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Celebrate Earth Day April 22, 2017

Earth Friendly Gardening This article is based on a 2103 publication by John Porter, Extension Agent, WVU Extension Service, Charleston, WV

Photo: Deviantart, v-collins

Earth Day is an opportunity to consider consider the earth and our place in it. It is a day to reflect on how we can contribute to the health and welfare of our soil, water, wildlife and native flora.

There are many simple practices to consider in the garden that will either be beneficial or decrease negative impacts or our direct interaction with nature. Here's a list of 10 simple activities that make up a good sustainable garden plan.

1. Compost

Composting vegetative yard wastes and kitchen scraps reduces the amount of wastes added to landfills and make one of the best soil amendments you can add to your garden. Good compost also encourages a thriving micro-ecosystem of fungi, bacteria and other little critters that are good for the soil and the plants. You can take it one step further and practice vermicomposting- a worm bin in or near the kitchen to eat those veggie scraps. Take a look at this OSU article on how to build a simple worm compost bin.

2. Feed the Pollinators

Pollination is vital to the health of the world food supply. The United Nations estimates at least 75% of the food crops in the world require pollination. Pollinators such as native bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds and even bats can benefit from a good food source and other needs. Check out the Pollinator Partnership to find a pollinator planting guide for Lincoln County. We also have handout on native plants that attract pollinators.

3. Conserve water

Water is one of our most precious natural resources. Lincoln County averages about 90 inches of annual rainfall, but we still have years of drought and summers with only 4 inches. Practices like mulching, using native plants, selecting water-wise plants, using drip irrigation instead of sprinklers and collecting irrigation water in rain barrels are all ways to help. Proper soil and water management are especially important for managing water quality as well as availability.

4. Recycle

There's lots of ways to recycle as part of sustainable gardening. Try using newspaper as a garden mulch. Placing cardboard from all those overnight delivery boxes underneath chipped bark is a great way to tamp down weeds and unwanted grasses. Recycled plastic cups make great seed starting contains. Plastic gallon size milk bottle can be cut out and used for garden scopes. There is no limit to recycling in the garden. There’s lots of garden art that can be made from recycled materials, and you can make a planter out of anything you can drill a hole in. Check out this nifty list of garden recycling ideas the University of Florida.

5. Practice Integrated Pest Management

IPM focuses on reducing or preventing pest problems, rather than reacting to pest problems. Practices like using row covers to exclude insects, proper plant spacing, reducing overhead watering and using mulch to reduce diseases are great ways to prevent diseases. IPM uses the least-toxic pesticides as a last-resort for pest control. See our IPM page for more information and resources.

6. Love your soil

The first step for managing great soil is to test. Before adding any amendments, it is useful to know what state your soil is currently in and what amendments will actually help to improve it. Adding compost or any organic matter is always a good idea. Planting crops or ornamentals will help prevent soil compaction. You can learn about your local soil by using the NRCS Web Soil Survey site. The Lincoln County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) also provides soil management information.

7. Use least-toxic or organic pesticides
An important part of sustainable gardening is to incorporate integrated pest management (IPM) practices. When making choices on disease, pest, or weed treatments, gardeners should always make the least-toxic choice to handle the situation. OSU has a nice list of least-toxic pesticides.

8. Grow Your Own Food

Growing your own vegetables lets you know what you are eating and is gives a rewarding sense of accomplishment. You can practice edible landscaping by tucking in fruits, veggies and other tasty treats among your flowers or if you have the space plant separate vegetable beds. Lincoln County Master Gardeners grow over 1200 pounds of vegetables last year for local food banks and are ready to help you grow vegetables. Be sure to check our our annual plant sale which features tomatoes, herbs, and other vegetables ideally suited to coastal gardens.

9. Plant natives
Native plants in a garden can both preserve and protect natural ecosystems, and reduce the amount of care and energy required to maintain a healthy garden. Native plants are adapted to the local climate and geology, and generally require less maintenance than exotic species. Native plants also support populations of native birds, insects, and other animals that they co-evolved with, thus promoting a healthy community of organisms. Oregon has a wonderful selection of native trees, shrubs, flowers, and groundcovers to choose from. See our native plant page for more information.
10. Share your love of gardening

There’s nothing better than sharing the joys and benefits of gardening with your friends and neighbors. All Master Gardeners delight in working with our community to showcase sustainable gardens. Drop by one of our Lincoln County Demo Gardens, join us at a plant clinic, help out at a school or senior center garden, or just fine your own opportunity to share your love of gardening.

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