Gardening with Laurie: Make smart environmental choices

April 21, 2010 at midnight
Updated April 20, 2010 at 11:21 p.m.

By Laurie Garretson

On this day 40 years ago, our nation held the very first Earth Day. The founder of this event, Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, had worked for seven years to build interest in our environment. When he realized he couldn't get enough support from fellow politicians, he took his concerns to the general public. This was a time when anti-Vietnam war demonstrations where happening on college campuses all across the country. Nelson hoped this "protest energy" could also help to get the public concerned about the environment.

In 1969, he announced that in the spring of 1970, there would be a nationwide demonstration on behalf of the environment, and everyone was encouraged to participate. Participate they did. Thousands of schools and local communities from throughout the country, and more than 20 million demonstrators, participated in the first Earth Day event. From there, this annual event grew to include the world.

Today, most people know the importance of caring for the environment. Children are taught from an early age that they can make a big difference in the world by the environmental choices they make. It's many of the older population that are still stuck in their ways and need to be persuaded to help with the crisis.

Natural gardeners know you must garden responsibly to create a healthy environment, not only in our own yards, but in our communities, states and the world. We know events like Earth Day can help to remind us to make wise choices as we tend to our lawns and gardens.

Simple things like using natural fertilizers could be your first step to helping the cause. Keep in mind that anything that goes on your soil will end up in our streams, rivers and oceans. Today, much of the ocean life is in danger because of all the years of conventional gardening practices.

Planting more native plants in your landscape requires less water and fertilizer usage than non-natives. Native plants can still provide the color and beauty, while lowering water usage.

Start your own compost pile. Everyone has kitchen scraps, and most of us have yard trash. Both of these ingredients are a good to start for your own batch of garden gold, otherwise known as compost. If we all composted our kitchen and lawn scraps, we could help to reduce materials taken to our landfills by 26 percent.

When you water your landscape, remember that watering less frequently and for longer periods will help to produce a deeper root system on plants and your lawn. This is good for all plants, and it helps to conserve water in the long run.

Setting your mower to a cutting height of 2 to 3 inches can help to eliminate unwanted weeds. The taller blades of grass can help to shade out many types of lawn weeds.

Invest in a mulching mower. Grass clippings should be added back to the soil, not bagged and sent to the landfill.

Mulch all bare soil. Bare soil is just an invitation to weeds. Plus, we all know that mulch helps keep moisture in the soil and that means less watering.

I realize all of this information is not anything you don't already know. I figured Earth Day was just another good opportunity to remind everyone to consider all the choices we make - choices that impact the health of our landscapes, cities, country, planet and, ultimately, the next generation.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.



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