Planning your eco-friendly yard & garden


by Catherine Haug, March 24, 2012

(photo, right from

The Bigfork Eagle included a great article in their Living Green supplement this week: “Tips for an eco-friendly garden space.” I’m sorry I cannot give credit to whomever wrote it, because the article doesn’t include the author’s name. Read on for my take on the three ideas, one of my own, and links to other articles on this subject.


Mulching helps the soil retain water, so you can water your garden and beds less. And as the mulch breaks down it is an important source of nutrients. In this way, it helps reduce reliance on fertilization, a practice not good for the environment if you use synthetic fertilizers like Miracle Grow ©.

One of the tenets of sustainability is to find practical uses for all ‘waste’ products, and fallen leaves is a case in point. Do you rake up your leaves into a trash bag and take them to the green boxes? If so you’re missing out on a great opportunity. Because using leaves to make mulch not only conserves the leaves but also water. Of course, the time to rake leaves is in the fall (see my earlier post: What to do with all those leaves: mulch, mold, & compost), but there are other types of mulch from waste produces as well.

Fallen or pruned tree branches and twigs, or tree bark from lumber mills make excellent decorative mulch. Lawn clippings can be added to mulch or compost. Finished compost from your pile can also be used as mulch.

Flowering plants

Flowering plants – especially native flowers – help maintain a natural ecosystem and provide food and shelter for insects and other wildlife. Our honeybees are dying from CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder, which is believed to be caused by a combination of farm/garden chemicals). Our native bumblebees are also threatened; native mason bees could be threatened as well. We can help them survive in this unfriendly world, by providing flowering plants for food and shelter.

The Eagle article also makes the point: the more of your landscape dedicated to flowers, shrubs and/or garden, the less lawn you have to mow, and the less precious fuel you use (and greenhouse gasses produced).

See also my article The EssentiaList:  Pollinators and Their HabitatGathering Summary: Pollinators & their Habitat, and Gathering Summary: Managing an Organic Beehive

“Live and let live”

While there are some insects & spiders that are pests in the garden, far more can be a gardener’s best friend. Most insecticide sprays affect both the friendly and unfriendly insects, and can actually cause more harm than good in the garden.

This is especially true when it comes to spiders. These predatory animals help keep harmful insects in check. And have you noticed there are far fewer daddy longlegs around these days? These wonderful spiders prey on harmful insects and harmful spiders (including the hobo spider), and can be harmed by sprays intended for hobos.

Bees and butterflies are essential to a garden, to provide pollination; but spraying for ‘bad’ insects also harms or even kills those you want to keep.

Earthworms are essential for gardens, by helping to aerate and fertilize the soil. They also remove harmful matter from the soil, thus helping your plants grow and mature.

For more see Beneficial Insects and Spiders

Rainwater collection

This topic was not discussed in the Eagle’s article, but collecting rainwater off roofs is one of the best ways to water your garden and beds. The water warms in the collecting vessel so is the perfect temperature for your thirsty plants.

See Gathering Summary: Rainwater Collection (7/23/08) for more.

Additional Idea Resources


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