Three Things You Can Do Today – In the Garden!

My pollinator garden is taking off this year with all the rain!

Spring has sprung! In between this rainy winter and spring I find myself itching to get my hands dirty. Even enjoying a good weed pull every now and then, which if you saw my front yard you’d think I’d need to do more of. With all this time spent amongst the buzzing bees and lush plants it has me reflecting how not so green the garden is, well how not so green some gardens can be. Here I thought I would direct three things you can do today over to your garden for a a very appropriate change. 

Ditch the Weed Killer

It pains me that I even have to suggest this. Why is this not common knowledge people!?!?!? These toxic products are responsible for so much pollution from the manufacturing process to the run off after application, there is not a good thing about them. I honestly can’t believe the state of California still allows the sale of these products. But likely many so bad things, we can make the CHOICE to not purchase them and you definitely should. Now you’re probably thinking I am going to tell you to get out there with your screw driver and dig those pesky weed out of the cracks. Sure you can do that, its a great mental and physical workout, but that is not what I choose to do. To manage the weeds, like crab grass and oxalis that like to pop up in the cracks of my 1950’s patio I use two products – water & vinegar and I don’t mean together. Do you like pasta? Do you occasionally steam a vegetable? What do you do with that left over boiling water? Dump it down the sink? I hope not, because if you are you are wasting a perfectly good weed killer. Tonight I made pesto shells and after I pulled those shells from the boiling water I grabbed my pot holders and took the steaming pot outside and dumped that salty hot water on top of the patch of crab grass growing under the corner of my outdoor table. Tomorrow it will look depressed and a couple days later it will be as good as dead. Then I scrape it up with a trowel and put it in the green bin for composting. My second method which I love to save for the weeds that pop up in my drive way on the hot summer days when nothing else seems to survive is vinegar. Pour a little vinegar on a thirsty weed and he’s a goner by tomorrow. Again scrape and compost. Really want them to suffer – try boiling hot vinegar – bam! Careful not to get these items on your favorite blooms and bushes as it will do harm. But when your kids and pets run through the left over salty water (after its cooled of course) or vinegar I promise they won’t be harmed. Plus lets be real both the water and the vinegar come out much cheaper than that bottle of chemicals you might have opted for before. So now you’re saving money, freeing your yard of family harming chemicals, and making a lighter footprint!!

Marilyn barefoot in the garden with a basket full of frisee and arugula both sowed directly in the soil from seed.

Buy In Bulk

Duh, right? Zero Waste is all about bulk shopping, but have you thought about your soil my friends? Those “convenient” bags of soil are made of landfilling plastic. But I don’t need a truck full you say I just need a bag full to freshen my pots or start my seeds. Well say NO NO NO to plastic and take your favorite bucket to your local landscape supply. Its that easy. Really. They didn’t laugh, roll their eyes, or gurgle at my request to fill three vintage galvanized buckets with compost. They simply asked which one and would you like us to shovel it for you? Love that!! I opted to do it myself, because lets be real I need the workout wherever I can find it these days. My buckets equaled about 2 1/2 large bags of soil, the perfect amount to perk up my garden beds. They had two compost options, I opted for the cheaper one because I was afraid of how much it might cost (I can’t really translate yards/tractor scoops into buckets yet) and literally laughed out loud when he told me $3. What? Are you serious? That would have cost me close to $16 at my local nursery! Buying in bulk is less expensive on so many fronts! I’m on the hunt for a used bucket with a lid that I can store at my potting table (which my mom dug out of the dumpster for me). I’d like to have some soil on hand for pots, seeds etc. but my lid-less bucket just turned into a giant mud pie in one of our many rain storms. I know there are free plastic ones out there, but my first goal was to eliminate plastic, that includes plastic buckets. But if you already own a plastic bucket, use it! Its far better than buying something new or buying your soil in a bag!

Zinnia Starts

Start Your Own Plants

For Valentine’s Day both Robert and I bought each other trees. We’ve been together so long we think a like. I got him an almond and he got me a lemon. As I planted his almond tree I realized how even this honorable act of planting a tree is plagued with plastic and waste, the bucket which is hard to find someone who will take back, the tags describing the care was glossy and not the recyclable kind of paper, and another plastic tag looped around the stem with the species and grower info. Really is all of that necessary? This waste is not only for large items like trees, but it is also true for even the smallest of items like a six pack of lettuce. The plastic container, the price tag, the species tag. We have four thriving vegetable boxes in our garden and as I walked back and forth in front of the plant starts at the nursery the guilt and pressure weighed on me, what was I to do? How could I justify all that plastic coming to my house for the sake of “my green garden”? I just couldn’t. Instead I took Marilyn over to the seed rack and had her pick out her favorite veggies to eat. Thats right you can always start seeds in the ground, its simple and way more economical than plant starts. It is also challenging with birds slugs etc.  to get those seedlings really going. 6 years ago my grandfather gave me a Pot Maker. I had no idea what it was and was probably white in the face when he handed it to me. But then he showed me how to make my own pots for starting seedlings out of recycled newspaper, genius. So instead of buying plant starts in plastic we have opted to dust off the pot maker and create our own plant starts. The seeds are far less expensive we can compost or recycle the packaging (depending how soiled they get), the soil is really inexpensive, and we can plant the newspaper pots directly in the garden or peel them off and compost them. You can find used pot makers all over the internet or there are plenty of videos using a wine bottle or transforming old toilet paper rolls instead. To make my pots I take a strip of non-colorful newspaper about 5″ long and the height to the indent on my pot maker, wrap it around the top tight and press into bottom and twist, viola! Fill it with soil, pop in your seeds, and keep them moist. I place them on a cookie sheet near a sunny window and we watch them grow. So fun for the kids! Another economical plastic free garden option!

In what ways do you practice sustainability in the garden?

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