Save Money in this Sunday's paper

DO YOUR PART

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Prepare for spring gardening naturally

By TERRI BENNETT
Terri Bennett
Terri Bennett has been providing weather forecasts in the Charlotte area for more than 16 years. In September 2007, she launched Terribennett.com to serve as the single source of Terri's knowledge and expertise. She is also promoting green technology in her 'Do Your Part' campaign.

Springtime is my favorite time. I can get in the garden, get my hands dirty, and spend time nurturing my flowers and vegetables. Whether you want to go all out or tiptoe into your yard for the first time, make eco-friendly choices outdoors as you begin prepping for warmer weather.

A good idea is to start with the basics. Knowing what your soil needs and, more importantly, what it doesn’t need is critical. Most county Cooperative Extension offices offer free soil testing kits. Scoop a sample of your soil in a box, send it in, and get a full analysis outlining exactly what nutrients your lawn needs. Many lawns actually don’t need as much fertilizer as you think. You can also find budget-friendly soil testing kits at home improvement stores.

Once your soil is in tip-top shape, focus on nontoxic ways to keep the weeds at bay. Before you reach for a big cocktail of weed killer, try a cheaper and safer solution such as old newspapers. Simply lay the paper out in four- to six-sheet-thick sections and spray with water to set in place. Newspapers won’t let the sunshine through to the weeds waiting to emerge. The paper also encourages earthworm activity that will eventually break down the paper, enriching the soil in the process. Consider covering the paper with mulch, leaves, or grass clippings.

Another easy way to save money and resources in the spring and summer is to use a rain barrel – or two or three. I rely on the rain barrels I’ve installed outside my home. Some are containers I converted into rain barrels with a kit from the hardware store. Others are ready-to-go versions that I bought. It only takes a matter of minutes to put them together and then you have a free supply of water to nourish your lawn and garden throughout the warmer months.

This season, I’m adding to my spring traditions by learning how honeybees can help my garden grow. They will help pollinate my plants. Ladybugs will devour pests such as aphids, which are known for eating up ornamental plants. Praying mantis will consume pesky flies and mosquitoes.

You can actually buy these bugs online or at many smaller garden centers.

So before you put on your gardening gloves and get to work, see how a few eco-friendly solutions can help you grow your dream garden safely and without busting your budget.

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