Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day Everyday

Did someone say Earth Day? With all the media attention on budgets, possible elections and of course, the Stanley cup, Earth Day can easily be sidelined, so I’m doing my bit for Earth Day by mentioning Earth Day.

I try to approach every day as Earth Day around my garden. It isn’t hard as I’ve always avoided using pesticides and herbicides, but now that pesticides are largely banned, we’re all doing our bit, like it or not, and the world hasn’t ended.

Sure, it’s more of a challenge to produce a perfect weed free lawn, but that’s never been my goal. I’ve preferred to plant plants and shrubs as they’re much more interesting. At least newer environmentally friendly products are being marketed. Iron or vinegar based herbicides are available, and although they may not be as effective on lawns as the chemical products that were banned, they do help, and they work quite well on weeds that grow in patios and driveways. Meanwhile, I’ll continue pulling weeds by hand which isn’t difficult as I don’t have many, thanks to mulching every bit of bare soil in sight, including that in containers.

Dealing with insects in a garden has always been a challenge, but I never believed blanket spraying with insecticides was the answer. Of course, I do get insect problems. The red lily beetle ravished my lilies terribly. What an eyesore. I solved it by giving up on lilies for a couple of years. I’ve planted a few new bulbs this year to see if I’ve fooled the beetles into abandoning my garden.

Of all the insects in a garden, only a minority are a problem. Most others are beneficial. In fact, killing off the beneficial insects only compounds the problem as an unbalance is created. In nature, no one species gets the upper hand for long. They all have their enemies and it’s just a matter of time before one shows up. It’s not only other insects that provide control. Birds do their bit, too, and there’s no finer sight than a flock of starlings cleaning out the grubs in a lawn. Is it me, or are there a lot more birds around now?

Fortunately, apart from plagues of locust, most insect pests feed on specific plants, so don’t harm everything. I grow a wide range of plants in my garden and it lessens apparent damage. If just one type of plant is affected, there’s always another that looks just fine. It also helps somewhat by confusing insects as they have to figure out where a plant is in my garden before they can eat it. Consequently, the garden usually looks fine overall.

Weeds and insects have always been the bane of the gardener and always will be. Making adjustments, growing different varieties, and working with nature to maintain the balance are ways to garden in an earth friendly way. If all else fails, leave off the bifocals or reading glasses when in the garden and take five steps backwards. Weeds and insect damage will vanish like magic.