make big strides in my garden. Here are a few tips I'd like to share:

Tip 1: Whenever I make coffee or tea or cook vegetables without salt, I use the water on my plants. Camellias, azaleas, strawberries, and blueberries get a dose of the acidic coffee or tea dregs. Other plants in my garden get the mineral- and nutrient-rich water from my steamed veggies.

A basket full of greens

Tip 2: I keep a roll of tape handy for outbreaks of aphids. Warning: This can become addictive. I circle my fingers with tape, sticky side out, and blot the aphids off the plants. No poisons, no dire measures, just an enjoyable few minutes of pest control.

Blanket of mulch

Tip 3: The little green plastic baskets that hold tomatoes and strawberries are usually tossed into the trash or recycling. Instead, use them to make perfect little bird-proof cloches for new seedlings. Keep the plants covered until they fill the basket.

A bucket worth its weight in gold

Tip 4: The mantra of mulch, mulch, mulch never goes out of style. During the year, I mulch with weed-free straw (3- to 4-inch layers), Christmas tree clippings for my strawberry beds, and shredded twigs and leaves.

The mulch keeps down weeds, conserves water, and slowly breaks down and feeds the soil.

Worm bin in galvanized water trough

Tip 5: Garbage is golden. Every vestige of garbage generated indoors is tossed into a pail and added to my worm bin. The worms make short shrift of the garbage, which turns into glorious, rich, sweet-smelling compost for my gardens and containers.