Hello fellow Greenies, Mr. GGC is back! I’ve finished my first year of law school so I’m back to the blog for the whole summer. I missed writing and Tweeting and I’m happy to be back. Spring is here and it’s time to get outside and get your garden ready. I have a “greenish” thumb but I’m always looking for ways to grow greener, healthier plants.
This year we’re ditching all of the chemical laden garden products for more eco friendly options. To get your garden off to a green start we’ve compiled 7 eco friendly tips for a better garden. Give them a try and share your results in our comments section below and on social media @goingreencouple using #ecofriendlygarden.
7 Eco Friendly Tips For A Better Garden
Tip 1 – DIY Chemical Free Fertilizers
Plants need three main nutrients to thrive: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Nitrogen is important for stalk and leaf development, meaning bigger, stronger, greener plants. Phosphorous helps build strong root systems and promotes flowering. Potassium promotes protein development, hardiness, and disease and insect resistance. Plants need three secondary nutrients for strong growth: magnesium, sulfur, and calcium.
Most people turn to retail chemical fertilizers which give plants a quick boost of nutrients but don’t solve the underlying problems. Nutrient deficient soil leads to wimpy, weak plants. Chemical fertilizers absorb or degrade too quickly to infuse nutrients into the soil. In fact, longer-term chemical fertilizer use can kill good micro-organisms and render soil unusable. The below DIY chemical fertilizers take longer to be absorbed by plants but they improve the soil long term, meaning you will need to fertilize less often.
Give These DIY Chemical Free Fertilizers A Try
- Used coffee grounds provide a boost of nitrogen. Mix 2 tablespoons of used coffee grounds with 1 gallon of water. You can also mix them in soil or sprinkle them on top, just make sure they are completely dry so they don’t attract mold.
- Egg shells are 98% calcium. Dry out used egg shells before grinding them up and placing them in the hole before you plant. You can also sprinkle them on top of the soil where they will dissolve overtime. Mix ground egg shells with used coffee grounds for a double whammy.
- Epsom Salt is a multi-use product that is a good fertilizer. Epsom Salt contains magnesium and sulfate, both plant food. Mix 1 tablespoon with 1 gallon of water until dissolved. Water your plants as normal.
- Use leftover banana peels for a boost of potassium. Place a used banana in the bottom of a pot before planting or chop it into small pieces and mix just under the soil.
- Surprisingly, used cooking water provides a boost of nutrients! Water used to cook vegetables and pasta contain valuable trace nutrients good for plants. Just don’t use any water used to cook meat.
- Wood ash from your fireplace provides a boost of potassium and creates a basic or alkaline soil. Don’t use on acid-loving plants, or any ash from coals or wood with lighter fluid on it.
- For acid-loving plants like roses and berries, use cheap white vinegar to create acidic soil. Be sure to check your soil first though as too acidic soil will kill most plants.
Tip 2 – DIY Eco Friendly Weed Killer
Pesky weeds can ruin the look of your garden and steal valuable nutrients from other plants. Just remember though that what one person considers a weed another might consider beautiful. The easiest solution might be to change your perspective on what a weed is. But if you are keen on killing weeds, opt for these DIY solutions over toxic chemical options.
- Mix 1 gallon of vinegar with 1 cup of salt and 1 tablespoon of dish soap. Spray on weeds every day until they are dead. The vinegar changes the pH of the soil, degrading the roots. The salt dries out the leaves of the weed weakening it. The soap helps the mixture stick to the weed.
- Try smothering the weeds using old newspaper. Place a few sheets of newspaper over the offending weeds and weigh them down with rocks or little stacks. The newspaper stops the weeds from absorbing sunlight eventually killing them. After a few days to a week, remove the paper for a weed-free garden. Or, leave the newspaper and cut a hole to bury new plants. Cover the paper with soil or mulch. The newspaper will break down providing nutrients and prevent weeds from growing.
- Good old fashion elbow grease! It might be labor intensive but it is still the move effective weed removal system. Try to pull from just below the soil to get all of their roots. Use a screw driver or small shovel to help detach stubborn roots.
Tip 3 – DIY Eco Friendly Insecticide
Nothing is worse than seeing your beautiful garden getting devoured by caterpillars and aphids. Use these DIY chemical-free insect killers to keep pests away from your plants. Do remember though, not all insects are bad. Please give bees a pass – they may interrupt your BBQ, but they are critical to our food supply and they are endangered. In fact, if you have a vegetable garden you should be attracting bees for more veggies.
- Mix 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil with a few drops of dish soap and 1 quart of water. Spray the infected plant with the mixture. Bugs breath through holes in their skin and the soap and oil plugs those holes suffocating them.
- Diatomaceous earth is an all-natural substance made from fossilized algae and is sold in many gardening stores. The powder is very abrasive and absorbs fats. The abrasive nature prevents some bugs from traveling across the surface and its fat absorbing property absorbs the waxy surface on insect bodies that keeps them from drying out. It’s a great snail and slug repellant.
Tip 4 – Attract insect eating birds and bugs
One of the best ways to keep your plants safe from insects is to stop them before they become a problem. Birds eat slugs, snails, caterpillars, and other large destructive insects. Attract them with bird feeders, houses, and baths (beware of mosquitos though). Try a DIY feeder or home, or purchase one from your local garden store. For pesky smaller insects like aphids try attracting ladybugs. These pretty little fliers are cold-killing, aphid-eating machines. Attract them by planting brightly colored flowers next to plants that are prone to aphid infections.
Tip 5 – Turn Plastic or Glass Bottle Into Irrigators
While you do your best to stay away from plastic, it’s not always avoidable. Turn those plastic or glass bottles into plant irrigators. Watering the roots of plants is more effective than watering the topsoil or the leaves because less water evaporates before being absorbed. You can turn a plastic bottle into an irrigator with some scissors.
Method 1: Cut the bottom ⅓ off of a plastic bottle. Bury the neck end all the way in the ground near the base of your plant, being sure to avoid damaging any roots in the process. When it’s time to water, fill up the bottle.
Method 2: Using the scissors, make little holes in the bottom ⅓ of the bottle. Bury the bottle, with just the neck exposed, near your plants. When it’s time to water, fill the bottle up using a hose. This method works best in a new garden instead of an already established one.
If you are looking for something more aesthetically pleasing try using old wine bottles. Wash the bottles out with warm soapy water. Remove the labels by soaking them in warm soapy water. Wear safety goggles and work gloves for the next step. Using a drill bit made for glass, carefully drill a hole in the bottom of the bottle. The bit may break a larger chunk off the bottom of the bottle but that’s okay. Once you’ve made a hole, use sandpaper to carefully sand down the sharp edges. Once smooth, rinse the bottle thoroughly. Bury the neck in the ground next to your plant. When it’s time to water, fill it up using the hole in the bottom.
Tip 6 – Reuse old containers
If there is one thing you can never have enough of when gardening, it’s old containers. You can use egg crates, yogurt cups, and dixie cups as seed starters. Use old plastic cartons to hold tools, garden gloves, etc. Use large boxes and containers to store potting mix, seeds, and fertilizer so it doesn’t spill everywhere. Poke holes in the lids of old plastic jugs or glass jars to make DIY watering cans. Finally, get creative and upscale old containers lying around your house into cute pots for potted plants.
Tip 7 – Use water wisely
If you live in any places of the world affected by drought conditions you know how important it is to conserve water. Even if you don’t live in one of those places, the earth’s freshwater supply is not infinitely plentiful. It must be replaced with rainwater and snow, but we’re using it faster than it can be replaced. The easiest step is to be smart about when you water. Watering in the morning or evening reduces evaporation meaning the plants can absorb more water which means less watering overall. You can also get creative in reusing water.
Wash your produce over a large bucket or bowl and use the dirty water to water your plants – it’s not going hurt them. We have a dehumidifier in our basement and rather than flushing that water down the drain we water our gardens with that. You can also harvest water when it rains. DIY your own rain barrels or purchase ready made ones from the store. Finally, use native plants in your garden. Native plants are plants you get from the area you live in. That means if you live in the northeast you don’t buy tropical plants, instead you buy bushes and ferns from your local area. They save water because they are perfectly adapted to survive on the amount of rain your region gets naturally. If you plant native plants, you will find you have to water less often and you will have hardier plants because they were made for your area.
So there you have it – 7 easy, fun, and inspiring tips to help your garden grow. We are excited to try some of these methods ourselves this season!
What go-to plants do you use to spruce up your garden beds? We need some suggestions to incorporate into our own garden. Share your favorites with us in the comments section.