The National Garden Bureau Presents
A Garden In Every Yard . . . Or Roof
The National Garden Bureau begins an initiative to encourage “A Garden In Every Yard…Or Roof” This slogan is our mission to convert people into gardeners to benefit the environment, our planet, and our communities. No one is exempt from our green movement; even urbanites can garden on roofs.
GREEN SPACES OR PARKING LOTS
“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”1 Today green space continues to disappear—turned into another mall, fast-food restaurant or subdivision. To counter this assault on the environment, it is important that an appreciation of the outdoors is nurtured in adults and children.
Researchers at Washington State University recently completed a study2 showing that a love of plants and nature in adults goes back to their experiences as a child. While active participation such as planting trees and picking flowers created the strongest attitudes, merely growing up with a garden, being near trees and plants, and visiting parks during childhood resulted in positive adult values towards the environment.
Gardening is an excellent way for adults to connect with kids; a time when everyone can step back from the fast pace of daily life and relax. Sharing activities with children can bring a sense of excitement and play that opens us up to seeing things from a simpler perspective. The miracle of planting a seed and watching it grow into a beautiful flower or a delicious vegetable creates a lasting memory. A child’s enthusiasm when digging a hole or pulling weeds can be inspiring.
Want to have some fun? A fort made of giant sunflowers or a teepee “built” from climbing pole beans makes a great hideout. Grow some moonflowers and explore the garden after dark with a flashlight. Kid-sized, miniature pumpkins can be picked from the creeping, crawling vines that spread over the ground, while containers of fragrant pansies provide beautiful flower bouquets to give to teachers and neighbors.
As the plants in the garden grow and the birds, butterflies and insects visit, kids discover how to care for the environment in a variety of ways. Children find out how those wriggling, crawling worms are great for the soil and why that cute little bunny needs to be kept away from the row of lettuce. Gardening and appreciation of nature can carry over into other aspects of a child’s life. Lessons in sharing and community awareness are easily learned when extra vegetables from the garden are given to the local food bank or a bouquet of flowers is a gift for an elderly neighbor. Learning to value trees and flowers can broaden into a more general respect for people and property in the community.
Sharing the love of gardening with children makes a lasting contribution to the planet. There are also many ways that gardeners can have an immediate impact on their own environment at home and in the garden.
Recycle. Bottles, cans, and newspapers are just the beginning. In the garden, grass clippings, vegetable peelings, and faded flowers can be recycled by making a simple compost pile that turns these “waste” materials into rich, organic material. Compost can be added to garden beds, planting holes and lawns to improve the health of the soil. Fertile soil grows healthy plants reducing the need for fertilizers.
Minimize chemical use. Reduce the use of chemicals in the garden by choosing flowers and vegetables with improved disease and insect resistance. In addition to pest resistance, newer varieties have been developed for better flavor, improved flower color, and overall strong plant growth. Practice companion planting—growing certain herbs and flowers near other plants to help control unwanted insects naturally.
Many different types of organic pesticides and fertilizers are available at nurseries and garden centers, hardware stores, and even the big home improvement and discount chains. Gardening publications, web sites, and experienced gardeners offer home remedies and other methods that use less toxic materials. And no matter what type of chemical, natural or synthetic, always read the instructions and use according to the label.
Encourage wildlife to visit the garden. Gardeners can attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife to the yard by selecting plants that provide food and shelter throughout the seasons. It’s fun to watch butterflies as they travel from flower to flower feeding on sweet nectar while the excitement of fast-moving hummingbirds can provide hours of enjoyment. Garden plants also provide seeds, fruits and berries for birds and animals to feed on during the fall and winter months.
For many people the sight of bees immediately brings out “fear.” It’s important for children and adults to be aware that not all insects in the garden are bad. Bees are “good guys” in a garden. Bees not only pollinate flowers and vegetables in the garden, but on farms and orchards that produce the food we buy in the grocery store. In addition to pollination, many insects help control the bugs that actually cause damage to garden plants.
Think “green”. Today many garden products from edging and containers to garden art are being made from recycled materials. Support companies that use recycled paper and plastic in their products. Find uses for things that might otherwise be thrown away. Using a big tire as a flowerpot in the front yard may not suit your taste, but an old wicker basket may make a nice “natural” plant container or bird feeder.
Tropical woods such as teak and mahogany are beautiful, long-lasting materials for the outdoors. Before purchasing wood garden furniture or decking, look for tags that show the wood has been harvested from environmentally friendly production methods.
Save energy, get exercise. Push or reel mowers are making a comeback for both environmental and practical reasons. Quieter, less expensive, and safer to use around children than power mowers, the “old-fashioned” mowers also do a great job of cutting the grass. And while the unsettling roar of the leaf blower is all too common, rakes and brooms are better for the environment. These traditional garden tools not only prevent air and noise pollution, they also provide good exercise for improved health.
Celebrate the environment. Earth Day and Arbor Day celebrations held throughout April are ready-made occasions to show appreciation for the environment. Participate in planned activities or schedule your own gardening event. Birthdays, anniversaries and other special days are wonderful occasions to observe by planting a window box, a tree or an entire garden. Other ways to give back to nature include donating time, energy or money to a community garden, park or botanical garden, and remember to help organizations that work globally to protect the environment.
Gardeners have an impact on the environment that extends beyond nourishment and beauty. Whether a seed is planted or a child is encouraged, gardening shows an appreciation of nature and caring for our planet that leads to a better life for those living now and generations to come.
1 Mitchell, Joni (Lyricist and Vocalist). Big Yellow Taxi [Single]. (1970). Ladies of the Canyon [Album] (1970)
2 Children’s Active and Passive Interactions with Plants Influence Their Attitudes and Actions Toward Trees and Gardening as Adults, HortTech, American Society for Horticultural Science, July-September, 2005, Vol. 15, No. 3.
We recognize Janis Kieft as the author of this article.
These web sites offer excellent information free of charge to encourage greening of your yard, school, and community.