Here are five things that you can do that will help you save the planet while also improving your garden and putting some cash back in your pocket.
Five Ideas For Earth Day:
- Create a Compost Pile & Improve the Yield of Your Garden - Instead of throwing vegetable scraps and yard waste into the garbage, turn these materials into compost. Gardeners benefit from composting because it creates nutrient rich humus that can be used in the to improve the yield of their gardens. Gardeners also save money because they don't need to buy packaged compost or other fertilizers. Composing is good for the environment because it lowers pollution. Materials that are composted don't need to be transported to the dump, so no fossil fuels are used to dispose of them. Composting also reduces the amount powerful greenhouse gases released into the environment. When organic material is placed in a landfill it gets buried where it can't be exposed to oxygen. Without oxygen, the materials decomposes anaerobically and produces methane gas. In contrast, when organic materials are composted at home, they do get exposed to oxygen because the compost pile is turned and because worms and other critters help aerate the soil. Organic matter decomposed in a compost pile does produce carbon dioxide which is also a greenhouse gas, but carbon dioxide is less damaging than methane. Carbon dioxide is only about half as damaging as methane. So given the choice between producing either of these gases, we are better off composting at home than sending organic materials to the dump. To learn how to build a compost bin, check out my posting How to Build A Compost Bin, and How To Compost.
- Reduce Water Consumption & Save on Your Water Bill - There are many ways gardeners can reduce the amount of water they use in their gardens; you can replace hand watering with drip irrigation, use a barrel to catch rainwater, or mulch to reduce evaporation of water applied to your garden. If you buy municipal water, lowering your water consumption also means lowering your water bills. Lower water consumption benefits the environment because less water has to be taken from fresh water sources that are habitats for fish, birds and other critters that need the water as much as we do. If you would like to create a drip irrigation, check out my prior posting Drip Irrigation Made Easy.
- Create A Vegetable Garden & Eat Healthier - If you are only doing ornamental gardening, Earth Day is a good opportunity to begin planting edibles. Vegetables from your own garden are the freshest possible and generally way better than what can be purchased from a grocery store because you can select varieties that are bred for taste, not how well they withstand shipment. If you are concerned about GMO's, growing your own veggies ensures that the food you eat has not been modified. Starting a vegetable garden also helps the environment because you are sourcing your food locally versus having it transported over long distances that requires the use of fossil fuels. Growing your own, also means that you can control the soil amendments and pest control products that get applied to your garden and select ones that are low or no impact. If you need help planning a vegetable garden, check out my prior posts on Free Garden Planning Software, How To Grow Tomatoes In Containers, and Growing Tomatoes in Containers four systems compared part one and part two.
- Reduce or Eliminate Harsh Pesticides From Your Garden - If you are using harsh pesticides consider using beneficial insects such as nematodes, lady bugs and lace wings to keep harmful pests at bay or switching to an organic pesticide like those sold by Safer Brand. The best reason to reduce or eliminate harsh pesticide from your garden is that these chemicals have been linked to all sorts of human health problems from brain damage to cancer. As many of you know, pesticides don't discriminate between the "good guys" and "bad guys." They are just as likely to kill butterflies, bees, birds and beneficial insects like lady bugs and preying mantises as they are to kill aphids, earwigs, and thrips. The most environmentally friendly pest control is to use beneficial insects such as nematodes to destroy japanese beetles or lace wings to devour aphids. You can attract beneficial insects by providing good habitat for them, or by purchasing them from your local garden store or from a mail order specialist such as Arbico Organics. Beneficial insect will control but not completely eliminate pests. The idea is to keep the population of bad bugs in check and to limit the damage they cause. Beneficial insects are the safest and most environmentally safe way to protect your garden but they are also more expensive and results take longer to manifest. If you prefer using a pesticide, use an organic one. Organic pesticides may be safer depending on the product used. Organic pesticides are ones where the active ingredients are derived from a natural sources rather than being synthesized out of chemicals in a lab. But that doesn't necessarily mean that organic pesticides are safe or less toxic to fish, wildlife, beneficial insects or you. Consider organic pesticides as a step in the right direction. Photo by Giles San Martin
- Plant A Tree & Save on Your Energy Bill - Planting a tree in the right location can save you money on your energy bill. Deciduous trees can shade your home in the summer and lower your cooling bill. You should plant a deciduous tree (one that loses it leaves in Winter) in a location that will shade the east facing side of your home from 7 to 11 AM and/or the west facing side of your home from 3 to 7 PM. Plant a tree that will reach a mature height of 25 feet about 10-20 feet from the east and west facing sides of your home. If you live in a place that is particularly cold and windy, you can also plant trees to provide wind protection and save on your heating bill. You want to plant evergreen trees and shrubs upwind of side of your home you're trying to protect. In addition to saving money on energy bills, planting a tree is positive action you can take to protect the environment this Earth Day. Trees lower global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide gas in the environment. While all plants can offset global warming to some extent, trees suck up more CO2 because of their size. The best tree varieties to grow are those that do well in your region of the country and require the least amount of maintenance.
Photo by Bruce Martin
Background on Earth Day
Earth Day was the brainchild of Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson. Nelson witnessed a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969 and the experience moved him to create a "teach in" on the environment. The first Earth Day event was held the following year on April 22, 1970. It united various groups that had been protesting against water and air pollution, toxic waste dumps, oil spills, loss of environment and animal extinctions. Over 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day, meeting across the country in parks, streets and auditoriums to show support for the environment and advocate for change.
If you are interested in learning more about Earth Day or attending an Earth Day event this year, check out the Earth Day Network web site.
Happy Earth Day to everyone from PlanterTomato