Urban Gardening

Go green in the garden. Not as simple as it sounds

By George M. Withers

Killing Them Softly

A healthy garden breeds fewer weeds and attracts fewer pests, whether of the four- or sixlegged variety. Every gardener, regardless of the hue of their thumb, encounters rascally roots and pesky pests. Instead of reaching for harsh herbicides, many of which are banned in this province, try a spray bottle filled with one-part vinegar and three-parts water. Flat cola will also do the trick.

As for pesticides, native ladybugs will keep aphids in check, while bats and birds are your best friends, eating their weight in insects over a 24-hour period. For homemade insecticidal soap, combine 1 Tbsp of natural dish soap with 4 L of water. Pour into a spray bottle and fire away. Crushed garlic steeped in warm water also works well.

Compost Counts

A third of every household’s garbage is made up of food scraps or, in gardening terms, compost gold. Even a condo dweller has sufficient space to make nutrient-rich compost. Simply buy a composter from your local eco-quartier (under $30) or make one yourself. You’ll need a plastic pail with a lid. Place the pail on level ground, punch four air holes into the lid, and start layering green stuff (coffee grounds, food scraps, tea bags). Alternate with brown stuff (dry grass, leaves, straw, a few wood chips). Stir every couple of weeks.

Avoid adding fish, meat and fats or the neighbourhood raccoons will be hosting their next nocturnal picnic on your balcony.

Much Ado About Mulch

After rich, loamy soil, mulch is the most important component to a successful summer garden. Good mulch keeps soil moist, discourages weeds and prevents erosion. Unfortunately, many of us opt for wood chips. Wood mulches breed wood rot and fungi, whereby spores can spread into your home. Moreover, these wood-based mulches steal much-needed nitrogen from the soil as they decay. DIY compost is the best mulch money can’t buy because it’s practically free.

Going Native

Indigenous plants, flowers, grasses and shrubs are key to becoming truly ecofriendly in the yard. Get a province-by province list of what native plants are best in Montreal or anywhere else you want to put roots down (www.evergreen.ca).

Native plants are hardier and stand a better chance of shrugging off pests, cold snaps and drought. Plus, native plants keep native birds and butterflies happy. Go a step further and plant only heirloom seeds. These heritage tomatoes, cucumbers, onions et al are genetically superior and open-pollinated, meaning you can save the seeds and replant next year.

Community Plots Thicken

Bigger isn’t always better. Don’t laugh. A row or three of veggies allows you to focus all of your energies on individual plants. Container gardening also saves on space. Think a few herb pots, a baby tomato plant, some marigolds to help keep pests away and your balcony becomes a mini oasis. But if you want more rake-and-hoe room and the idea of socializing with the like-minded makes you giddy in your garden gloves, maybe a community garden is for you. You’ll have your own plot to play in plus workshops and tons of gardening tips and feedback.Get growing!

Spring 2013, Vol 5 N°2

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