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Gardening Sustainability: The Greener Good

This past April, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Now, it is possible you missed it, since coverage of the anniversary got swallowed up by the coronavirus pandemic, but it is an important milestone.

Think about how much has changed in our view of ecology in the past five decades. The message of reduce, reuse and recycle is now standard; we are all looking to lower our carbon footprint; and water conservation is understood to be incredibly important.

That extends to our gardens as well. What we choose to plant and how we choose to maintain it can benefit our local wildlife, help with fire prevention, and keep our Earth safer.

It starts with picking the right plants for your garden. Select plants that are well suited to your area, keeping in mind climate, sun exposure and the amount of rainfall the area gets. One thing Northern Arizona has is an incredible array of micro-climates, so what’s good for downtown Flagstaff might not work in Baderville. Fortunately, there are many varieties of native and naturalized plants that thrive in the region, and the experts at Warner’s Nursery can help you match the right plant and your garden’s environment.

Additionally, you need to consider plants that are disease- and insect- resistant. This will lessen the need to be dependent on artificial insecticides or fungicides. Plants such as Potentilla and Russian Sage are great examples that have both beauty and resistance on their side.

Your plants also have the ability to help some of the most important (albeit tiniest) gardeners on the planet – bees, birds and butterflies. Most of our flowering plants and about a third of the food we eat are supported by these horticultural dynamos. So, consider planting in clusters, which makes it easier for them to feed without needlessly wasting their energy reserves, and choose a variety of plants that will bloom in rotation throughout the growing season. For example, you could have crocus and wild lilacs in spring; snapdragons and foxglove in the summer; and zinnias and asters in the fall.

Beyond the plants you choose, you can also help the planet with the way you choose to fertilize and water your garden.

One way to be water-wise is to invest in drip irrigation. Drip irrigation has several advantages over hand-watering, sprinklers and other watering methods as a conservation method because it puts the water exactly where it is needed. It also delivers water at a rate that the soil can absorb it; often hand-watering and sprinklers shoot out water too fast, meaning it is lost to run-off or evaporation. Finally, drip irrigation helps prevent disease, as much of the diseases that plague garden plants require excess moisture on leaves.

The other way to be water-wise is to take advantage of what nature already offers us – free water in the form of rain. Monsoon season is coming up, and for the cost of a rain barrel and a regulator, you can capture that rain and use it to water your garden. Not only is rainwater better for your plants, it also helps eliminate runoff that will eventually wash silt and pollutants into the local watershed.

Feeding your garden can also be done in an environmentally responsible way. Compiling organic material such as food waste, leaves, grass, twigs and lawn clippings in a bin where they can decompose and then be added to your garden as a soil amendment will help feed and naturally protect your plants. Adding composted material to your soil helps to increase drainage and support microorganisms that are beneficial to your garden. Doing so also reduces the amount of waste that winds up in our local dumps.

And last, but not least, you can show your commitment to ecology by doing some of the most humble work in gardening – weeding and keeping debris out of your yard. We all know that every summer, Northern Arizona is vulnerable to wildfire. Maintaining your yard and getting rid of green waste helps reduce the fuels on which fires feed.

We at Warner’s Nursery are available if you have any questions on how to make your garden more ecologically sound. We’d be happy to discuss this or any other tips for sustainable living in your garden or landscape.

Happy gardening! FBN

By Misti Warner-Andersen

Misti Warner-Andersen is the manager of  Warner’s Nursery & Landscape Co., located at 1101 E. Butler Ave. in Flagstaff. To contact Warner’s Nursery, call 928-774-1983.

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