Improve Your Yard Organically: 14 Simple Environment Friendly Gardening Tips

Most people believe that the basic idea behind organic gardening is to avoid using pesticides and chemical fertilizers on your lawn. While this is certainly some of what organic gardening is about, it's not the entire picture.

Your yard is really an ecosystem. Damage one part of the ecosystem through pesticides, everything else in the cycle is damaged. Keeping chemical use to a bare minimum is a first good step. Wise planting and watering practices will also help keep your yard healthy and sustainable. A healthy yard requires less chemical help and eventually it can get along with nothing more than fertilizer. This is the goal that we all strive for with organic gardening.

Controlling weeds organically

Weeds are one of the biggest reasons that people use yard chemicals. To keep down the growth of weeds, use mulch around your planting beds and beneath your shrubs. Some people prefer wood chips or bark chip. You can also use layered newspaper topped with a thick layer of grass clippings. Mulching retains moisture in the soil, which means less watering.

Maintaining a healthy lawn is also important to managing lawn weeds. Weeds grow where the grass is thin or patchy. Over seeding these areas will help choke out the growth of weeds.

For dandelions, try using a special dandelion digging tool to lift them out. If the soil is moist, they'll come out very easily. A Japanese gardening tool works for weeds found in planting beds. This thick, long handled knife has a serrated edge on one side, and makes weeding a snap.

If you have weeds growing in the cracks of your sidewalks or stone walk ways, a slick trick is to pour boiling water over them. This does an incredible job of killing the weed clear down to the root.

To kill large areas of weeds or grass in your vegetable garden, alley way or in places where you want to create flower beds, stretch sheets of visquine over the area. The heat from the sun will kill the vegetation beneath within a matter of a few weeks.

Fertilizing organically

Maintaining a healthy yard is important is you want to reduce the amount of chemical additives. While there are many organic fertilizers on the market, there are less expensive alternatives.

One easiest method is to drop the clippings when you mow. A season's worth of grass clippings are the equivalent to one application of commercial fertilizer. Keeping the grass slightly longer will also allow it to grow deeper roots, and slow down the rate of water evaporation.

Compost is nature's perfect fertilizer and is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Best of all, it can be made free in your own yard. Composting is mixing together nitrogen rich "greens" such as grass, with carbon based "brown" waste such as leaves. Through the use of a compost system and the help of microorganisms, these materials break down into a rich, earthy material. Compost will improve the texture of your soil and provide nutrition to your plants.

If you live out in the country, bags of steer or chicken manure are wonderful supplements to your yard. I apply the stuff liberally over my lawn and flower beds in the summer.

Bug control organically

As my yard has shifted more towards organic gardening methods, pest problems aren't as frequent as they used to be. A healthy collection of birds, spiders and ladybugs do a fabulous job of taking care of most of my yard pests. For the occasional pest, there's some easy ways to get rid of them.

Control snails and slugs in your garden by trapping them with small saucers of beer. Set the rims set at ground level so it will be easy for them to crawl in.

To trap earwigs, set damp paper tubes around your beds during the night. By morning, the tubes will be filled with the little critters.

Make collars out of plastic yogurt containers to prevent bugs from nibbling away at the stems or climbing up into the leaves.

Aphids can be washed off rose buds using a garden hose. Cradle the bud in your hand and gently rinse until the aphids drop off. Since the aphids will crawl back to the buds within a few days, you'll need to repeat the process a couple of more times. For tenacious aphids, mix up a solution of soapy water and apply with a sprayer. Once you've permanently stopped using bug spray on your gardens and lawn, you can safely add live ladybugs to your yard to also help reduce the aphid population.

Set out bird feeders. I have a large population of birds that are drawn to my yard by the feeders and stick around for the bugs.

Think about replacing some of your plants with those that are pest resistant. Low water plants tend to be disease hardy and resistant to pests. There are also a some tree varieties that are also disease and pest hardy. Ask your City Forester for recommendations.

There's no denying that gardening organically is a lot of extra work at first. But over time, it does get easier and soon you'll notice your yard becoming healthier and less prone to disease. Weeds seem to become less of a problem. And, you'll discover birds and other small animals returning to your yard to help with pest control, pollination, and reseeding.

The public library is full of information about natural gardening methods and it's benefits on the environment. You might also want to contact your local county extension office; their Master Gardeners have a wealth of up-to-date information and will be invaluable in getting you started.