Magazine article Newsweek

Environment: For A Greener Garden

Magazine article Newsweek

Environment: For A Greener Garden

Article excerpt

Byline: Karen Springen

All gardens may look green, but some are greener than others. Truly green, or organic, gardens are free of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and filled with native plants that need minimal amounts of extra water. They're good for the environment, and they're safe for kids and pets to play in. Planting one is simpler--and cheaper--than you might think. Some earth-friendly tips:

Native plants: These are "best suited to your region's normal amount of rainfall," says Jason Mark, who co-manages Alemany Farm, a 4.5-acre San Francisco community garden. In Houston, for example, put in Texas hummingbird sage. To research the best plants for your area, talk to experts at your local nursery and gardening center--and for a plant-hardiness-zone map, check the National Arboretum site, usna.usda.gov .

Water: To prevent water from evaporating into the air, avoid using sprinklers, or at least use them very early in the morning. Instead, get water to plants' roots by using soaker hoses, or, better yet, put in a drip-irrigation system, which slowly releases water into the soil. A kit with a 200-foot, half-inch hose is $47.90 at dripirrigation.com . Especially in drier climates, try xeriscaping (named after the Greek word for dry), which calls for no extra irrigation. Common plants include cactus and aloe vera. See xeriscape.org .

Composting: To improve the quality of the soil in any fruit or flower garden without using fertilizer, make compost. Let fruits, vegetables and other non-meat, nonfatty kitchen scraps decompose in a compost bin. You can buy one at sites like cleanairgardening.com . In the spring, after you've let your compost decompose for about two months, spread a half inch to an inch around your garden and let it break down into your soil. Consider "vermicomposting"--letting worms eat through the scraps. …

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