Helping the Planet One Square Foot at a Time

By Teresa Odle

Earth Day 2010 is right around the corner on April 22; it marks the 40th anniversary of the day that celebrates the birth of the environmental movement. Just like starting a garden, the idea of saving the planet seems overwhelming. But you don’t have to organize an event or change your entire lifestyle. You can start with a square foot or so of space to grow your own food.

Back Porch ComposTumbler

Back Porch ComposTumbler

If you have no yard, try a corner of your balcony. Any area that gets about six to eight hours of sunshine a day should be able to sustain a small herb or vegetable garden. Fill it with your own soil, including some compost, which you eventually can make from kitchen scraps and yard clippings.

No matter the size of your garden spot, the concept of square-foot gardening is to divide it into small squares about one foot in size and plant one crop in each square. According to the Nature Conservancy, this technique uses 90 percent less water and 95 percent fewer seeds. It’s easier to weed a smaller garden, reducing the temptation for you to spray with herbicides.

Bonide Insecticidal Soap

Bonide Insecticidal Soap

And remember to take a sort of medical approach to your plants, especially those you’ll eat, of “first do no harm” and preventive care. This approach also helps the environment. If you keep your plants healthy with regular appropriate watering and attention, they can better fight off diseases and pests. That’s the first step and it’s totally organic.  Next, try the least toxic method of pest control first. That’s usually the no-chemical approach, such as spraying off aphids with a stream of water or picking off squash bugs and drowning them in a bucket of soapy water. The next least toxic effect is organic pest control, such as insecticidal soap. If you use these, be sure to check the time between use and when it’s safe to harvest and eat.

After you’ve planted you garden, you can add a fruit or nut tree appropriate for your zone that will produce food for your family and maybe shade a west-facing wall, which can save a little on energy costs. Then take a walk through your neighborhood or to a local park and just enjoy being outside on the planet Earth.

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