Save money and help the planet with sustainable garden practices – Newport News Times


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In a world of increasing climate change and the invasion of more exotic insects and pests, sustainable gardening is more important than ever.We can all do our part to help by changing our practices — often just by a bit, depending on the methods you’ve already put in place. And if it all seems too overwhelming, take it one step at a time. You’ll help the environment and at the same time, save money and join a community of like-minded gardeners who love to share their experiences.To get you started or to increase your repertoire of sustainable practices, consider these suggestions by Oregon State University Extension Service horticulturists.• Check your property for invasive weeds. An invasive species is an introduced organism that negatively alters its new environment. In Oregon, there are many invasive plants that meet this definition. Keep them from establishing on your property. Monitor for invasive plants and take action before they become a bigger problem. — Weston Miller, OSU Extension horticulturist• Home orchard care: The sustainable home orchard starts with the selection of size-controlling rootstocks. Tree size can be maintained between 6-9 feet tall when using dwarf or semi-dwarf rootstocks. Small trees are also easier to work with when pruning, thinning, spraying and picking, saving you time throughout the year. — Steve Renquist, OSU Extension horticulturist• Plant a cover crop: Soil is the basis of any garden, especially sustainable ones when you don’t want to use a lot of chemical fertilizer. Cover crops provide many benefits to the soil by reducing erosion and runoff, increasing water infiltration and increasing organic matter. Legume cover crops act as a fertilizer and fix nitrogen into the soil. — Erica Chernoh, OSU Extension horticulturist• Share tools: There’s no need to purchase your own specialty tools or small equipment (think long-handled branch pruners, lawn edgers or rototillers). See if there is a community tool sharing program in your area or reach out to your neighbors to share. If you need your own, check for used items at estate sales or a home improvement donation store. Ditch the plastic. Join forces with close neighbors to order soil, compost, mulch or other amendments in bulk instead of purchasing plastic bagged product. — Brooke Edmunds, OSU Extension horticulturist• Reduce plastic: Reduce single-use plastic pots in the garden by starting seeds at home in cardboard egg cartons, toilet paper tubes or even homemade newspaper pots. If you want to start seed in larger containers, look to repurpose plastic tubs or containers from home (repurposed yogurt containers work well). Buy bare root plants. At the nursery, look for pots made from compostable materials. — Gail Langellotto, OSE Extension Master Gardener statewide coordinator and professor of horticulture• Reduce pesticide use: Replace pest-prone plants with ones that don’t require frequent pesticide use. Learn more about the particular pests in your garden and seek alternative methods of control. Recognize that some pest problems might be an issue of perspective and tolerance. — Gail Langellotto, OSU Extension Master Gardener statewide coordinator and professor of horticulture• Reduce water use through plant selection. One way to be sustainable in the garden is to reduce water use. Special irrigation systems are often installed as a way to decrease the amount of water applied or wasted. An even better way is to use plants in the garden that are drought-tolerant and do not require any applied irrigation. The Willamette Valley climate is semi-Mediterranean with a summer dry period, therefore establishing plants that can tolerate these conditions is a good way to have a low-maintenance and sustainable garden. Plants that are native to our region will accomplish this goal, but there are also a number of plants that are native to other Mediterranean regions that will also tolerate our summer drought. A trial is currently underway at OSU’s North Willamette Research and Extension Center evaluating drought-tolerant groundcover plants as part of the Northwest Plant Evaluation Program, which has also evaluated other landscape plants grown without irrigation, including manzanita, grevillea, rockrose and California lilac. Some of these plant selections, as well as many other drought-tolerant plants, can be found at local nurseries and be planted in unirrigated areas of the landscape as a way to decrease water use in gardens. For more information, go to

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