Moms Columns & Blogs

Gardening Without All Those Chemicals

I love to garden! I’m not sure which part I enjoy more; sweating in the yard or picking fresh vegetables and flower cuttings for my home. What I do know is that you don’t have to use a lot of chemicals to have a bountiful and beautiful garden.  You can Do Your Part to tread lightly on Earth by opting for natural alternatives or by using chemicals sparingly and only where needed in your yard and garden.

Let’s begin with the yard. Spring and fall are the best times to fertilize but just because it's the season doesn't mean you necessarily have to do it. The mistake many of us make is over or under fertilizing and it’s the same story for applying lime. When you use the wrong amount your lawn lacks the proper nutrients and a stressed-out, unhealthy lawn becomes a haven for weeds. So, how do you know how much fertilizer or lime to apply? It’s actually pretty easy – just get your soil tested.  The NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services offers free soil testing. You can pick up a dirt sample box from your county Cooperative Extension office. You can also find them at many Mecklenburg County recreation centers.

If you need fertilizer or lime, use only what you need and only where you need it.  Clean up any excess left behind on sidewalks and driveways to prevent the rain from carrying it to the nearest storm drain.  Those excess nutrients will be dumped into our local waterways and can cause algae blooms that choke the life out of fragile aquatic ecosystems.

In the garden, there are a number of eco-friendly solutions that will help you tread lightly and save money at the same time. Coffee grounds are a natural alternative for fertilizing acid loving trees (dogwood, magnolia, holly, pine) and plants (azalea, rhododendron, gardenia, hydrangea, camellia).  The grounds are loaded with nitrogen and can be sprinkled directly on the soil around the plant. If you don’t produce enough coffee grounds for your garden, consider your work place coffee maker or your local coffee shop.  Starbucks and others gladly make their spent grounds available for free.

Vinegar is my favorite cleaner indoors, but outdoors it will also kill young, unwanted weeds and grass in the garden.  Be careful to spray it only where you want to kill vegetation. Vinegar will also get rid of ants. Pour it directly on the nest or anywhere you see ant trails.

Lastly, slugs love beer!   Leave a shallow tin of beer next to their favorite plant.  They’ll slither in and drown before the sun rises.

Making eco-friendly choices in the yard and garden is easy! You’ll be doing your part and you’ll saving money at the same time!

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