July 09, 2012

Cheap 'green' gardening practices that work

Who doesn't want to save money? (Doesn't Jimmy Fallon say something like that in his commercials?)

And most of us want to do our part to save the planetespecially when an organic gardening practice doesn't cost us more, or better yet, costs less.

Here are a few inexpensive techniques that have worked for me:

• Plant Onion sets around the perimeter of the garden. Doing so achieves two objectives: You'll have a ready supply of Scallions and larger Onions throughout the growing season, and the Onions help to repel rabbits. This doesn't eliminate the problem, but it helps.


• Stuff small Onions down mole/vole/chipmunk holes. The critters might try to displace them, but if you're persistent, the Onions will keep them away from your favorite garden plants. Plus, they're biodegradable. I noticed a couple of small holes in my front lawn. I saw a chipmunk plop down into them several times, so I knew he was the guilty party. After plugging the holes with small onions, Mr. Chippy moved on. In the fall, I'll cover the spot with new soil and plant some grass seed.


• Place spiky wire fencing around the edges of potted plants to dissuade critters from digging there. In a previous post, I shared how I used Scallions, Cayenne Pepper, cat litter, and spiky evergreens to repel critters from my planters. All of these things worked temporarily, but the spiky fencing has worked now for a few weeks.


• Apply Corn gluten meal to your lawn in place of lawn fertilizers and herbicides (weed and feed). We get Corn gluten meal from a local agricultural cooperative, and apply it before the weeds emerge in the spring, and again in the fall. You might notice a slightly pungent organic scent for a couple of days, but it dissipates with time and rain. Our lawn was one of the greenest on the block this spring (before the drought). And very few weeds emerged. We pulled those that did by hand, but I've heard vinegar works post-emergence, too.

Source: Landmark Services Cooperative

• Plant Peas, Lupines, Beans, or other legumes in your garden to add nitrogen back to the soil. This improves the soil fertility and encourages hearty growth among neighboring plants.


• Plant flowers and vegetables together. Flowers attract pollinators for the vegetables, and the veggies improve the soil for the flowers. Companion planting is a time-tested method of repelling insects and critters and encouraging strong plant growth. Numerous companion planting guides are available on the Web, including a very extensive one on Wikipedia.


• Use untreated grass clippings or Marsh Hay as mulch on your vegetable/flower garden. They break down fast to enrich the soil, and as mulch, they keep weeds under control. While Straw and farm Hay often carry weed seeds, Marsh Hay has fewer seeds. It's now available at many garden centers, and some farmers grow it for sale.


• Place a shallow tub of beer among your plants to attract and drown slugs and earwigs. The tubs have to be refilled every few days and after heavy rain, but if you use cheap beer (the same cheap brand can be used to boil brats), it's not a high price to pay to prevent plant damage.


The next morning: Sorry, this is gross, but it works.

• Locate Roses in a mild, protected microclimate to prevent wind damage and minimize pests and diseases. I don't use systemic insecticides/fungicides on my Roses. I don't have showstopper Roses, and I'm still searching for effective organic treatments that work, but in the meantime growing them in a protected spot seems to help. Some of my Roses grow at the base of a stone wall. The temperature here remains warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Wind damage is minimal.  The spot could use a little more sun to encourage blooms, but the Roses are very healthy with no chemical treatment. Because they're not stressed, they're less susceptible to damage from black spot, powdery mildew, and other diseases.


I've tried all these techniques with surprising success. My sources: Organic Gardening magazine, friends' suggestions, and my own trial and error. The goals: to keep my garden as chemical-free as possible and to save money. Once I got into the mode of finding "green" ways to deal with gardening issues, it became a fun, personal challenge. Plus, it's a good excuse to do some shopping (see my related post under the "products" tab).

Please share your favorite "green" (both organic and inexpensive) gardening techniques. I'm always looking for more.

***********

On another topic, I'm truly honored that Helene at Graphicality - UK has bestowed PlantPostings with the Illuminating Blogger Award. Thank you, Helene, and I apologize for taking so long to link here. The Illuminating Blogger Award honors bloggers who provide illuminating, informative blog content. To meet the award's requirements, the rules are simple:

• Visit the award site and leave a comment that you were nominated, and by whom;
• Thank the blogger who nominated you by posting and leaving a link to their blog;
• Share one random thing about yourself in your blog post;
• Select at least five other bloggers to nominate because you enjoy reading their illuminating, informative posts; and
• Inform your nominees, and include a link to the award site: foodstoriesblog.com/illuminating-blogger-award.

OK, one random thing about me (this is the first thing that came to mind): I love Pistachio ice cream.

And it says select "at least five" other bloggers to nominate. So, I pick all the bloggers on my blogroll and my favorites on Blotanical. Congratulations!

Thank you, Helene!

37 comments:

  1. If you have a problem with cats digging up your plants, citrus peel helps, and sticking bamboo skewers around your plants or seedlings.
    Vinegar or a combination of vinegar and dish soap sprayed on weeds helps to dry out the leaves, and kill them. On must be careful of surrounding plants since this concoction will kill them too.
    I will be adopting your beer method! :-)

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    1. I have heard about the citrus peel--plus, it smells great, too! Bamboo skewers: That's one I will have to try. Thanks!

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  2. Love your ideas in this informative post. I don't like to use chemical pesticides too. For my roses, I use dried banana peels cut into small pieces and buried into the soil. Makes my rose blooms prettier. I'm going to try the beer method soon.

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    1. Thanks! I hadn't heard about dried banana peels, but that makes sense. Your Roses are certainly lovely, so your advice is appreciated! The beer really works, too.

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    1. Thanks, Mary! I know you have lots of tips that you share on your blog, too!

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  4. I don't use chemicals either but I'm surrounded by neighbors who love them. They'll even come over & spray around my property if they don't feel I'm keeping up well enough for them. They are all retired (with lots more time than me) I haven't heard about using corn gluten feed but I'll look it up. sounds good. I read that alfalfa pellets were a great organic fertilizer so last year I used them. I think they did a great job (& also fed the bunnies which you may not be excited about) They did not help with weeds tho...

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    1. Yeah, I know. Sometimes it's hard to convince people to try organic gardening techniques. But when they give it a chance, I think sometimes they're surprised how well they work. Alfalfa pellets sound like a great idea, except for the rabbits.

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  5. Beth these are great ideas and some I had not heard about especially the onions. Will have to give a few a try. I do use the mown grass in late fall but right now there is no mowing as the lawn is crispy brown and the weeds are even dying. My biggest pest right now is the Japanese beetle.... literally thousands everywhere again...

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    1. Thanks, Donna. Yeah, we don't have any grass to use either. :( Japanese beetles haven't been as bad for me this year for some reason. Fewer bugs is the only good thing about no rain.

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  6. Great ideas! My dogs took care of my last mole on The Great Mole Hunt that required me to resod part of my lawn. An onion would have been easier. :o) Squirrels rarely bother my containers. I think the dogs keep them at bay. I love the idea of planting the roses by a stone wall. It's so humid here, though, that I occasionally have to use an organic fungicide spray to deal with our black spot. I also use corn gluten and beer. :o) The gluten makes a wonderful fertilizer. I've had less weeds than ever before.

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    1. Thanks, TS. I remember you encouraging me to get a dog--that would help in so many ways! Still trying to talk the hubby into that one!

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  7. Great post, thanks for sharing!!

    I also read that marigolds are a great natural deterrent for many types of garden pests. I've planted a bunch around my vegetable garden this year, they also help attract the pollinators.

    For Japanese beetles, I go out every night and shake them off the plants into a bucket of water. Works great! I'm also using a trap this year. It definitely attracts more beetles, but also helps me kill thousands more daily! I haven't noticed any additional damage now that I'm using the traps, which was a concern before. It seems the amount I'm picking off the plants every night is the same as it was without the trap.

    Amy

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    1. I like to use Marigolds, too. Especially, in a really sunny spot. I remember reading about your adventures with Japanese beetles--very educational. Thanks, Amy!

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  8. These are great ideas, Beth! I hadn't heard of using onions as a rabbit deterrent before, but it certainly makes sense. I did a little research on companion planting this spring, and found some great ideas, too. I was going to plant chamomile in the vegetable garden, until I discovered it shouldn't be planted near cucumbers or squash, so I planted it in another bed. Borage is supposed to be a good companion for tomatoes and squash, though. I always plant marigolds in the vegetable garden as a deterrent for some pests. Like Amy, I pick off Japanese beetles rather than use a pesticide on them--it's a good way to work out your frustrations:)

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    1. Thanks, Rose! All great tips! I haven't gotten into the habit of picking off the Japanese beetles--they're usually bad here later in the season, and the damage is cosmetic. This year, I don't have many.

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  9. I wonder if planting onions in a perimeter around the garden would discourage voles as well? I'll have to try pushing onion pieces down their holes!
    Some great tips!

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    1. Thanks! I would think that would help. It seems to help somewhat with the chipmunks, too, but I still put a chicken wire fence around it.

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  10. It is award enough for us gardeners when our practical trials to alleviate our problems help. I have different problems with my small plants, mostly mealy bugs and aphids, and since only go home on weekends, they are already too much in a week. I am also for the natural way of farming and gardening. At the moment, the most difficult problem is my 82yr old mother, who is stubborn enough to change her ways. Several instructions and talks about burning plant wastes do not get into her, and she just do that when nobody is looking. When later we see the burned patch of ground, we just ignore it as if everything is allright. I have been provoked many times in the past. Now, I just release a deep sigh!

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    1. No advice from me on how to deal with dissenting moms. ;-) Deep sighs are good therapy. Maybe you could get some ladybugs to eat the aphids?

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  11. A very interesting post, thank you. That companion guide is especially useful. I don't spray my roses either, I find that simply choosing those varieties that do well in my climate eliminates a lot of work (and expense).

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    1. Gosh, Masha--that is quite an accomplishment with your amazing Roses! Any secrets to share (beyond choosing the right cultivars)?

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  12. That mesh is a great idea. I'm gonna need to pick some up tomorrow! A lot of really good suggestions here!

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    1. Thank you, Cat! I love to try these things--let me know if you have other tips to share!

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  13. I have been meaning to try corn gluten for years. I am determined to do it this fall. We dump used kitty litter down woodchuck holes to get them to move on---it always works. We also mulch with ground leaves which we grind with our lawnmower. We grind leaves on the lawn and leave them there to improve the soil.

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    1. Great idea about the kitty litter! I've used it in pots, but dumping it down chipmunk, rabbit, and woodchuck holes is another great use for it. Thanks for sharing more tips!

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  14. Whatever did your children do, to make you boil them in cheap beer?!

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    1. Ha! I should have said bratwurst. Wisconsin bratwurst is the best--boiled in beer and grilled. The quality of the beer doesn't matter much--just as it doesn't matter much for drowning earwigs and slugs. (Sorry dear earwig/slug lovers.)

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  15. Congats on your award and this post reinforces the honor. I think there's enough chatter about composing for the 000's of new veggie gardeners out there.

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    1. You are so kind, Patrick. I've been lax about composting, but this year we started an official compost bin. In the past, I simply turned the soil and mulched deeply with Marsh Hay. The compost should make a big difference, too.

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  16. Thanks for all the useful suggestions and congrats for the award! Ciao Beth! :)

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    1. Thank you, Dona! I'd be curious to hear some of your ideas, too--I'm sure you have a lot of suggestions.

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  17. Excellent tips! Many of these I have done for years. I really like the idea of placing onions down vole holes. I have stuffed the holes with peppers. I will have to try onions as well. And congratulations on your award...you deserve it!

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    1. Thanks! Peppers are a great idea, too. And someone mentioned used cat litter--I can do that, too. ;-)

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  18. Excellent post with some great ideas. As for snails, I go on a snail hunt very early each morning just as light comes into my gardens... a beautiful time for a walk, pail in hand. I've just about eliminated them from my gardens... only found one this morning...several weeks ago I was finding a dozen or more each morning. For my roses I used alfalfa meal this year. It has worked wonders, the plants are thriving and the June blossoms were gorgeous. It was suggested by my local nursery last Spring when I asked for advice regarding my dying rose bushes that I treat each year with systemic treatments. Apparently it is as bad for the roses as it is for the environment. I was prepared to use soapy water for the aphids, but so far, we have none this year.

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    1. Alfalfa meal--thanks for the great tip, Carolyn! Slugs haven't been much of a problem this year because of the drought, but the beer really works to attract them. Good to know the Alfalfa meal helps with your Roses, too. I've been meaning to post a garden walk item, but it has been so hot and dry. I hope to do that soon.

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  19. We also use corn gluten! My friend recommended it to me and I can say that it’s one effective way to keep weed seeds from sprouting. It was just recently that my husband and I decided to turn our lawn into a garden, and I must say, using corn gluten helps prevent the fallen seeds from sprouting as new plants. This lets us control the amount of small plants that we really want to see growing in our garden.

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