Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gardening green

Although it's February and the snow continues to fall, I've been reading up on gardening with an eye toward organics in preparation for the spring.

Last year, we worked on one side of the yard, letting the other go to the wild flowers (and eight foot tall weeds, Benny would remind me.) This meant that we planted mostly perennials, many of which came from friends and family who were splitting them. I also planted a lot of bulbs in the spring and fall, many of which were purchased with a gift card to Lowe's (thanks Mom!). In an effort to keep things "green" we used as little fertilizer as possible, purchased and planted things that would do well with the average rainfall we get here in Boone, and used compost. We planted lots of succulents, because they require little water, and lots of groundcover to help conserve water by cooling the soil. I incorporated rocks as accents and borders that we had the builders leave on site after excavating for the basement. The compost and mulch we used came from the Watauga County Solid Waste/Recycling program (http://www.wataugacounty.org/sanitation/index.html) and is free to Watauga County residents, as long as you pick it up. This required that we have a friend pick it up for us in his pickup, since we didn't have a vehicle that would carry it. (If you don't live in Watauga County, check out your local landfill, as many are now composting yard waste.)

We also have been composting here at home, although since we currently don't have a bin, it's probably more along the lines of feeding the local wildlife. However, that still keeps our kitchen scraps out of the waste stream. (I also save our veggie scraps in the freezer and make stock out of them in the crockpot when the bag is full.) It's our hope to have a compost bin this spring, as well as two rain barrels, which we'll order from the Watauga County Rain Barrel Program (http://www.rainbarrelprogram.org/watauga-county). The rain barrels will harvest rainwater from our roof, which we'll then be able to water the gardens with (although not the veggie garden because of possible chemicals from the shingles). We also have a friend who raises grass fed beef (Jason Brooks at the farmer's market) who has agreed to let us have some manure for preparing another garden spot. (Of course, we'll have to let this rot a while before planting so that the excess nitrogen doesn't "burn" the plants.) I'm going to try out the new method of building raised beds called lasagna gardening (http://ourgardengang.tripod.com/lasagna_gardening.htm), which sounds ideal since we don't know how much rock is under the soil. It will take some time, but we should have a new flower bed ready by the fall for bulbs and shrubs.

In an effort to keep the mowing down (thus using a little less fossil fuel energy), as well as the watering, we're going to try planting low growing thyme instead of grass in the yard. We'll also have our veggie garden in the yard area and will share this with several families in our small group. This means that we'll all share in the prep, weeding, planting, and harvest, and hopefully cut our produce budgets along the way. We're going to grow our veggies organically in order to protect the water supply, as well as the little ones who will be eating the veggies.

I recently read that the Arbor Day Foundation provides trees as a gift for membership, so I purchased a membership and had three hazelnut trees ordered for shipment in the spring. We have a friend who wants some trees, so we'll probably share a membership with him and have a few Colorado Blue Spruce trees to plant. The local 4-H club is having it's annual plant sale (http://watauga.ces.ncsu.edu/index.php?page=youth4h), so we purchased four blueberry bushes of various types through them. The bushes will be bare root, so they'll be small, but in a few years, very productive. We also have a friend who has volunteered to share raspberry bushes when they thin them out this spring, so we'll plant those along the back fence.

All of this is to say that we're trying to find ways, by sharing in our community of resources, to create a garden that is eco-friendly and budget friendly. The hope with all of our berries, nuts, and veggies, is that we'll become more self-sufficient and have fresher, better quality food than we could buy. (Not to mention the fact that it won't be trucked across the country or flown around the world.) Gardening green (both for your budget and the earth) is quite easy when you learn to tap into the community resources and friends around you.

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