Green Gardening Tips for Earth Day 2010

Earth Day is a good time to rethink lawn and garden practices and find ways to make sure your landscape is as green as it looks.

It would seem that green and gardening go together naturally, but that isn’t always the case. Most lawns are kept green and weed free with synthetic fertilizers and toxic herbicides, bags of grass clippings and garden waste head for the landfill and over-watering is all too common.

Do you have a sustainable landscape that uses natural resources wisely? Do you use practices to eliminate soil and water pollution? Are you working to reduce waste?

Earth Day is the ideal time to take a close look at all our gardening practices to make sure each one is promoting the long-term well being of the environment.

For several years, I’ve been trying to follow the lead of the landscape industry and working toward “zero-waste gardening” in my own backyard.

Landscaping companies try to reduce the amount of waste on their commercial and residential projects by finding ways to keep debris out of the waste stream. Not only does this help the environment, it helps reduce costs, too.

Gardeners can set a zero waste goal for their landscapes, too.  Zero-waste gardening means examining common lawn and garden practices and finding ways to “reduce, reuse and recycle.”

Here are a few ideas for your own zero-waste effort:


  • Switch to a reel lawn mower to reduce air pollution.
  • Use organic lawn care methods to reduce the need for herbicides and synthetic chemical fertilizers.
  • Shop for plants in pots made from biodegradable materials.
  • Maintain and manage sprinkler systems to reduce water waste.


  • Reuse plastic bags for making leaf compost by filling with leaves, poking holes in the bags and letting nature create compost over the winter.
  • Use evergreen branches as plant protection during freezing weather or create a brush pile as shelter for birds and small mammals.
  • Use pruned branches as a substitute for purchased plant stakes.
  • Turn a leaky bird bath into an interesting planter or bird feeder.
  • Place discarded tree stumps in the yard for handy seating or as a base for a sundial.


  • Shred leaves, dead annuals and perennial prunings to use as mulch or dig right into the soil for added nutrients.
  • Recycle extra plants and leftover garden pots by hosting a plant exchange with your friends and neighbors each spring and fall.
  • Use trimmed vines or plants with long feathery foliage to create wreathes, swags or other outdoor decorations.

What tips do you have for zero-waste gardening? Add a green gardening tip in the comments section and you’ll be entered in an Earth Day Drawing to win special gifts from Authentic Haven Brand Natural Soil Conditioner Teas and Aha! Modern Living.


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If I buy plants in plastic containers I either reuse them for planting seedlings, or return them back to the nursery to be reused again. Some nurseries will even give a credit for future purchases if you bring your containers back.

I started vermicomposting this year and I LOVE it! Thanks to my city’s amazing recycling program, and the fact that I now have almost zero food waste going out, I only have one Target-sized garbage bag going out per week. Yahoo!

My little wormies also provide amazing compost for my garden.

Shread your newspapers into thin strips and mix them into your compost bin/pile.

I re-use every plastic plant container that I can get my hands on! They are great for transplanting, sharing plants and starting seeds! I even re-used my seed trays from last year and instead of buying an expensive mini-green house, I frankensteined an old plastic storage box to make my own!
My goal for 2010 is to be more water-wise: re-configure my watering plan and take out some grass and plant with California natives that don’t need a TON of water!
Happy Earth Day!

Some earth-friendly tips for Earth Day: 1) plant more natives and drought-tolerant plants; 2) recycle your plastic plant containers at your nursery; 3) make your own composter with a round black plastic trash and holes drilled on the top, sides and bottoms. Easy to roll for speedier composting…

Just wanted to add… for homemade composter, I meant black plastic trashCAN… not the actual trash itself. 😉

I only buy yogurt containers that r suitable in shape/size to start seeds. When I am done using them, rise them out and put them in recycling. Then start all over again, year after year.

We have two rain barrels & that has been a big help in keeping the veggies watered. The public water supply is chlorinated and that’s not really best.

We have two compost bins, one for kitchen scraps and one for yard debris.

We just dug up 1/2 of our front lawn to put in more veggies, herbs and a few flowers. We hope to freeze and can enough to last us thru February or longer.

I love to compost and recycle, but I live on the 3rd floor of apartment building. So I use one drawer in my refrigerator to store compostable kitchen scraps, which I take weekly to a client’s house for the three piles I have going there. My recycling goes down three flights of stairs and on the other end of my complex into the bins my apartment manager fought to have placed there!

This year will be my first real attempt at gardening so my tip is, don’t go crazy planting unless you have people to share with. Not eating everything you grow is just as wasteful as tossing out food you bought. If you have too much ask friends, neighbors and family if they’d like some home grown veggie goodness, chances are they’ll be more than happy to help you keep the food from going to waste.

I use 3-lb. plastic coffee cans and freeze table scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, etc., and rotate the full can to the back porch to thaw. I have several of these cans, so I always have an empty one to put back in the bottom of the freezer. Nothing smelly, and the freezing-thawing action helps the compost break down much more quickly.

About composting things in plastic bags… in my experience, the business of leaving plastic bags outside for a season in a sunny place like Texas results in plastic that partially decomposes and loses integrity. In essence, things like leaves, dirt, gravel end up with lots of plastic bits in them when I try to clean up the mess and salvage the contents. Keep all plastic bags in the shade if at all possible, or allow leaves to compost in paper yard waste bags at or near the site they’ll be used as compost.

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