We can choose to “go green” in almost all facets of our lives and daily activities. As gardeners, here are some ways we can care for our lawn and property with environmental and resource conservation in mind.
Water Carefully: Don’t water just to water! Check first. Visually inspect soil for dryness. Also, stick your finger into the soil at the base of a plant (approximately 2”). If your finger comes out clean, or if the soil is so dry that it is too hard to insert your finger 2 inches, then you need to water. But water deep. The best way to get water down deep into soil is to water for a short period of time first, let the water sink in before you go back and deep water (about 30 minutes later.) This lessens runoff in your garden and allows the water to be more deeply absorbed. Many properties in our area have inclines where water can easily run off onto the streets or to other properties if the soil is too dry. Another watering conservation tip is not to water during the heat of the day during the summer, because you can lose a good portion of your water to evaporation.
Plant Natives: Consider native plants when selecting new plantings. They will require less water than non-native species and will require less care and attention, due to their lower occurrence of disease. Remember, these plants survive in the wilderness with only the water Mother Nature supplies. Avoid invasives. Invasives are non-native plants/trees/shrubs whose introduction may cause, or is likely to cause, economic harm, environmental harm, or harm to human health.
For a listing of NJ Natives try the website of the Native Plant Society of New Jersey (this website also has great links to topics such as how to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, collecting wildflower seeds, and a listing of deer resistant plants.)
Click here for a listing of non-native invasive plants (this is a useful website because it features many pictures as well as suggestions for replacing specific invasives.)
Mulch, mulch, mulch: Place 2 – 3 inches of your favorite organic matter (compost, untreated wood chips, pine needles, and/or leaf mold for example) around your plants and in your beds. For trees and shrubs, place mulch around the base of the tree/shrub but pull the mulch a few inches away from the base of the tree/shrub. Proper mulching can cut water loss by 20% and save you money on your water bill. In addition, it can lower the temperature of the top four inches of soil by up to 10 degrees which will reduce stress on your plants during hot summer days. Finally, much helps to reduce weed populations. Did you know that Maplewood Township provides free, untreated woodchips at the Maplewood Recycling Center?
Compost: By starting a compost process at your home, you will create humus material that will help improve your soil structure, as well as reduce your household garbage output. By adding organic matter to your soil you naturally add nutrients and help maintain healthy biological activity, reducing the need for added fertilizer, pest controls, and other chemicals. Also, organic nutrients stay in the soil longer than water soluble synthetics.
For more tips on composting, recycling and other ways to conserve, check out the Maplewood Green Team's Web site: Maplewood is Green.