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Working with Nature – tips for budding natural gardeners

More and more gardeners are going green beneath the trees.  Here are some tips to turn your garden into a pleasant, low maintenance sanctuary!

Don’t be too tidy
A bit of “weediness” is a good thing. Remember, bugs often prefer weeds to the plants you are growing.  Also leaf litter and a woodpile provide critical shelter for over wintering butterflies and beneficial garden insects.  Leave the snag from a dead tree and you might discover a woodpecker family using it as their new home.

Do use mulch
Shredded leaves and organic materials control weeds with little work, improve soil moisture retention, and restore the natural cycle by allowing nutrients to return to the soil through the fermentation layer.

Learn about the main alien invasive plants in your area
Make sure not to let these take hold in your garden.  You can do this with weedy plants by preventing the plant from going to seed. For very weedy areas, use black plastic or a thick layer of cardboard and mulch to smother plants, or in the case of the black plastic, to cook them over the summer.

Don’t over water
Water only when absolutely necessary and when you do, make sure you do it slowly and deeply for a long time.  Grass should be allowed to go dormant in late summer for a healthy natural rest.

Consider the supply chain
Your garden is its own eco system. As much as possible, try to close the loop at home by using your own compost, harvesting rainwater or creating a rain garden, recycling pots and plastic, supporting local organic native plant and heritage nurseries, and of course, sticking to natural organic products.

Once you have a diverse healthy ecosystem in your garden, many previous “problems” will take care of themselves, with little need for intervention from you.

Courtesy of Helen Mills, Green Gardeners Community Collaborative Inc.