Tips for a chemical-free garden and lawn
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ORGANIC GARDENING 101: Tips for a chemical-free garden and lawn
Whether your municipality has a pesticide by-law or not, it's time to ditch chemical-based gardening, and start enjoying the benefits of an organic garden and lawn. Not only does a natural garden and lawn require less maintenance, it does not pollute the surrounding environment. A successful organic garden that increases biological diversity can create the conditions for natural pest resistance, which means you won't miss those pesticides one bit.
Here are 12 tips for ditching pesticides and making the switch to an organic garden and lawn:
1. Understand your property
What's the soil quality? Fifteen to twenty centimetres (six to eight inches) of topsoil are required to grow deep rooted and healthy grass. Y ou can find the depth of your lawn's soil by sinking a spade twenty to thirty centimetres (eight to twelve inches) into the soil and measuring the dark topsoil layer. How much light and water are available on your property? Plant the best material for the given conditions.
2. Prepare the soil
Improve soil quality by spreading 1 cm of compost on the top layer. You can make your own compost by collecting a mix of soft (orange peels, grass clippings) and hard (wood plant stems, small twigs) items in a compost bin. Repeat yearly to gradually improve soil content.
3. Grow native plants
Native plants are better adapted to the local climate, which makes them easier to care for. When selecting plants, read the information provided with the plant or seed package and choose the ones that are best suited for the conditions on your property.
4. Use a variety of plants
In general, the greater the diversity and variety of plants the greater the number of beneficial organisms that will foster a natural, healthy balance in the garden. When growing a lawn, mix grass species to prevent pests and diseases.
5. Use organic ground covers
For areas where plants cannot thrive, cover bare grounds with mulch. Mulch is any loose material placed over soil to conserve moisture, prevent soil erosion as well as keeping weed from growing. You can use organic mulch like bark chips and leaves, or inorganic ones like river rock.
6. Don't over water
Unless there is a shortage of rain, watering once a week should be sufficient. To soak the entire root zone, water for at least 1 hour to apply about 2.5 cm (1 inch) of water. Try watering in the morning to take advantage of the low evaporation rate.
7. Only cut when necessary
Cut grass to a height of about 7.5 cm (3 inches) to encourage deep root growth. Deep root growth allows the grass to build resistance to drought, insects and weeds. Leave grass clippings for mulch.
8. Mix your own fertilizer
Make your own fertilizer with a mixture of substances that contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium—the three key nutrients to a healthy lawn and garden. Sources of nitrogen include manure, poultry and fish by products, and vegetable sources like alfalfa and soy. Phosphorus mostly comes from bone meal. Potassium is found in potash, wood ashes and kelp. Apply fertilizer twice a year, around mid-May and in October.
9. Prevent weeds
Natural methods work best as preventative measures. Weeds can be reduced through efficient cutting, fertilizing and watering of your lawn and garden.
10. Save fallen leaves
Next fall, rather than raking fallen leaves into a pile on the sidewalk, collect them into a dark plastic bag with a shovelful of dirt to make compost for the spring. And as long as they are not too thick, mulched leaves can be left on the lawn through winter without damage.
11. Attract beneficial insects
Most insects found in the garden don't actually harm plants—to the contrary, they feed on real pests. Some beneficial insects include earthworms, ladybugs, praying mantis and ground beetles. Attract beneficial insects by growing flowering plants rich in pollen and nectar , such as alpine aster and white trillium.
12. Find the right tools
Some essential tools to a successful natural garden or lawn are a push mower, a hand weeder and a pruner to cut dead tree branches.
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