Written by Ingrid Hoff
What should a gardener do on Earth Day? My answer…. nothing, you’ve already done it. As you can imagine I have a pretty high regard for anyone that picks up the trowel and tries their hand at making something grow, from the revered veteran with permanently dirt-stained hands to the hesitant rookie with a single package of seeds. Gardeners are on the front lines in the creation of the “thin green line,” a protective barrier of plants that covers the surface of the Earth. The plants that make up this thin green barrier trap carbon from the atmosphere, produce the oxygen we need to breath, pull toxins out of the air and soil, their roots hold the earth in place, and they provide us with food, clothing and shelter. I didn’t come up with the term “thin green line,” much smarter people than me did that, but I believe we have a big debt owed to plants we share this earth with.
Earth day to me is about doing something to benefit the only home we have, and anything that contributes to the health and well-being of plants is a win in my book. While I can’t say I’m being completely truthful about “nothing” I do think that sometimes it nice to recognize the people who are doing the small but important things that happen on a daily basis. Most gardeners I know are industrious and hardworking, they rarely take time to stop and enjoy what they’ve created. So, for Earth Day on Thursday April 22 I think all the gardeners of the world should just take a few moments to sit and enjoy the beauty they’ve helped create.
But… knowing that just isn’t going to work for everyone (especially hardworking gardeners) there is one tiny thing I could suggest (other than grow something) to make the Earth better. Go organic if you can, or at least stop to think about your outdoor space as a place where you try to find balance, instead of trying to dominate or control. If you have a shady, wet site then don’t try to grow lavender, try some ligularia instead. Work on feeding your soil and the micro-organisms that live in it. There is a whole world of organisms living in our soils that we are not aware of. Luckily there are so many organic and bioactive products out there to help feed these organisms, and if you feed the soil then the soil will feed your plants. Check out products such as Soil Activator, Myke fertilizers, the Black Gold line of organic fertilizers or any of the other organic and soil building products in the Garden Supplies section at your local GardenWorks.
Part of finding a balance within your outdoor space is a little bit of…. Know thy enemy. Okay we may not need to implement Sun Tzu’s The Art of War but sometime it can feel like a battle when dealing with pests and diseases. The first step is to take a big deep breath and don’t panic. Then gather your information, Sun Tzu knew what he was talking about. If you can find out what the problem is (pest, disease, environmental condition, etc.) then you can make a wise decision about what to do about it, if you end up doing anything at all. Often, the tiny ecosystem that is your garden will right itself if given a bit of time. Horrible aphid problem? Just wait long enough and the ladybugs and parasitic wasps will move in to take care of the problem. In fact, some plants and trees can actually produce chemicals that attract predators like lady bugs in response to an attack by aphids. Also, it’s good to remember that not all insects look the same all their lives, “baby” ladybugs are downright scary looking. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to let people know they’ve been trying to kill the one insect in their yards that is trying to help them, simply because they didn’t recognize it.
Another reason to know before you jump to a conclusion is what might look like a plant disease is actually a case of environmental damage and no amount of chemical you spray will ever make it right. An early or late frost, pollution, a sunburn, or a sneaky pet using your front garden as a bathroom can be the actual culprit and we don’t want unnecessary chemicals released into the environment.
So, gather up your intel, do a bit of on-line research, read a blog (you’re winning already), or talk to one of the in-store experts, and find out a bit more about what is going on with your plants. Don’t just jump to grab a bottle and spray.
If you do have a problem in your garden that needs a little bit of an external nudge from you to set it right (i.e. things have gotten out of balance and you have an infestation or outbreak… it happens to the best of us), then you have “greener” options available. These options include anything from physical barriers, to cultural practices and biological/green products. An amazing amount of research and effort has gone into creating products that utilize natural and bio-resources, from nematodes, bacteria, fungi, beneficial insects, and a complete range of botanical ingredients. Check out the Garden Supplies section of your local GardenWorks and peruse the selection.
While I love the idea of a grand gesture to attract attention and facilitate change, to me it’s the small every day victories that matter the most. Earth Day is just one day, but for gardeners, and all other caretakers of the land, it’s the everyday actions that add up to bigger change. So, if you are a gardener, or even just became a first time “plant-parent” take a bow, I thank you, and please keep up the good work.