Garden Greener

By: Julie Barnes

From Garden Gate's, Garden Ideas magazine, Issue 9, May 2016, "23 Ways to Garden Greener, p.24-31. Here are selected hints for creating a green space that is easy on the environment, a safe haven for creatures small and large that is also a pleasure to look at.

1. Pollinators need you. Planting flowers in clumps should make it easier for bees or butterflies to spot them. These nectar rich plants should attract butterflies:

  • Anise hyssop Agastache foeniculum
  • Aster Aster spp. And hybrids
  • Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia fuligida
  • Sedum Sedum spp. And hybrids

2. Use plants that work best in our area. For our Northeast region this website offers recommendations: Cornell University-www.hort.cornell.edu/bglannuals/

3. Go Native! Native plants have adapted to a region's environment and generally are easy to care for. The ones listed below should grow happily almost anywhere:

  • Bee balm Monarda didyma
  • Blanket flower Gaillardia spp. and hybrids
  • Butterfly weed Asclepias tuberosa
  • California poppy Eschscholzia californica
  • Cardinal flower Lobelia cardinalis
  • Columbine Aquilegia spp. and hybrids
  • Coneflower Echinacea spp. and hybrids
  • Spike Blazing Star Liatiris spicata
  • Penstemon Penstemon spp.and hybrids

4. Animal manure 101- More than 75% of plant nutrients that are fed to an animal pass through it making it a great natural fertilizer. Manure has lots of trace minerals that are released slowly into the soil and will also improve soil texture. Fresh or "hot" manure is best applied in late fall when plants are dormant so it will not burn foliage, stems, or roots. Composted or aged manure can be put down anytime.

5. Compost is a gardener's "black gold "that improves soil texture, fertility, drainage, and moisture retention. Since microorganisms break down the added materials into humus, they need the right proportions of carbon and nitrogen in order to do their work. Alternating layers of wet (green) materials such as vegetable peelings and green plant debris and dry materials such as shredded leaves should help to achieve a good balance.

6. Since many big trees are being lost due to fire, drought or disease you can help by either planting a tree or taking care of the ones you have. Here are tips for keeping a tree happy and healthy:

Watering- In a tree's first two years regular watering is needed to help it develop a strong root system to eventually withstand dry conditions.

No mulch volcanoes- Avoid mounding mulch around a tree's trunk which can cause it to rot and invite insect pests in. Make sure mulch is kept at least 1-2 inches away from the trunk.

When to prune- Most trees are best pruned in late winter or early spring. Exceptions are maples or birches that are best pruned in midsummer because they bleed sap in the spring.

7. Do not get rid of fallen leaves. Chop them up and put them down in a 3-4 inch layer of mulch to conserve moisture and enrich the soil as they decay.