Earth-friendly gardening practices

Soil ©Janet Allen It starts with soil

We don't follow conventional gardening practices.

What has become conventional in this country is whatever it takes to make our yards "pretty" for people, but many of these practices are neither earth- nor habitat-friendly.

Here are some of the gardening lessons we learned:

Tools

Tools ©Janet AllenTools, marked with tagging tape

We've acquired a varied set of tools over the years, often bought on the spur of the moment.

Earlier this year, I realized that I always seemed to be looking for two particular tools—I knew they always worked, and they always felt comfortable in my hand. I decided to check out what brands they were. I was surprised to find they were the same brand: Felco. I can't remember buying them since we've had them from our earliest gardening days and have used them all these years.

I thought it might be a good idea to get another pair since they sometimes get misplaced or both of us need to use them at the same time. I checked online and discovered why they worked so well—they're high-quality tools, and compared to other tools we've bought, quite expensive!

At those prices, we won't get another one just to have as an extra, but if something happens to them, it's cost-effective in the long-run (and much more pleasurable in the short run) to have top-quality equipment.

In the meantime, I've started being more careful with these tools and keeping track of where I put them.

Tagging tape

The orange tape hanging from the handle in the photo above? It's tagging tape, which I generally attach to my tools to make them easier to find in the garden.

Tagging tape ©Janet Allen
Tagging tape marks the particular mayapple I'm monitoring for the Phenology network

Actually, tagging tape is handy to have on hand for a number of purposes. I often tie tagging tape on plant markers of plants I'm monitoring for a citizen science project, plants I want to mark as important in some way, or young plants that might be overwhelmed by their neighbors. To be extra noticeable, I sometimes tie some tape on taller sticks near plants.

Keeping track of plants

Plant marker ©Janet AllenPlant marker

Too late I learned the value of plant markers. Obviously I'd remember what particular species those plants were. I'd remember where I put them. I'd remember what they look like when they come up in the spring. … Of course I didn't!

I'm on a campaign now to label all my plants (except the truly obvious, prolific, or inconsequential).

I'm also rewriting existing markers that have faded so I'll be able to read them next spring. I'll truly appreciate it next spring when familiar-looking plants are coming up, but which I can't quite identify. I'll also know the particular species of new purchases that I haven't yet become familiar with. It will be great!

Photo map(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
Photo map

Another way I've tried to keep track of plants is to take a photo, print it out, and label the plants right on the photo.

Instead of photo paper, I used plain printer paper, which is easier to write on, and I printed it in draft mode so it was just a medium-gray background.

I did this in early spring, since this is the best time to see plants coming up.

I like this method, but I haven't remembered to take new photos in a few years, and too many plants have been moved since then.

The 3 Rs in the habitat garden

We try to "reduce, reuse, and recycle" in our gardening pursuits, just as we do in our household life.

Stones reused ©Janet AllenStepping stones to be reused

We came upon these stones put out to the curb as trash while we were walking back from getting our groceries. One side of each had been painted, so they probably had been used for some craft that was no longer wanted. But put out to the curb in the trash?

The thought of these stones being carted away by some fossil-fuel-using garbage truck, then dumped into some landfill forever was too much for me. I gathered them up and carted them home, getting even more exercise than I expected when we had started out on our trek.

I can use these stones as stepping stones since they're nice and flat. But I don't need stepping stones as much as I need these not to be dumped in a landfill for eternity. Stones aren't really a renewable resource, at least in any human time scale. We've carried this single-use, disposable culture too far.

This is only one of several items that we've found in the trash that we could put to use in our garden, especially in our edible garden.