For many people, April 22 marks Earth Day - a time to consider our impact on the earth.
We can celebrate Earth Day in the garden, too.
Authors Steven B. Carroll and Steven D. Salt have written a book that can help, called "Ecology for Gardeners" (Timber Press, 2004). Here are 10 tips for ecologically sound gardening:
Choose plants suited to your environment, rather than attempting to re-engineer your environment to suit ill-adapted plants. However, almost every yard has "microenvironments" - sites warmer or colder, drier or wetter, or otherwise different than your average conditions. Some plants that fail in your general conditions may survive or thrive there.
Maintain plant diversity in your garden, both in space and in time. Use vertical layering, companion planting, intercropping, crop rotation and other diversification techniques.
Take care of your soil and it will take care of your plants. Especially, maintain a high level of organic matter; prevent erosion and compaction; and avoid contamination with salts and other toxic materials. Obtain a U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Survey for your county and learn about your soil. The Oregon State University Extension Service office for Clatsop County has a set of soil guides that you can study in-house. Call (503) 325-8573 for information.
Learn who your garden's friends and enemies are, and how to identify them. Most earthworms, spiders, snakes, toads and birds - and even many insects - are friends, not enemies. Take care of your friends, even if they are creepy-crawlies!
Do your bit for conservation. Plant properly purchased or raised native or rare species in your ornamental garden; raise heirloom veggies in your kitchen garden. However, avoid planting aggressively invasive species that may escape and invade local ecosystems.
Manage water wisely; plant wetland plants in soggy locations and drought-tolerant ones in dry areas. If you do use irrigation, use it efficiently and don't waste water. Look into trickle/drip irrigation; it uses less than half as much water as other types, especially sprinklers. I would add that you might want to consider some sort of water storage system to stock up for summer. Just remember to keep it covered and free of mosquito larvae.
Reduce use of pesticides and fertilizers - both synthetic and "natural." If you do use these, do so carefully (read the label!) and only to supplement other techniques of pest control and soil fertility management. Have your soil tested so as not to waste fertilizer.
Keep a close eye - and ear and nose - on your garden. Scout it frequently. Problems spotted early are far easier to remedy.
Garden locally. Consider your garden as part of your neighborhood. It will trade pollen, chemicals, both good and bad organisms, airborne seeds, odors, noises, and even runoff water with your neighbors. Visit your neighbors, help them, trade seeds and labor, and donate extra produce or flowers. Be a good neighbor!
Garden globally. Consider the global impact of all your actions, not just their immediate consequences. Reduce, recycle. Use household wastes for compost or mulch. Reuse containers. Look into graywater irrigation. Use hand tools rather than power equipment whenever feasible; they are good for the health of both the environment and your body. If you must use power equipment, use it efficiently and sparingly, and keep it well maintained. Purchase responsibly and ethically produced products. Be a good steward of the earth!
If you are inspired to reach out beyond your garden, you might want to take part in a public cleanup along the Astoria Riverwalk. The event takes place 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 1, near the old train depot. AmeriCorps member April Schmidt, one of the day's coordinators, says people of all ages are invited and will have fun opportunities for painting, chalk drawing, trimming and pulling weeds, planting shrubbery and cleaning up debris. Food and drinks will be provided. Other event organizers include SOLV, the Clatsop County Master Gardener Association and the OSU Extension Service.
For more information, contact Schmidt at (503) 338-3600, ext. 1905, or Laura Parker, AmeriCorps member, at (503) 325-7275.
Cathy Peterson belongs to the Clatsop County Master Gardener Association. Please send comments and gardening news to "In the Garden," The Daily Astorian, P.O. Box 210, Astoria, OR 97103 or online to firstname.lastname@example.org