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Plan your garden keeping environmental goals in mind


Gas is expensive. Water is scarce and getting more expensive every year. We are urged to conserve and be “green.” What can we really do in our own yards to play a meaningful part in this movement?

Since nurseries are somewhat the original “green” industry, we get the question a lot. We have always recycled, reused, grown something out of nothing. We didn’t think about being “green”; it’s just what we do. Here are five reasonably easy-to-accomplish goals that can help you be a part of what the world needs now.

• Grow a vegetable and fruit garden. Many of our grandparents and great grandparents used all the space in their small yards for producing all the fresh, healthy vegetables and fruits their families needed. It saves a huge amount of petroleum products when the things you eat are not trucked or flown from hundreds or thousands of miles away. Home-grown veggies save money, taste great, are free from pollutants, chemicals and bacteria, and you also get a healthy dose of exercise while you’re gardening.

• Start a compost pile. It doesn’t matter if you live on acreage and have a huge amount of green waste to compost in giant piles or live in a duplex with a tiny backyard. All of the organic stuff we throw away can be turned into very healthy soil amendments that give you one of the greatest items you will need to garden. Even in a very small yard where you might worry about compost having an odor that bothers neighbors, you can use a compost tumbler that produces fast and odor-free small amounts in a very little space.

• Incorporate water harvesting into your garden or landscape plan. It won’t be long before the monsoon rains are upon us. Don’t let any of that precious rainwater that falls on your property go to waste. Use rain barrels to catch the water from the roof; shape the earth surrounding major trees or group plantings into swales that catch rainwater and direct it to where it is needed most. Even a rain that only deposits a few tenths of an inch of moisture can make a major water savings if put to use.

• Plant shade trees on the west and south sides of your home. This cuts down the amount of electricity you use to cool the house. You will be amazed at the difference a tree makes in keeping the baking-hot afternoon sun from heating up your home. If the location is south or southwest, plant a deciduous tree (one that looses its leaves in the winter) so the desirable winter sun can help heat your home, again saving electricity or gas.

• Use low-water use plants. If you are landscaping your yard or just planting some pots for the patio – there are so many delightful plants that take very little water and look great. No, they don’t have to be cactus. All cactus are succulents, but not all succulents are cactus. Many succulents have beautiful flowers, wouldn’t dream of having spines to stick you and store their own water so you aren’t a slave to your watering and can spend the time in other activities.

Cathy Bishop, co-owner of Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery, has more than 30 years of gardening experience. E-mail her at weekendplus@tucsoncitizen.com.

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