How can you be eco-friendly in your garden?

Published 12:22 am Sunday, June 4, 2017

A  lot is being written lately about eco-friendly gardening. People are becoming increasingly aware of how harmful chemicals can be and also don’t want to damage the environment. So what can you do to promote eco-friendly practices in your garden?

First, plant disease resistant, drought tolerant natives. This would seem obvious but with all of the selections available in nurseries and catalogs we sometimes tend to go for the color without regard to how it will perform in our landscape. Natives will always succeed with less attention than other plants. That means you are not worrying about using chemicals to treat diseases and you are not using large amounts of water to keep them healthy.

Planting a wide variety of plants will also keep disease and pests away. There is a lot of information out there about companion planting, which is the idea that certain plants can benefit others when planted in near proximity. You can research this in depth but the basic gist is that a wide variety of plants in the landscape is beneficial.

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When you water, consider using a soaker hose or drip irrigation. You will use 50 percent less water than with a sprinkler. Also, always keep a heavy layer of mulch in your beds, it decreases water evaporation.

Put bird feeders throughout your landscape. The birds eat destructive garden pests such as snails, slugs and grubs. You can also attract beneficial insects by planting sunflowers, candytuft and marigolds. These plants will attract ladybugs and lacewings which will eat aphids.

When you do have a pest problem, use an insecticidal soap rather than a chemical pesticide. You can make your own spray by using a small amount of baking soda and dish soap in a spray bottle full of water.

An interesting plant — the garden calendar lists veronica (veronica spp.) as a plant that is in bloom this month. The Mississippi State University Extension Service identifies veronica as a hardy perennial suitable for Mississippi gardens and recommends Veronica ‘Sunny Border Blue,’ ‘Blue Charm’ and ‘Goodness Grows.’ Veronica is mat forming and has rhizomes that spread underground. The leaves are 3-4 inches tall and the flower stems will grow 12-24 inches tall. They put out a cone shaped cluster of tiny bright blue flowers. There are many varieties with white, pink and purple blooms. Some common names are spike speedwell and cat’s tale speedwell.

Tomato lovers — you can plant a second crop this month for a fall harvest.

A handy tip — rather than throwing away small pieces of soap, collect them in a plastic mesh bag and hang the bag near the hose. The abrasive surface will scrub the dirt off of your hands when you are finished for the day.

Email your questions or comments to me at
Karen O’Neal is an Adams County Master Gardener.