CORVALLIS – In a world of increasing climate change and the invasion of increasingly exotic insects and pests, sustainable gardening is more important than ever.
We can all do our part to help by changing our practice – often quite a bit, depending on the methods you’ve already implemented. And if it all seems too complicated, do it gradually. You will help the environment while saving money and join a community of like-minded gardeners who love to share their experiences.
To get started or expand your repertoire of sustainable practices, consider these suggestions from Oregon State University Outreach Gardeners.
Check your property for invasive weeds: An invasive species is an introduced organism that negatively alters its new habitat. There are many invasive plants in Oregon that fit this definition. Blackberries, celestial tree, invasive knotweed, garlic mustard, celandine scant, Italian arum and horsetail are some examples that are difficult to control. Keep these and other invasive weeds out of your area. Watch out for invasive plants and take action before they are becoming a more serious problem. Consult your local Soil and water reserve to find out which invasive plants are a problem in your area. Use cultural control methods before switching to pesticides. – Weston Miller, OSU gardener.
Home Garden Care: A sustainable home garden starts with choosing rootstocks that control size. The tree can be 6 to 9 feet in size when using dwarf or semi-dwarf rootstocks. Small trees facilitate the development of an open form that dries quickly after rain, which reduces disease incidence. Small trees are also easier to work with when pruning, thinning, spraying and harvesting, saving time all year round. They require less splashing and also provide easy access to the top tree bracket, helping to keep spray on target.
Browse catalogs and publications for the subject tree fruit varieties that thrive in the Pacific Northwest due to their resistance to common diseases. For example, when planting an apple tree Liberty or Chehalis, you will never need to spray with fungicides to combat apple scab, because they are highly resistant. – Steve Renquist, OSU gardener.
Plant a cover crop: Soil is the foundation of any garden, especially an environmentally friendly one if you don’t want to use a lot of chemical fertilizers. Cover crops provide many soil benefits by reducing erosion and runoff, increasing water infiltration and increasing organic matter. Cover crop legumes act as fertilizers and fix nitrogen in the soil. Watch this publication from the Washington State University Extension Service. – Erica Chernokh, OSU gardener.
Share tools: There is no need to buy your own special tools or small equipment (such as long-handled branch pruners, edgers or cultivators). See if your area has a community tool exchange program or reach out to your neighbors to share them. If you need your own, look for used items at sales or at the home improvement donation store.
Order in bulk: Join forces with your closest neighbors to order soil, compost, mulch or other additives in bulk instead of buying food in plastic bags. – Brooke Edmunds, OSU gardener.
Reduce the amount of plastic: Reduce the number of disposable plastic pots in your garden by:
- Growing seeds at home in egg cartons, toilet paper tubes or even homemade newspaper pots;
- If you want to plant seeds in larger containers, try using plastic containers or containers from home (yogurt containers are better);
- Buy plants with bare roots;
- In your nursery, look for pots made from compostable materials such as coconut fiber, paper, or cow dung. – Gail Langellotto, Statewide OSE Extension Master Gardener Coordinator and Professor of Horticulture
Reduce pesticide use:
- Replace pest-prone plants with ones that do not require frequent pesticide use;
- Learn more about specific pests in your garden and look for alternative control methods;
- Remember that some pest problems can be a matter of perspective and tolerance. Do you have a place or place to withstand slight aesthetic damage to certain plants that will not cause long-term harm to plant health.
- If you have a lawn or landscape maintenance service and they regularly spray pesticides, make sure you know the pests they are spraying against. Educate yourself to find alternatives or find out if pesticides are needed at all. Some services will spray at regular intervals (for example, every two weeks or every month), whether required or not. – Gail Langellotto, OSU Staff Expansion Coordinator and Professor of Horticulture
Reduce water consumption by choosing plants: One way to make your garden environmentally friendly is to reduce your water consumption. Special irrigation systems are often installed to reduce the amount of irrigation or waste water. An even better way is to use plants in your garden that are drought tolerant and do not require watering. The Willamette Valley climate is semi-Mediterranean with dry summers, so growing plants that can withstand these conditions is a good way to create an eco-friendly, low-maintenance garden.
Plants growing in our region will achieve this goal, but there are also a number of plants growing in other regions of the Mediterranean that also survive our summer drought. The North Willamette Center for Research and Extension of OGU is currently testing drought-tolerant groundcover as part of the Northwest Plant Assessment Program, which also evaluated other landscape plants grown without irrigation, including manzanite, grevillea, rockrose and California lilac. … Some of these plants, as well as many other drought tolerant plants, can be found in local nurseries and planted in non-irrigated areas of the landscape to reduce water use in gardens. For more information, view site… – Hilter Stoven, gardener of OSU.
– Kym Submissive, email@example.com