Reducing waste with your garden

We need to be reminded of the importance of our environment and how irreplaceable it is should we destroy it

Oct. 15 to 21 is Waste Reduction Week across Canada.

We need to be reminded of the importance of our environment and how irreplaceable it is should we destroy it.

This program has done much since its inauguration in 1984 to raise awareness of how wasteful our consumption has become and how it translates into our environment. People are sorting their garbage and redirecting items such as organics, plastic, metal and other materials away from the landfill.

Reports show that recycling is reclaiming almost 40 percent of what used to go to the dumps. This translates into an extended lifespan of our landfills and that is good. But we still cannot see the forest for the refuse piles yet. We could do better.

One place to look for help in improving our carbon footprint is in our gardens. And you do not have to be a fanatical gardener or have a large garden to participate. Postage-size patio and balcony gardens can also help to reduce waste.

We should be turning our kitchen scraps into compost. Grass clippings are also good for the compost pile.

By adding leaves, woodchips, sawdust, cardboard and/or newspaper you will generate a good balance of nitrogen (green materials) and carbon (brown materials) in your compost. A little moisture and allowing air into the pile will add heat and greatly speed up the whole process of turning your “waste” into good enriched soil for the garden.

And it does not take long. Following this recipe, our latest batch only took four weeks from waste to friable soil. Well, OK…we had a tarp on it and August was definitely hot, although our compost bins are sited in almost complete shade.

Using compost to top-dress the borders, fill our pots and enrich the vegetable garden will give you healthy plants, save you money and cut down on emissions.

No need to buy soil or amendments and have it trucked in. The expense of pest management becomes non-existent because healthy plants do a good job of warding off pests by themselves.

The BC Recycling Council estimates if we all compost our organics, we can potentially divert 225 kilograms per person of material from the landfills each year.

Which leads us to water conservation. How are we doing in that sector?

Not good, according to Environment Canada. They claim, per capita, Canadians rank amongst the highest for water usage…in the world.

With the demand for water on the rise and water tables shrinking through increased and prolonged periods of drought, we are gradually whittling away at our water resources. And let us not forget how much pollution is impacting on the safety of our water supply.

In the garden, we can conserve water in a number of creative ways. Mulching the borders around the plants cuts down on the need to water. Incorporating native plants used to our particular growing conditions is another way. And we should all be collecting  rain water off our roofs.

If you must have some water-hog plants in your landscape, install a drip line that will deliver water right where it is needed. An inverted milk jug with a finishing nail-size hole in the lid also makes a good water supplier, especially if you are going to be away for a few days.

This is only the tip of the iceberg in how we can recycle in the garden.

What ideas do you have on reducing your waste in the garden setting? Think about it. Our environment and natural resources are important…we cannot replace them once they are lost.

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at www.duchessofdirt.ca and her column appears every second Friday in the Record.

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