Looking at all the weeds can be overwhelming and stressful to a new gardener, so for a positive, enjoyable experience, it is best to start with a small garden.
Plants native to the area are adaptive to the climate and temperature extremes, and won't need a lot of extra water because they'll be adapted to the natural water supply. Central Labrador is considered to be zone 4.
Healthy compost contains yard waste like unseeded grass clippings, hay straw and old plants from our garden as its base. If we buy our compost in bulk, we must check that it's crumbly with no more than a few small pieces of leaf or twig left in it because what we put in the soil will ultimately be feeding what we’re growing.
We should use mulch to preserve moisture, lessen watering our plants, and prevent the growth of weeds, which steals water from our garden. To be successful, we can count on lettuces, salad greens, tomatoes, summer squash and zucchini. In fact, many vegetables are resistant to a variety of insects and diseases, which helps prevent using pesticides and herbicides in our garden.
It’s important to appropriately space out the plants in order to keep them healthy. The better plants fit, the less inclined we’ll be to buy pesticides and fertilizers. If we plant wisely in the space we have, we can really get an abundance of growth from a very small space.
When the dark clouds roll in, put rain buckets under the gutters and collect that extra runoff to water the garden. A drip irrigation system in place of an overhead sprinkler system is recommended to keep the garden hydrated. Although the pipes are made of plastic, these systems are much more efficient and are sure to save water, especially for trees and shrubs.
If gardening neighbors treat their plants with herbicide, ask them not to spray on windy days. Or better still, collaborate; sharing a garden will minimize resources and everyone will enjoy the growth.
We must know our soil and have it tested to see what nutrients it needs because phosphates and nitrates found in fertilizer contaminate waterways and kill fish, and then we should look for labels listing "natural organic" and "slow release" ingredients. To avoid runoff, it’s best not to apply fertilizer before heavy rains or to frozen ground. Digging by hand, keeps the soil at a better consistency and we can feel it as we work.
Since pesticides are contaminants that hurt animals, reduce biodiversity, and are linked to birth defects and cancer, we should keep our garden healthy without pesticides through compost, mulch use and frequent mowing. Nursery owners can tell us more about choosing pest-resistant varieties but remember, bugs are good for our plants – only five to 15 percent are actually pests.
Let’s not go with the flow. Up to 75 percent of household water use during growing season is outdoors, and runoff carrying pesticides and other toxins pollutes lakes, rivers, and oceans. Perennials need less water than annuals, and older trees and shrubs need even less, so watering in the early morning is best to avoid evaporation during the day and mold growth at night, and it’s best to use a soaker hose or drip irrigation system.
Staying away from gas-powered and electric tools is much better for the soil and the environment. Using a gas-powered lawn mower for an hour can produce nearly the same amount of pollution as driving a car 160 kilometers. Battery-powered motors aren't better: manufacturing the batteries causes significant lead emissions. When cutting grass, get a workout with a manual mower and leave the clippings (free fertilizer) on the lawn.
Think of gardening as a long-term project. There's no rush so don't take shortcuts, and don't think that using a chemical to eradicate weeds is a safe way to go. Many people will spray weed killer because they want instant growth, but keeping our own piece of paradise as environmentally-friendly as possible will nurture our body, mind and soul.
Our gardens may look green, but they can harm the environment. This summer, we must minimize the negative impact of our well-loved plot on the world outside our backyard.