Outside the house

Page - January 9, 2007
Every little bit of greenery on our planet helps clean the air, contributes to our oxygen supply, helps prevent soil erosion and improves our quality of life.

You can green your life by saving water around the house.

Whether you have a few square feet or a forest around your home, preserving and promoting the diversity of the area and maintaining it chemical-free will enhance your life and keep you, your family and the animals in the area safe from harmful toxins.

Lawns

  • Set your mower blades to high. The minimum height for grass is two and a half inches. Anything shorter is hard to maintain, encourages weeds and disease and requires more intervention. Longer grass also protects the roots, offering more shade and preventing water evaporation.
  • Keep your lawn mover blades sharp. Dull blades will tear the grass, damaging the plant, making it require more water than healthy plants.
  • Use the clippings in your compost or take the grass catcher off the lawn mower -the sun and rain will break down the grass clippings and reward you with instant compost.
  • Choose well adapted and disease resistant varieties of grass.
  • In a drought, don't waste water on a lawn beginning to turn brown, it will revive after normal rainfall resumes.
  • Plant flowers, trees, ground cover and vegetables instead of grass. A lawn is an unnatural ecosystem. Planting one plant species over a large area encourages weeds, insects and other plant and animal life.

Organic gardening

Organic gardening begins with your soil. Healthy soil breeds healthy plants that can fend off weeds, pests and diseases without chemical treatment. Have your soil tested in early spring; home testing kits are available at most garden supply centres. These tests will tell you where your soil is deficient and what organic ingredients your lawn needs.

Compost, made from rotted organic material, is the best all around soil conditioner available. It improves the physical and biological condition of the soil, providing beneficial micro-organisms, excellent drainage and both major and minor plant nutrients.

Use a shovel or hoe to turn over and break up soil. Digging is an important part of conditioning your soil:

  • It allows roots to reach deep, unimpeded by stones and clumps of hard earth.
  • It adds to good drainage and air circulation in the soil.
  • It works compost and other organic material into the soil.
  • Digging discourages harmful root feeding insects.

Also:

  • Plant native plants in your garden - they need a lot less water and maintenance than introduced species.
  • Grow ground cover or use mulch in your garden to cut down on water use (it also helps control weeds).
  • Spend an evening outdoors weeding your lawn by hand early in the season.

Companion planting

Companion planting is the cornerstone of organic gardening. There are many plants that repel insects and provide natural protection for other plants that are susceptible.

Companion planting is the process of planting herbs and vegetables next to each other, which have a mutual beneficial effect. For example sweet basil grows well with tomatoes. Companion planting can also reduce the number of pests in your garden without having to use nasty pesticides. Many pesticides not only provide health risks to your pets and family, they are also expensive. Visit your local nursery to find out more about which plants are compatible with each other.

  • French marigolds repel certain insects that are attracted to tomatoes and potatoes. You should plant them throughout your garden.
  • Interplant potatoes and collards to reduce flea beetle damage.
  • Garlic repels the larvae of many harmful insects and can be planted with anything else except onions.
  • Onions repel many species of insects and should be dispersed throughout the garden.

But some plants are bad for each other too. Avoid planting broccoli and cauliflower close to each other as well as other varieties of plants that are closely related.

Save water

  • If you must water your lawn and garden, water in the morning or at night to prevent evaporation. One inch of water a week is better than several short showers.
  • Put a barrel under your souting down-pipe to catch water when it rains. You can use this to water indoor plants, your garden and wash your car.

Waste and toxics

  • Do not throw out your toxic household wastes, such as paint, paint thinner, and car fluids, in the garbage or down the drain. Check with your local facilities for proper disposal and avoid these products in the future.
  • Choose water based latex paints over solvent based paints when painting your home. Never use lead based paints.
  • Avoid the use of polyvinyl chloride (also known as PVC or vinyl) in your home. The entire life cycle of products made from PVC pollutes the environment and your home. PVC items include shower curtains, flooring, even some children's toys.