Summer is in full swing and we have our weekly date with the lawn mower or a lawn care bill to pay. Many use chemicals to enhance the lawn, which pollute groundwater and injure people and wildlife. This all occurs because there is an out-dated mindset that a green, “weed” free lawn is desirable. (Much of what is denounced as weeds, can actually be used in herbal medicine for better health). The only benefit to a lawn that I can see is that it has some aesthetic appeal. In my mind, this is not a very good trade-off. What if we could find a way to provide eye appeal to the space in front of or on the side of our house, which would also protect the environment from pollution, provide family time together and actually give you food in return for the the money you pay? Happily, there are many brave pioneers, who have challenged the old beliefs, and done just that. Melanie Banks, formerly of Lehighton, is one who has created a beautiful, productive environment in the side yard of her northeast Philadelphia home. She explained that while her front yard is tiny, her side yard provides space for a lawn. Instead, she has chosen for the past two years to plant an organic garden.
“I have no reason to use pesticides,” she said. “I don’t see a need for it. We weren’t meant to be around these chemicals.”
Ladybugs, which are used in organic farming to eat bugs which eat crops, are prevalent in northeast Philadelphia, she said. In addition, she says that she and her children pick off what predator bugs they find and dispose of them. Some organic farmers also use dish soap to kill the predator bugs.
Banks says that her children, Declan 9, Sage 7, and Kiera 6 love their time in the garden. “They do a great job with weeding and watering, “ she said. As an added bonus, there is no problem getting her children to eat their vegetables. “I kept thinking I would have enough snap peas for a few meals, but the kids eat them straight from the garden,” she said.
Banks also grows spinach, radishes, carrots, green beans, tomatoes turnips and cantaloup. She said that she purchased one by six inch lumber from Lowes or Home Depot and screwed the corners together. This helps to separate the vegetables as well as provide deeper growing space. She then added organic potting soil and used organic seed from Home Depot. Plants are watered once a day in the summer and twice a week during the other seasons. Banks has a crop yield from April through October.
See more photos below:
Many Urban dwellers are also planting roof top gardens. These gardens actually improve the climate of the city and help preserve water by reducing evapotranspiration (the transport of water into the atmosphere from surfaces including soil and vegetation). The US National Wildlife Federation sponsors Backyard Wildlife Habitat, which encourages people to bring nature to their own home. Web site You can actually have your backyard certified as a wildlife habitat. The book, Gardening for Wildlife teaches people how to create backyard habitats for natural plans and wildlife. (Check the ad from Amazon to the right, to order this book.)
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