Is gardening ecofriendly? Without much thought, most of us would immediately answer, "Yes!" Isn't that what gardening is all about, getting back to the earth and treating her kindly?
But before we answer too quickly, we may want to take a few minutes to think about this.
According to the National Gardening Association's 2008 Environmental Lawn & Garden Survey, only 5 percent of gardeners strictly adhere to organic gardening methods. Where does that leave the rest of us? With less than a green garden, I would guess.
Most of us fall short of creating the ecofriendly retreats we envision for our yards. We may be creating beauty, but at what cost to the environment?
One nongreen practice many gardeners employ is the use of gasoline-powered equipment. Not only do they fill neighborhoods with noise, but they fill the air with pollution. A standard gasoline-powered lawn mower used for an hour pollutes as much as 40 cars on the road would for that same hour, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The ecosavvy might want to try the engineless reel mower. They are made lighter and stronger than those of our grandparents' day, and for small jobs the reel-type mower can actually be more convenient.
Rechargeable and electric mowers and other landscaping equipment are also available. With a little research, you may find one to meet your needs.
Water consumption is a huge concern in our gardens. About 30 percent of all water used goes to outdoor use, and about half of that is wasted through evaporation and runoff, Joe Lamp'l writes in his book The Green Gardener's Guide: Simple Significant Actions to Protect and Preserve Our Planet. Critical water shortages make conservation more important than ever.
Automatic timers, soaker hoses, low-volume irrigation and the use of rain barrels can help lessen the impact of gardening on the water supply. Be aware of water usage levels at all times, and look for ways to minimize the amount.
Mulch can also make or break a green garden. Some mulch is certified by the Mulch and Soil Council, a trade association. A certification from this group means the mulch is free of dangerous materials such as arsenic from pressure-treated wood. Alternatively, mulch from local tree services is generally free or low-cost and bound for the landfill if not used by a homeowner.
The overuse or misuse of chemicals is certainly unacceptable in a green garden. When using chemicals, carefully read and follow all instructions. Remember, randomly spraying an entire garden for a localized pest will kill all beneficial insects also. Try to use ecologically friendly methods of pest removal. Some pests may dislodge with a strong stream of water. Large pests may be handpicked from the garden. Visit your garden regularly so pests and diseases are recognized early.
Probably the easiest green method to use in gardens is to plant the proper greenery in the correct place. Happy plants — those living in an environment in which they naturally thrive — are more robust and vigorous, requiring less water and chemicals to flourish.
So, no, all gardens are not automatically green. But it is important that we all work toward this goal.