Gardens could be greener

When I've been asked about being a "green" gardener, I don't recall a single person saying they did not care or did not want to be green.

I'm not using "green" in the sense of being new to gardening. Rather, I'm referring to gardening practices that help remove carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere instead of adding more.

Because green gardening practices include being thoughtful about the use of fertilizers, pesticides and water, we can easily lead ourselves to believe that we are being "green." But this line of thinking often overlooks some of the major ways many of us are actually adding to the Earth's greenhouse-gas problem.

For instance, trees remove most of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so having a yard consisting mostly of grass, ornamental flowers, a few shrubs and a vegetable garden doesn't really have much affect on reducing those gases. That's especially true if we use gas-powered tools, such as a lawn mower, trimmer, leaf blower and rototiller, which add large amounts of carbon to the air.

When you consider the consumption of fertilizers and water, plus the use of power tools, the most expensive plant we grow is grass. So, for starters, we might think about reducing the size of our lawns.

A lot of carbon is released during every phase of the production and distribution of commercial fertilizers, pesticides, bagged soils and soil additives. Not only is energy consumed in their production, but more is used to manufacture the bags and transport the products to the stores and then to our homes.

If you use compost to feed your soil, I applaud you. If you compost your own yard waste, you won't need to purchase the commercially bagged kind. If your yard and kitchen don't produce enough compost for your use, purchase what you need in bulk from a local source.

Another green idea is to purchase plants and seeds which have been grown nearby, not shipped from great distances. This not only reduces the amount of energy used to get them here, they will grow better because they don't need to adjust to changes in climate. This is another reason to include native plants in your landscape.

When you divide perennials or purchase seeds and seedlings, trade and share them with friends and neighbors. This type of neighborly exchange reduces transportation costs and out-of-pocket spending, while increasing friendships.

I recently read about a woman who had lost a precious ring while working in her garden several years ago. This past fall, as she pulled carrots from her garden, she found that one of the carrots had grown through her ring! So, you never can tell what treasures you may find with good gardening practices.

Coming up: Chris Hubert of Quail Run Vineyard will hold a workshop on growing grapes in the home garden. The class, which includes hands-on pruning, will be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road, Central Point. Cost is $10. Call 541-776-7371 for information.

Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. Email her at

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