Lawn & Garden

Starting a Garden

Starting a garden can be an overwhelming task for some. But, how thrilling to harvest fresh fruits and vegetables from your own garden. Gardening with fruits and vegetables, herbs, and other edible plant parts is rewarding and can be accomplished without spending a lot of money. In the end a garden can actually save you money on your grocery bill. That $3 tomato plant can provide you with 10 pounds of delicious tomatoes that far exceed anything you will find at the grocery store. You can grow a large amount of produce in a small amount of space and you can be sure it isn't dosed with toxic pesticides.

A garden allows us to connect with our environment and is a great way to teach children where our food comes from. Involve them in the planning of the garden and let them pick some of the items that you will grow. Kids are also more likely to eat those veggies that they grow themselves.

Gardening is a great stress reliever. Getting out in the sunshine and fresh air improves your mood and your health. Grow the items you buy the most, for the biggest savings.

Depending on how much space you have available, you can plant in containers, raised beds, vertically or directly into the ground in the back yard.

Vertical gardening is training plants to grow upward on cages or on a trellis. Cucumbers and other small fruited vine crops grow great and take less room in the garden. Greens can also be planted in gutters attached to a fence or wall.

Raised bed gardening is the best way to use a small space and eliminate back injuries associated with gardening. A raised vegetable garden allows a gardener to pick produce and to weed at waist height or higher, reducing the need to hunch over or get down on the ground.


-Take your time and start small.

-Plan and then plant your garden. Pick a spost that gets 6-8 hours of sunlight per day.

-Test and prepare your soil. Most vegetables prefer a pH of 6.0 – 6.8.

-Buy organic seeds and save seeds from your harvest.

-Mulch to avoid excessive weeds and to conserve water. Organic mulches such as grass clippings (untreated), pine bark, leaf mold, aged sawdust, straw and newspapers (black and white print only, no color, shiny advertisement pages) are great mulches to prevent weeds from growing. Inorganic mulches are plastics (come in black, red, silver or clear colored) and weed barrier fabrics.

-Maintain your garden using sustainable gardening techniques: start by selecting plants, try to conserve water, make and use compost, and use integrated pest management (IPM) to prevent and respond to pest problems.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM): IPM is the practice of using a combination of strategies to keep pests from reducing your harvest and ultimately destroying your crops. It includes cultural, mechanical, biological, non-chemical control methods and good sanitation practices (keep over-ripe, damaged and infested plants out of the garden area). It is a method that helps keep pest populations low, well below a level of high injury. You should understand and accept that plants can tolerate a certain amount of pest damage and fruit does not have to look perfect. The components of practicing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) have been simplified below: Scouting – is the first step in IPM. It involves examining enough plants to know what kind, how many and how much damage a pest has caused on each separate crop. Regular scouting is required.

Cultural Control – includes crop rotation to interfere with disease and insect life cycles. Keep plants healthy and not stressed by planting resistant varieties, maintaining proper fertility levels, and water during droughts.

Biological controls – are natural occurring organisms, beneficial insects and parasites that attack pests, like lady beetles (adult and larvae) that feed on aphid pests. To encourage local beneficials, grow herbs and flowers such as dill and alyssum.

First and foremost: Don’t use pesticides! Pesticides aren’t selective and you will end up killing beneficial bugs. Most are also toxic for your family and pets.

You may have to construct a fence to keep larger pests (groundhogs, dogs, cats, deer, rabbits and squirrels) out of the garden

Can or freeze produce for the winter months, share the extra produce with neighbors, friends and/or donate to your local food bank.

• Ideally rows should run north and south, for maximum sun exposure on all plants.

• If your rows run east to west, place tall crops on the north side to ensure the taller, caged or trellised plants don’t shade shorter crops

• Transplants should be planted in the garden soil on cloudy days or late afternoon with little to no wind to reduce water loss.

• Make sure the hole is big enough to just hold the root ball of the transplant. Plant high rather than too low.

• To help the young plants get established, pour about one cup of water around the roots immediately before filling in the hole with soil. Firm the soil, but don’t pack it around the plant. Plants need 1 inch of water each week.

• Practice companion planting to repel pests and attract beneficial insects. Among the most popular of repellent plants are garlic and chives because of their powerful ability to repel aphids and beetles. Similarly, savory, chamomile, and thyme are ideal planting crops. These three herbs will attract more beneficial insects than any bright, pretty flower will. So when you’re planning your summer garden, include plenty of each.


Controlling Pests In the Home

In order to survive, pests need food, water and living space. Remove all food sources through good sanitation and storage habits (i.e., screw-cap jars, zip-lock bags, garbage pails with tight-fitting lids). Block pest entrances to your kitchen by caulking holes, using door sweeps on the bottom of doors, and keeping window screens in good repair. Avoid placing chemical pesticides around your kitchen to kill indoor insects and rodent pests.

* Avoid using no-pest strips. They contain pesticides that are released into the air in your home.

* When storing winter clothing, use cedar blocks or bags of cedar chips hung with your clothes. Avoid mothballs that contain p-dichloro benzene or naphthalene, which are very toxic and also contribute to respiratory problems.

* Consult your veterinarian for non-toxic pest control products for use on pet pests such as fleas and ticks.

* Use non-toxic head lice treatments, including combing, enzyme-based treatments and mayonnaise or oil. See for more information

Reducing Toxics in the Yard

* Mowing your grass to a height of about 3-4 inches is the most important thing you can do to improve the health of your lawn. By keeping grass length longer, the roots grow deeper and can reach more water during dry periods. Longer grass also creates shade, making it harder for weeds to get established.
* If you use a lawn service, consider a service provider that uses less-toxic alternatives.

* Test the soil to see what your soil needs. Apply only as much fertilizer as is needed. Soil test kits can be purchased at a lawn and garden store.

* If your grass grows in heavy clay soil, aeration can be very beneficial. Aeration decreases compaction and allows air and water to get to the roots.

* Weeds such as dandelions can be removed easily by digging them up with a fishtail weeder when the soil is damp.

* Top dressing your lawn with a compost-soil mix will reduce your lawn's water needs and make it more resistant to drought and disease. You will need to fertilize less often, and when you do, you can use less fertilizer.

* Consider replacing parts of your yard with native perennials that lower maintenance and lessen the need for water and chemicals.

* Ask at your garden store for less-toxic alternatives to chemical pesticides to control pests.

Restrict the Use of Phosphorus

Fertilizers, leaves, and grass clippings from lawns contribute to phosphorus problems in our lakes and rivers. Homeowners can protect water quality by using lawn fertilizers that do not contain phosphorus, look for a middle number of zero (i.e. 22-0-15) and sweep up grass clippings from streets and sidewalks after mowing and trimming.

Phosphorus Fact Sheet

How to Attract Butterflies

Butterflies, with their gorgeous colors and graceful flight, are such a joy to watch. They add so much beauty to our summers, like seeing flowers flying.

It’s easy to invite more butterflies to make a seasonal stop in your yard. Here are some plants they just can’t resist.

Asters: Late summer to fall.

Bee balm (bergamot): Summer through fall.

Butterfly weed: Summer through fall.

Clover (white or red): Summer to fall.

Coreopsis: Summer to fall.

Dianthus: Spring to fall.

Lavender: Summer.

Lupine: Late spring to early summer.

Mints: All summer.

Passionflower: Summer to fall.

Phlox: Summer to fall.

Purple coneflower: Summer to fall.

Sage: Summer to fall.

Salvia: Summer to fall.

Scabiosa “Butterfly blue”: Summer through fall.

Shasta daisy: Summer.

Thistle: Late spring through fall.

Violet: Spring.

Yarrow: Summer.

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