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Green Gardening

Public interest in healthier alternatives is growing. The expanding sections in grocery stores includes everything from green cleaning products to organic produce and the move by some municipalities to limit pesticide use are perfect illustrations of this trend.

If you are thinking about tending your garden and lawn without chemicals you'll be happy to know there are lots of alternatives to chemicals that will give you a green lawn and great plants.

Start with the soil. The most important step in gardening green is good soil. Fertile soil is filled with tiny microbes that break down organic material, help plants to absorb nutrients and aerate the soil. Traditional chemical fertilizers don't feed the soil, just the plants, so skipping fertilizer won't make any difference there. You can however, give your soil a natural snack with organic fertilizers-finished compost, grass clippings, well-aged/composted manure or seaweed.

Green pest control

Healthy plants that are well suited to their environment are least likely to get pests. However, if you do find a pest infestation in your garden you can use green pest control measures:

Healthy plants that are well suited to their environment are least likely to get pests. However, if you do find a pest infestation in your garden you can use green pest control measures:

  • Pick insects off plants and squash them or place them in soapy water.
  • Spray plants with a simple homemade soap solution made up of two tablespoons of soap flakes mixed into one litre of water.
  • Try planting plants with insect repellant qualities like marigolds, garlic or chives.

Recipe for success

Most people are afraid that if they stop using chemicals for their lawn care, dandelions will reign supreme and neighbours will revolt. A green lawn can be maintained using a few simple natural gardening principles. Try some of the following ideas. You and your neighbours will be pleasantly surprised... and the environment will thank you.

  • Water deeply, about 3 cm (1inch), once a week in the morning or evening to help your grass develop deeper root systems and greater resistance to drought conditions.
  • Dig out weeds by hand and whenever possible use an 8 cm (3 inch) layer of mulch material like peat moss, shredded or chipped bark, or pebbles around plants to discourage weed growth.
  • Keep your grass about 8 cm (3 inches) long. Longer grass helps keep out weeds and shades the soil, helping retain moisture. Longer grass blades provide more area of photosynthesis, making for strong and healthier plants.
  • Don't let your lawn become overgrown. Cutting more than one-third of the grass blade at once can shock the plant. Be sure to keep your mower blades sharp.
  • For a nutrient boost for your lawn, use a mulching blade on your mower. The clippings will decompose and release nutrients back into the soil.
  • Spread grass seed over your lawn in spring or late summer.
  • A thick lawn pushes out weeds. Try using a hardy, pest and drought resistant variety like fescue.
  • Aerate the soil in spring or fall. The spikes in an aerator make small holes in the lawn, improving oxygen penetration and drainage.
  • Use a dethatcher in the fall to remove compacted grass stems and roots from the surface of the soil.

Where can I get more information?

For more information and to speak to a public health professional call Health Connection Monday to Friday at 705-721-7520 (1-877-721-7520) or visit the following website:

Pesticides (home lawns and gardens) - Ontario Ministry of the Environment


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