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 Yard and Garden » How to be an environmental gardener

How to be an environmental gardener


"Environment" seems to be one of the buzzwords of the ’90’s. And while finger pointing is all too easy, we’d probably make a lot more progress if we would get in the habit of pointing the finger back to ourselves once in a while. Here are ten things you can do in your own backyard to help preserve our natural resources for future generations.

1. Prevent soil erosion: Soil is one of our most valuable resources, but one which is easily forgotten. After all, it is the source of all our food, feed, and fiber. Do your part by covering up bare spots with mulch or plants. Consider installing terraces on steep slopes.

2. Use electric yard tools, where possible: Small gas engines found on lawn mowers, leafblowers, and string trimmers produce a lot of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. Although big jobs may require the convenience of being cord free, consider using electric tools for smaller jobs.

3. Plant to conserve energy: By planting deciduous shade trees in strategic locations, we can shade our houses from summer sun, yet allow winter sun to pass through. In some cases, wind blocks can also be beneficial in reducing cold winter winds.

4. Select hardy landscape plants: When deciding what to plant, look for characteristics such as drought tolerance and pest resistance. This will reduce the need for applying pesticides and irrigation.

5. Conserve water: This can be done not only by selecting drought tolerant plants, but also by using mulches. Mulch around shrubs, trees, and flowers helps to hold moisture in the soil. Water your plants when they need it, not according to an arbitrary schedule. Get a soaker hose, which places the water right where you need it, with little waste.

6. Use pesticides sparingly and correctly: Although pesticides are much safer to use than they were years ago, they still have potential to harm our environment if used carelessly. Identify the problem, find the correct solution, and apply it correctly according to the instructions.

7. Use slow release fertilizers: Many of the readers of this newspaper live in the Cape Fear River basin. Although the Cape Fear is in remarkably good shape, we must all do our part to keep it so. Slow release fertilizers dissolve very slowly, reducing the chance that nutrients will end up in the river or our wells.

8. Provide habitat for wildlife: As mentioned in my previous column, there are lots of things we can do to provide food and habitat for birds, butterflies, and other animals. This becomes even more important as habitat is lost to the rapid pace of development.

9. Build a compost pile: This is perhaps recycling in its truest sense. Using your own discards to produce something which you can use yourself!

10. Plant a tree: Trees hold the soil in place, hold water in the soil, moderate temperatures, and provide a sink for greenhouse gases. Need I say more?

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