By Marsha Haefner
In April, two special celebrations, Earth Day and Arbor Day, are perfect reminders that our environment is fragile – it needs to be nurtured and respected. As the planting season begins and gardeners everywhere get ready to “dig in,” things will be a bit different this year. We’re all faced with a challenge that we can no longer ignore.
Have you ever thought about some of the new words that didn’t even exist several years ago, but are now a part of our every day vocabulary? “Call my cell. What’s your email? Do you have a website? MP3 Player, PDA” – you get the picture. Anyone who has listened to the news or read just about anything in print has become familiar with a few more words that are going to have more meaning and importance that ever before.
Eco-friendly and sustainable are words that now describe how we will build our houses, our cars and yes, even how we will garden. This is not just a trend that a few of us will embrace. Like him or not, Al Gore has given us a lot to think about. We’re reminded everyday that many of the choices we make in our day-to-day living have a lasting impact on the future of our environment.
And, how about the word “green“? It’s not just a color anymore. Green describes an entire lifestyle that serves as a call to save our planet. Just Google “green lifestyle” and you will get pages and pages of articles to read. Did you know there is even a Top 10 list of how to live green? Here are some suggestions for achieving many of them:
- Unplug things not in use. We could avoid “plugging in” by selecting solar powered garden accents for outdoor areas. They’re beautiful, easy to install and really work!
- Use less water. Drip irrigation in garden areas is perfect for this one. It’s not difficult to install and is becoming more available for home gardeners.
- Choose products with less packaging, buy organic and locally grown products, drive less. Independent garden centers are full of locally grown plants that don’t require extra packaging or waste fuel by shipping from other regions. And, many of the plant varieties that are grown locally were selected because they thrive in the St Louis area. Look for Grow Native and Plants of Merit logos on plants – they are great choices to consider.
- Plant a tree. Planting trees is what gardeners love to do!
- Recycle. Many independent garden centers throughout the St Louis area have pot recycling bins available for their customers, making it easy for everyone to participate.
- Spread the word. Gardeners love to talk and share ideas with others. This one is easy!
Perhaps the most important point of all of this is that when each of us makes small adjustments in the way we do simple things, collectively there is a huge impact. You probably never thought about the commercial growers in our area, and how they go about the business of producing their crops. Many use thermal blankets at night to reduce greenhouse spaces that require heat. Some have watering systems that recycle run-off, along with drip irrigation systems.
Several use recycled material as fuel for their heating systems. Roll-out bench systems allow growers to double-up crops in covered spaces that require heat. Have you ever noticed greenhouses with side walls that roll up during the day and down at night? This natural ventilation system greatly reduces the amount of electricity needed during warm weather.
Becoming eco-friendly is a process, not something you should hope to achieve all at once. Gardeners are off to a great start because we already love planting things! When you are ready to make some positive changes, start with something simple. Using only natural or organic plant care products this year could be your beginning. Or maybe this will be the spring you decide to learn more about planting a garden that provides a habitat for butterflies, bees and birds. Wonderful things can happen in your garden during your journey to a more sustainable lifestyle. Soon the world will recognize that having a “green thumb” has a new meaning too!
Marsha Haefner is the owner and retail manager of For The Garden by Haefner’s in South St Louis County. Prior to its opening in 2004, she and her husband Greg ran a major wholesale grower operation for 25 years.