Sunday, April 10, 2011


Raid. Round Up. Turfbuilder. Even Miracle Grow - are household names that don't really belong in the green gardener's household. I think it's this element in particular that makes the green garden not quite your parent's garden. If you were born in the 70s or 80s, it's likely that your folks grew up in the post WWII, "Better Living Through Chemicals" era of the American Family. Not only was new chemical technology emerging, but so was the desire to show off what was for many, a new-found middle class status. I don't know -I wasn't there, but it seems to me that perhaps this trend spilled out of houses and into the American garden. A "good" gardener was one who could grow the biggest tomato, even if it was all thanks to Miracle Gro. The prettiest lawns were ones devoid of a single dandelion. But in my lifetime, I've already seen a change. This day in age, a major reason many of us grow our own vegetables (self included) is to avoid worrying about what's lurking in the salad. (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, anyone?) Truth is, if you want to be a greener gardener but find yourself hanging on to some old traditions of gardening and property maintenance, it may be time to change your outlook. Maybe the best tomato isn't the biggest. Maybe it's the purist. And perhaps the best lawn-keeper you know has some weeds, but never follows directions like, "Keep all pets indoors at least 1 hour after application". Like anything, there are advantages and drawbacks to this lawn and garden philosophy. Yes, going chemical-free does safeguard a healthy body and environment. And chemical-free methods are almost always cheaper! But being organic does often mean taking the long way around - and that will entail effort. Early on, Reed and I thought we could be organic gardeners just by NOT doing things. We planted seeds in dug-up soil just how it was. Then we learned organic gardening is an act of restraint, but it's also an act! Read on for some of our alternative, organic solutions.

  • Instead of Fertilizer: For bigger fruits and yields, we use compost - either homemade in our compost bin or organic compost at the store. To be completely honest, we do have Miracle Grow in a small jar under the shelf...but it's used very sparingly, and only for potted flowers. Nothing edible.

  • Instead of poison: Our property is a safe-having for living things. Don't get me wrong. But once a mouse is in the house, it's game on. We never use poisons that contaminate the mouse, who leaves the house, who in turn, kills a hungry hawk or playful cat. Victor traps are the old-fashioned, but truly, most humane method of mouse disposal.

  • Instead of herbicide: We let 'em grow. Dandelions, violets, the whole gamut. If you ask me, they're just "freebies" - flowers you don't have to toil for!

  • Instead of RAID. (Not that it isn't tempting). But we know that valuable honeybees - even beautiful Monarch butterflies are on the decline and the last thing we want to is to release more pesticide into the environment. When we find a nest that has to go, we bust out a spray hose and a pair of running shoes.

  • Instead of pest spray: Come summer, we'll water our garden in the morning. By the time the sun goes down, the garden will be dry and not a magnet for humidity loving slugs. Also, we know the importance of regular weeding and keeping grass short near the garden. (I'm still not real good about this as a 9 to 5er). But it's obvious nonetheless that low grass and a weeded garden keeps the pests away.

  • Instead of a gas mower: We just bought a manual lawnmower. No gasoline. No emissions. Doesn't even use electricity. Keep reading for posts about Fiskars Momentum Mower.

All in all, you don't need a degree in ecology, and you don't need to take on organic living all at once. Take baby steps. The more you integrate chemical free practices into your gardening hobby, the more "natural" it will become!

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