A Green Thumbs Up: How to Make Your Garden More Eco-Friendly
Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow? How about a little greener with some easy ideas to make your garden more eco-friendly?
Taking simple steps to make your garden more sustainable will help your garden and the environment in thelong run.
One way to start is by using a smarter method to water your garden. Spraying during the coolest part of the day will allow more water to seep into the ground before it evaporates. This will help you save water while keeping your garden hydrated. One of the best times of the day to water is first thing in the morning. So grab your coffee, and your garden hose and get to it.
Mulching, a technique that puts a protective layer of organic material over your soil, is also important. Mulch keeps moisture in your soil so you can conserve water. It also inhibits against weeds, which take water away from the plants.
Try making your own compost from kitchen scraps and outdoor materials such as leaves and twigs. Composting lets you recycle and repurpose scraps you would normally throw out. It also creates humus — the dark organic material in soil produced by the decomposition of vegetables and other organic matter. Humus is extremely fertile and an excellent conditioner for the soil.
Start small when making your own compost so you won’t be overwhelmed. Here is an easy, four-step guide:
1. Gather good composting materials. You want to have a nice mix of brown materials (dry leaves, dead flowers, wood chips, newspaper, straw) and green materials (food scraps, grass clippings, coffee grounds, recently pulled weeds). There is no exact ratio. Just make sure you have more brown materials than green ones and remember to leave out proteins such as meat and bones.
2. Break up and combine the materials. When practical, break up all your materials in pieces that are three-quarters of an inch to two inches in size. Then combine your brown and green material with a good shovel of soil. You can combine these in a composting bin or make a pile on the ground. Keep it at least two feet away from your house or any other structure. A good compost pile should be three feet in length, width and height.
3. Keep your pile moist and continue to turn it. With a pitchfork or shovel, turn over your compost a couple of times each week. You also need to check the moisture of the compost every time you turn it. It should be as moist as a sponge that has been wrung out. If your compost seems dry, add a little water.
4. Watch your compost transform. If the weather is ideal, your compostcould be ready to use in about two months. If making your own compost is not your thing, you can buy organic compost in the store, along with budget-friendly, chemical-free products to fertilize and enrich your plants and vegetable gardens.
To help pollinate your plants, you’ll want to attract bees and butterflies. These pollinating insects can have a positive and natural effect on your garden.They help to spread pollen, fertilizing your plants, thereby allowing them to produce the fruits and vegetables you enjoy. Plants such as lavender, sunflowers, honeysuckle, chives, parsley and mint all attract pollinators. And don’t forget to recycle and reuse your gardening supplies, such as plasticcontainers and cardboard boxes. Every little thing counts and taking even the smallest step to make your garden more eco-friendly is taking a big step in the right direction.
A Cup of Joe to Make Your Garden Grow
Coffee lovers: Hold on to your used coffee grounds. Grounds can be used to make your soil much more fertile. Coffee grounds contain nitrogen, an essential nutrient for plant growth. The grounds also contain calcium, potassium and magnesium, which help plants thrive, too.
Try mixing the coffee grounds directly into your soil. They will act as a fertilizer, adding organic material that also helps the soil retain water and drain better. The grounds also help microorganisms, are beneficial to plant growth, and attract earthworms, which are great for gardens. The tunneling effects of earthworms help loosen the soil and allow for oxygen and water to get to the roots.
Coffee grounds are also a great insect repellent and can be used to keep slugs and snails away from plants. Because coffee grounds can have a negative effect on these critters, they avoid soil where the grounds are present.
Coffee grounds not only help your garden grow, but they help to beautify it as well. Do you want to turn your hydrangeas blue? Add some coffee grounds to the soil around them.
So when you are finished with your morning Joe or 3 p.m. pick-me-up cup, hold on to your grounds. Not only will you be helping your plants, but you will be reducing food waste as well.
Dole Packaged Foods’ Sustainability Commitment
For over 70 years, Dole Packaged Foods, LLC has taken pride in finding innovative ways to package and process fruit. The group has been using some of the same farmlands across the globe to grow its beloved pineapples. Since Dole associates rely on the same land and work with the same local family farmers, they try hard to conserve the soil when growing produce. As “stewards of the land,” Dole’s workers are committed to keeping their farmlands sustainable for generations to come.
To keep the land sustainable and help the environment, Dole monitors its water usage and recycles its plastic packaging. The company conserves approximately 60 tons of plastic each year.
To reduce energy consumption in its manufacturing operations, Dole has implemented several programs, including re-lamping the canneries to use energy-efficient lights, insulating pipe lines and cookers to reduce energy loss in processing, and upgrading equipment and controls for more efficient freezer operations. Through these programs, Dole saves approximately nine million kilowatt hours of electricity and approximately 130 thousand gallons of fuel oil each year. Dole’s Thailand factory was recognized by the Ministry of Energy as the best operation in the industry.
Water conservation is another area where Dole has made changes, especially in the banana production process. The company has developed recycling programs to better manage the water flow, setting up an improved irrigation system for the bananas to ensure they’re watered only when necessary.
Dole has innovative partnerships with groups around the world and is doing amazing things, such as building chairs for schools in the Philippines and working with Captain Planet Foundation to bring gardens to children in urban areas of the United States (see related story below).
In 2003, Dole realized that 20 to 50 percent of students in the Philippines did not have desks in their classrooms due to higher school enrollments and increased material fees. To help with this problem, Dole joined forces with the Mahintana Foundation and the Chairs-for-Trees program. Most of Dole Packaged Foods’ products are transported on wood pallets. When these wood pallets can no longer be maintained, they are recycled into desk-chair combos for students.
Dole is committed to being transparent with its customers about the steps associates are taking and welcome feedback from consumers on how they are doing and what they can do to improve.
Meet The Wetlands InstituteAbove: The Wetlands Institute
Above right: A bridge for visitors. Right: Children receive a hands-on learning experience.
In the 1960s, a man named Herbert Mills loved birds and nature so much that he purchased 6,000 acres of land in New Jersey to create a world-class research, education and conservation center at the Jersey Shore. He wanted a place that could educate people about the importance of our coastal environment.
Today this center is known as The Wetlands Institute, a nonprofit organization located in Stone Harbor, New Jersey. The goal of The Wetlands Institute is to conserve the wetlands and the animals that live there. Its mission involves connecting people to the wetlands and coastal ecosystems (natural environments filled with plants and animals) in a personal way to help them understand the important role they play.
“The Wetlands Institute really focuses on connecting people back to nature so that collectively we can have a positive impact,” said Lenore Tedesco (left), executive director of The Wetlands Institute.
Wetlands are lands that are saturated with water (Think swamps and marshes). They are located all over the world, rivaling coral reefs and rainforests as the most biologically diverse ecosystems.
Wetlands provide many benefits to the environment. They protect lands against flooding during storms by acting as a buffer, holding on to water like a sponge. They also improve other ecosystems by cleaning water and controlling its flow. And did you know that 75 percent of commercial seafood depends on wetlands?
The Wetlands Institute strives to educate the public about these benefits through programs that teach people how to protect the wetlands and the animals and vegetation in them. Its staff rescues and rehabilitates diamondback terrapin turtles, horseshoe crabs, birds and other animals that live in the wetlands.
Diamond terrapin turtles are the only turtles that live in salt water. These meat-eating turtles thrive on eating snails. This helps maintain the wetlands, because snails eat the marsh grass.
Female terrapin turtles have actually been hurt or killed while leaving marshes to lay their eggs alongside roads. The Wetlands Institute initiates road patrols in which staff and volunteers work to save turtles or viable eggs from female terrapins killed by automobiles. The group saves an estimated 700 eggs a year. By removing the eggs from the terrapins and incubating them until they hatch, the group can care for the babies until they are ready to be released back into their natural habitats.
The Wetlands Institute is also helping to protect horseshoe crabs, a marine animal that lives in the shallow shores of Delaware Bay. The largest population of horseshoe crabs can be found in Delaware Bay. Horseshoe crabs play a vital role in the lives of fish and shorebirds that rely on the crab eggs for food and sustenance. Over the past 25 years, the horseshoe crab population has declined by 90 percent, mostly due to overharvesting.
Red Knot birds also rely on those horseshoe crab eggs for food. They migrate from the southern tip of South America to their breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra. They use Delaware Bay as their pit stop to feast on horseshoe crab eggs to gain weight and strength before continuing on to the tundra. With the decrease in horseshoe crabs, these birds have had difficulty migrating because they cannot get enough food.
Under a permit from the New Jersey Department of Education, The Wetlands Institute collects a limited number of horseshoe crab eggs and raises them under controlled
In addition to saving animals, The Wetlands Institute does much more to keep the marshes of the world healthy. Through its “Adopt a Terrapin or Horseshoe” programs, the organization allows people to become actively involved with the conservation of the wetlands as well.
“A big part of our work is targeted at rebalancing things and stabilizing and recovering stressed animal populations,” Tedesco said. “It’s at the core of what we do. People are a part of conservation and can become part of the thousands of small solutions that we need.”
ShopRite sponsors The Wetlands Institute’s Junior Duck Stamp Program
2015 Winning Jr. Duck Stamp Artwork
ShopRite is proud to be the corporate sponsor of The Wetlands Institute’s participation in the Federal Junior Duck Stamp Program Conservation and Design Program. The Duck Stamp Program is a national art-and-science-based curriculum/contest that teaches students in kindergarten through high school about the wetlands and waterfowl conservation. Instead of writing about what they learned, students draw artwork to express their findings.
Students choose and research a North American waterfowl species and depict it in an artistic medium. The winning artwork from the national contest becomes the design for the Junior Duck Stamp, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prints annually.
The Wetlands Institute is the official state of New Jersey site for Junior Duck Stamp entries and judging.
Spectacular Eco-Friendly Pet Care
Whether you have a Snoopy, Fido, Tweety Bird or Garfield, there are natural things you can do to keep your pets happy and help out the environment.
Instead of throwing out your clean and useable pet items, try donating them to a local shelter. Or give them to a friend or family member who might be able to use them.
Got a drawer of mismatched socks? Try making your own pet toys with them. Take one of the socks and tie a knot in the middle, then give it to your cat. The cat will love playing with it and trying to grab the knot in the center. To cats, the size and shape of the knot will seem mouse-like and they will spend endless hours trying to chase and claw at it.
You don’t have to limit your sock toys to cats. You can use socks to make dog toys as well. Grab a tennis ball and push it all the way down to where your toes would go. Then tie a tight knot directly above the tennis ball. You’ve got yourself a great throw toy for your dog. Go fetch!
Try switching from paper towels to rags or a cotton towel to wipe off dirty paws after puddle jumping with your dog. It’s a simple swap that will help to reduce paper waste because you can throw your dirty rags and towels in the washing machine to clean and reuse them.
Think about using environmentally friendly products to care for your pet. ShopRite has plenty of pet-friendly products to keep your home smelling fresh and clean. Just check our pet care, pet food and home cleaning supply aisles.
Finished reading your newspapers? Try taking them to your local animal shelters or wildlife centers. Many of these places use newspapers to line their cages and are always changing them for sanitary purposes. Check with your local animal shelter before dropping them off.