As I sat down to write the introduction to my latest book: The green Gardener’s Guide; simple, significant actions to protect and preserve our planet, I realized that this relatively simple assignment allowed me to slow down long enough to put into words why this book is so important to gardeners.
Sure, ‘going green’ is in these days. But I believe it is especially important for gardeners and weekend warriors to recognize the impact we have on this whole concept of being eco-friendly. As a group, we are one of the largest offenders– yet possess the ability to make one of the most positive and measurable changes.
Take me for example. If you were to find yourself in my garden shed years ago, it would look a lot different than it does today. Back then, the floor was crammed with every gas powered tool on wheels, the walls crowded and draped with gas trimmers, clippers and blowers. The shelves were a storehouse for every pesticide, herbicide, fungicide and fertilizer a gardener could have on hand to handle any real, perceived or potential problem.
Over the years, I’ve come around 180 degrees. Before ‘going green’ was trendy, I began phasing out my own personal arsenal of chemical weapons used to wage war on anything in the garden that I didn’t put there myself.
Today I still have plenty of tools but I’ve done away with the worst environmental offenders. My big manly blower has been replaced by a less powerful but more convenient rechargeable model. Two of my three noisy, air polluting lawn mowers have been recycled and the fate of the third is in jeopardy as I look to trade it for a push-powered reel mower.
I can’t put my finger on a single event leading to this turning point. I think for me, it was more of a series of personal observations, all independent of each other yet collectively working together into an ecological awakening.
One of the first things to go was the pesticides. During my transition, it really hit home when I learned how few bugs in any garden are actually considered pests. As it turns out, it’s only about 3%. And yet, how often do we want to eliminate all the bugs, just to get the few real offenders. And if that weren’t bad enough, if the directions on the label (assuming we read them) said to use one tablespoon per gallon, we use 2, 3, 5 or even 10 times that because we think “more is better”.
In the process of our non-selective, all out assaults, we are killing entire populations of beneficial insects, there to control problems naturally. Then we felt the need to eliminate certain types of ‘green vegetation’ that didn’t quite meet our standards for appropriate lawns or garden-worthy plants.
In an effort to get and keep those very lawns and gardens looking green and lush, we have carpeted them with herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers. Then we water them to excess wasting an increasingly precious resource in the process.
As we apply chemicals of every sort to solve any potential problem, we rarely think about the consequences. The water we waste on our lawns and gardens has led to critical shortages in many areas. Even the mowers and power equipment we use in a single hour pollutes more than scores of cars at rush hour.
As well intentioned users of products meant to promote beautiful landscapes and gardens, we have become the abusers. It’s time for all of us to be more accountable for the footprint we are leaving behind. In fact, even if the only change any of us made was to change how we use what we have, collectively we’d make a significant difference in the positive impact on our environment.
It all adds up. Some will do much, others very little, but if we all do something, we’ll be well on our way to creating a more eco-friendly garden, not only for ourselves but for the one we all share and cultivate together.