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Cannon: Grow a sustainable garden

POSTED: April 24, 2009 1:00 a.m.

Since we hear a lot about "going green" these days, how we can use that term in our gardening practices?

Sustainable gardening is an effective way to contribute to a healthy environment, community and economy while providing a healthy garden. It has been referred to as a "whole system" growing method.

A sustainable garden works in harmony with nature. Some of the techniques used in this practice are organic gardening, using native plants and trees, intensive planting, drip irrigation, backyard composting, integrated pest management and mulching.

Organic gardening is the practice of growing plants without the use of pesticides, herbicides and inorganic fertilizers. It relies on the use of beneficial insects, native and diverse plants and the use of compost to enrich the soil with nutrients.

Planting native plants and trees is also an effective way to have healthier species in your yard. By matching plants that are native to our area, you will have plants that require less care and energy. Plus, native wildlife are able to use the fruits, nectars and habitats these plants provide. You can call the extension office for a list of native plants that do well in our area.

Intensive planting in double-dug beds requires spacing plants close together, creating a miniclimate to protect and enrich the soil. Double digging is the method of loosening and enriching the first 24 inches of the soil, allowing plant roots to fully explore the fertile soil for healthy production. Raised beds are a good way to incorporate this method into use when growing a vegetable garden.

Water smart, directly to the root zone by using soaker and drip hoses. Infrequent but deep watering, preferably in the morning, is one of the best techniques for watering gardens, fruit trees, vines and container plants.

Composting is the keystone to a successful sustainable garden. Compost prevents erosion, aerates the soil and adds organic matter and nutrients to the plants.

Don't let the term integrated pest management scare you. This is simply a better, healthier way to control pests and keep a balance in your garden. Techniques can be as simple as planting companion plants to attract beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, lizards, spiders, toads, bats, bees, green lacewings, ground beetles and hummingbirds that consume mosquitoes, aphids, slugs, grubs and mealybugs.

Mulching is a way to recycle materials that might otherwise be discarded. It improves your soil by retaining moisture, suppressing weeds and insulating plants from extreme temperatures. Wood chips, paper, sawdust, leaves and straw are all materials you can use.

Use some or all of these practices for a healthier garden.

Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293.



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