April 13, 2008

My garden gets GREENER every year

I got up this morning with thinking about my post for "We are drowning". There is an idea behind to put together our practices how to make our gardening more ecological.
When you are new to gardening, at the beginning you understand ZERO and you get stuck on methods advised by "experts" or more experienced gardeners. Some of them strongly rely on chemical industry. This doesn't mean you can not change your approach to gardening with the time and make it more "green" and environmentally friendly.
This is my case, however from the beginning I knew I want to be as ecological as possible, just didn't know really how.

At the beginning wherever I turned for advise mainly I red or heard something chemically oriented: for better growth, for protection, for fighting algae in the pond etc. "There is no beautiful garden without pesticides" - hearing that I had doubts...

Rarely I could hear sometimes a very SHY voice advising natural methods...

Why so shy?
Is it anxiety to be perceived as old-fashioned, corny not modern enough? I have no idea.
Our grandma's methods were usually based on deep understanding of the Mother's Nature rules.
Somebody at the gardening forum is asking "my carrot gets worms - I sprayed it last year - what to do this year?" Many of us gardenerds don't know that for better protection you may plant together carrots and onions. Both have strong scents that drive away each other's pests. You may add marigold to this team planting.
I am sure many of you out there know such things - but you don't consider it as important or valuable knowlegde.
If you decide to join "we are drowning - gardeners unite", make a post about your practice, you have time untill Tuesday 15th of April, if you simply forgot about it :)
  • Companion planting and green manure
Coming back to marigold (Calendula officinalis) - I learned last year, that raspberries love when marigold is growing at its feets - it keeps them healthy. They look beautiful together in the summer and in the autumn remains of marigold should be left as mulch.
Marigold is a healing plant in the garden - in potager and in decorative one - and is great when you have a fungus problem - sow marigold in problematic area, it will heal the soil and improve it. Its roots are strong and have special ability to bind nitrogen in the soil like other green manure plants. Marigold is on the list of green manure plants.
Beautiful and very valuable in natural gardens is also scorpion weed - Phacelia tanacetifolia, which improves the soil and also is listed in the top 20 best bee feeding and honey producing plants. You can get 1 tonne of honey from 50 acres of this crop :) if you have such big area at your disposal.
Phacelia's habit of flowering abundantly and for a long period can increase beneficial insect numbers and diversity, because it provides high quality nectar and pollen. So this year I am adding it to some areas.
  • Natural way to strenghten plants
Stinging nettle - keep in one place in the garden, as it is important for ekosystems. It is a host plant for several butterflies including Red Admirals, Milbert's Tortoiseshell, and Satyr Comma. Healing nectar made of it, gives strenght to your plants to fight potential diseases. How to prepare it: 1 kg of fresh stinging-nettle mix with 10 liters of cold water and let it ferment for 7-14 days - stir it from time to time. Then drain-off partially decomposed plants and you have a ready amazing tool. After diluting it with water 1:10 it might be used to spray plants or use it while watering. It contains some very valuable minerals, vitamins and other ingredients - all of them are in the nectar you prepare. It stimulates the growth of the plants.
  • Peat
Peat is something I try to avoid in my gardening, because producers while gaining it from the natural sources destroys the peat bogs, where its presence is important to keep the natural balance. Peat bogs are in many countries under conservatory protection.
There is also some very sophisticated balance between carbon kept in bogs and emissions of carbon dioxide to the air.
Instead of peat it is possible to use own compost or coco-fiber.
Read more on peat bogs vs climate:

  • Additional water-tanks in the garden to attract small animals
If you don't want to have a pond in the garden, you may put something that is not too big. A water tank, placed in the soil up to the edge, in the shadow. It will add moisture to the air and also will be a great drinking water source for our little animal-friends. They will be grateful to you especially in hot summer days. This will make your garden more diverse and lively.

  • Artificial fertilizers
I am trying to not use them. They shouldn't be used for veggies, because they may form unhealthy nitrites and nitrates. Natural fertilizers are safer to use.

Why not to use artificial ones in the rest of garden? I just red a great explanation somewhere - comparison with coffeine effect. You feel tired, you drink coffee, you go on for some time and you feel great, right? Next day same. You are doing great, but it doesn't mean you are really well and healthy. One day you need real treatment or vacation, right? what about plants? they get sick one day, because they are not fed well, strong and rested enough.

  • Composting
Everything - as much as possible. In the picture a composting heap of sod gave me just reward - I don't know where from those bulbs came there. As you can see one of flowers look very full and healthy. Last year in same place I just saw the leaves - taht puzzled me, without giving the answer.

  • Attracting butterflies
List of plants that are especially attractive to butterflies is long, so if you decide to go ambitious, you may fill the garden. Just google out the lists itself.
So far in my garden I planted some plants with butterflies on my mind.
  • Wood logs and dead branches piles
In the place that is not disturbing, I am 'organising' the piles, beacuse they attract more wildlife guys and give them shelter. They will help to take control over the pests.

  • Accept a bit of imperfection
Nobody will be harmed, if your garden is bit not perfect. You will feel better too, by not stressing yourself with amount of work. It is supposed to be relaxing and fun, right?

Do not think, that lovely gardens in the magazines look like this all the time. Somebody is styling them before they are photographed. This is one thing. Second, garden is a piece of earth, where rules are set long before you started to own the plot. This is not just another room, where everything will be the way you want it. If you want this piece of land to be healthy, the prior set rules are to be obeyed.

  • Leaf storing and mulching
Storing leafs in the autumn in plastic bags with tiny holes hand made with garden fork. In spring it is ready mulching material. Look above whats going on in the mulch I placed 2 weeks ago - in random opened place there is 2 earthworms - they already do their job.
The bad was filled in the autumn. Now they are half full.

I wanted to go biking - wheather was nice today, sunny even if weather forecast was saying 'showers'.
Right when I got ready, it started to rain... so no biking today... pity...
In the rain my pond looks like lake, right?


GardenJoy4Me said...

Ewa ... this is a wonderful post !
I am trying very hard not to use chemicals as well ..
Borage is a companion plant to growing grapes I have read some where .. and I adore marigolds !
So many other great resources to use than manmade chemicals.
Thanks for this post .. it is important !

Gina said...

that first picture is just outstanding! what is it?

great post. im going to go look for the we are drowning and see what that's all about. im really trying to incorporate as many of these things as possible.

Ewa said...

Marigolds are so nice... :) borage + grapes - that's good to know. Thank you.

Gina, this is Pulsatilla on the first picture, photographed in the evening, when the light was disappearing.

Yolanda Elizabet said...

An excellent post on eco-friendly gardening, thanks for sharing Ewa. BTW I didn't know that calendula's and raspberries are such good friends. I'll put them together this year, so thanks for the tip!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

This is a good post about eco friendly gardening. I really liked the part where you told about the companinon planting. It will be most helpful.

Barbara said...

Great pictures of the pulsatillas! And great is your post too! In my little veggie garden I always look what is the best companion (there are so many good books on organic/green gardening) as I do not want to have chemical stuff in my fruits and vegetable that I'm growing myself.
Have a nice weekend,