Blog Action Day: Earth-Friendly Gardening Practices

This year's topic for Blog Action Day is Climate Change. When I registered my blog, I was surprised that "Garden" or "Gardening" was not one of the blog categories I could choose, though there were Pets, Personal, Outdoor, Career, and about 30 other categories.

Gardeners are more aware of the weather than most people I know, and gardeners appreciate the earth, and notice changes. Gardeners can also make choices that can make a big difference, and this post has a few suggestions (I hope for more ideas from my readers).

  • Reduce concrete use. When planning hardscape, consider other options such as Decomposed Granite. "Many scientists currently think at least 5 percent of humanity's carbon footprint comes from the concrete industry, both from energy use and the carbon dioxide (CO2) byproduct from the production of cement, one of concrete's principal components." (Science Daily, May 24, 2009).

    In the picture below, you can see part of a decomposed granite plaza we put in to replace a pool. We've been happy with that surface, which is slightly water permeable but never soggy, a great place for our hammock and restful for the eye.

  • Reuse old concrete. If you have older concrete, consider breaking it up and reusing it. Many landscapers use stained concrete pieces to create attractive, water permeable plazas and patios. The "pavers" are called urbanite. Concrete reuse keeps it out of the landfill and you don't have to buy stone, which often comes from far away. Montana Wildlife Gardener has an excellent post about Building an Urbanite Path. In my garden, we broke up a narrow path where flagstones had been joined with concrete and made a wide path of the stones and some pebbles.

  • Reduce pollution. Find low-impact ways to take care of your garden. Where I live, mow-and-blow crews take care of most of gardens. The crew drives to the gardens, and they use machinery that results in noise pollution, carbon emissions, and, because they use two-stroke engines, fine-particulate emissions. In addition, leaf blowers pollute the air by stirring up dust and "fecal matter", as some articles call it. I'd rather be blunt: You breathe your neighbor's kitty's shit.

    I've always been baffled by the mow-and-blow mentality (and I don't blame the crew but the owners, who seem to insist on getting their money's worth in 50 minutes of noise). Just thirty years ago, these machines did not exist, and somehow, the world turned. Maybe I'm a Luddite wanting to go back to the stone age, but I'm happy using a rake and broom, and I tolerate a certain number of leaves or branches in my garden. (I probably would not be as impressive as the leaf-raking grandmother who beat a professional with a leafblower, as shown in this article).

  • Grow what makes your heart sing. For some gardeners, that's home-grown vegetables. For me, it's California Natives, which attract birds, pollinators, and lizards. Fruit is usually easy less labor-intensive than vegetables and gives us sweet rewards.

    No matter, the connection to the soil, being outside, breathing, listening, smelling is important. And as we become aware of the earth and how it nourishes us, we might consider other ways of reducing our impact, and we might inspire others to do the same.

  • Don't use chemicals. In most cases, the beneficial insects will take care of the nasties for you. If there are weeds, you're better off pulling them. Always ask yourself whether you'd want a small child around the stuff you're spraying. (There might be exceptions such as lime-sulphur spray for fruit trees while the tree is dormant, but even that should be considered carefully).

  • What else? Please leave a comment if you have an idea for climate-friendly gardening -- or write a post and leave a link.


naveen said…
that is good idea for reducing pollution , i am also doing same process in my home ,
its good to see here
all the best good post
Chari + Matt said…
that's the lowest CO figure I've seen for concrete. It is commonly cited as 8%. I studied concrete science in graduate school, and that was one of the first things we learned about. Since it is the cement that takes all the energy (and I COMMEND you for not calling concrete cement), we always look to reduce the cement. Fly ash, silica fume, blast furnace slag can all substitute to some degree, and these are waste products otherwise. So, if you have to use cement, look to use some fly ash, too. It actually improves the concrete quality and durability (at a minor cost to early strength).

Randy Emmitt said…
Town Mouse,

Very good article, thanks for greening the planet! We use recycled mulch for our pathways.
steph said…
In terms of keeping the insects at bay without use of chemicals, do not discount the value of birds in the garden.

When I moved into my current house with my dog (who did what doggies do to the yard), we ended up with a HUGE fly problem. After I installed a bird bath, the birds came for the water and stayed for the bugs. No fly problem in the 12 years since and I haven't had to spray for any other insects either.
Christine said…
Steph, you beat me to it! I was going to say leave water for the birds and keep your kitties inside.
Another thing you can do is put a bucket under all your downspouts to water the garden at a later date.
Great, great article.
I get so depressed when I think about 'mow and blow' that I am completely beside myself! I don't understand it... can't get my head around how people find it an acceptable practice.
Great post! Alice
Gail said…
Excellent post! I don't believe that anyone in the industry is using recycled concrete here...sigh! I think it makes wonderful sidewalks and walls. Sometimes I want to scream..."Catch up Nashville!" Our community is about ten years behind any other one!
We soldier on;)
Great article--
I love using decomposed granite, and we are building a retaining wall from the former Safeway parking lot!
Thanks for being green...
Thank you for this great post, Town Mouse! I learned several new things. I wish I could give this article 10 picks.
Country Mouse said…
All wonderful ideas. Town Mouse suggested I mention propagation as a way to be more earth-friendly - instead of buying trucked-in plants. There may be a net positive there. Also using arborists' wood chips, which are free and use a local resource that otherwise might be driven to the dump might. We are benefiting from two large trees' worth on our property from our spring tree removal project.
Town Mouse said…
Thanks so much for everyone's comments. Makes me feel less weird (as I said, everyone in my neighborhood has a mow-&-blow crew)
Who knew there was a sustainable florist in Bonny Doon?
As for arborist chips, it's great if you can use your own trees, but I've heard from more than one person who go "a tangle of blackberry and eucalyptus" dumped on their driveway. Much better to do without chips and make room for bees.