Friday, April 9, 2010

It's Not An All or Nothing Thing

As the 40th anniversary of Earth Day approaches on April 22, 2010, many people are thinking globally by acting locally to do what they can as an individual to better care for the planet we live on.  We tend to take for granted those things we've got that we've always had.  Our earth is no different, but hopefully we're becoming more environmentally aware and are doing something to help preserve our natural resources.

Jan of Thanks For Today has been hosting the Garden Bloggers Sustainable Living Project for the last couple of months.  Bloggers all over the world are contributing their thoughts on the subject of sustainable living with the hopes of creating awareness and providing suggestions for ways we can all do our part. Please visit her blog, where you can find links to the participating bloggers. And now, my thoughts...

I'm asked all the time how I feel about global warming and if I recycle and if I garden organically and if I save rainwater or compost.  These are issues I never even thought much about until the last few years, as I got serious about my gardening.

Gardening will do that to you.  You start out thinking you'll grow some flowers or some vegetables and that will be that.  Then the butterflies show up.  And the birds.  And the insects, oh, the insects.


When I first started out, I thought nothing of grabbing the strongest thing I could find to kill the nasty bugs. But as I learned more about what I was doing, I sought out a more natural pesticide and fungicide, settling on Neem oil formulas.  They worked and they weren't harmful to the good guys.

Many times I simply use the garden hose and spray bugs off with water. If you do that often enough, the bugs seems to get the message that you don't want them there. And sometimes I just pick them off by hand, like those icky bagworms you see in the photo here.


As the first summer of my gardening wore on and the garden began to produce as much waste as it did flowers and veggies, it seemed silly not to make use of the deadheaded flowers and the vegetable plants and vines that no longer bore fruit.

I first learned about composting from my Swiss pen pal when Romie and I visited them in Switzerland in 1987.  They explained the pile at the back of their house and how they used it to enrich the garden soil.  It made total sense to me, and though I didn't begin gardening until many years later, in 2005, I remembered that compost pile.  So we started one of our own and Romie later built bins.

Collecting Rain

A couple of summers ago, I grew Pelargoniums in clay pots on our front porch. I had a problem with the leaves yellowing.  We had visitors from California and Mimi asked me if we had sulfur water.  She told me Pelargoniums don't like that.  She would know, because she works as a breeder for a company that grows them.

Mimi suggested I make use of a rain barrel so I could water my Pelargoniums with the collected rain water.  Romie brought home a barrel from work and placed it under our downspout on the pool house and I was amazed at just how quickly that barrel filled up during a short rain.  I started using that water for my Pelargoniums (and other plants) and no more yellow leaves.  So while my motivation wasn't one of saving water, the end result was.

Rain, running into our rain barrel

Inside the house, I recycle water, too.  During the winter, there are about 50 plants overwintering on shelves with lights.  They're on a light watering schedule since it's so much cooler down there and my goal is to just keep them alive and semi-dormant. We run a dehumidifier down there and I use the collected water from it to water the plants.  It always is just the right amount.


Classic recycling practices have always been a part of our married life.  The recycling movement in the United States began when I was in junior high and high school.  It was then that collecting pop cans and returning glass pop bottles to the store for two cents a bottle became a way of life.  Then came cardboard, plastic and newspapers.  I almost can't remember when we didn't recycle these things.

Saving Gas

Emissions controls were put into use in cars about the time I started driving.  More attention was paid to gas mileage than ever before because of so-called gas shortages.  I can remember sitting in many a gas line in the mid-70s.

I also learned not to make "jack-rabbit starts" when starting up again from a traffic light and to this day I look ahead to the light as I approach it to see if it has turned yellow so I can take my foot off the accelerator and coast to a stop. Old habits die hard, but that's one that is a good habit to have and I'll do it as long as I drive.

We live out in the country, so we can't take public transportation to work or even ride our bicycles, since our workplaces are too far away. But we try to plan errands around our work schedules so we don't have to make unnecessary trips to town.

Global Warming

Now, about global warming. I'm not sure I should state my opinion of it here. Let's just say that I'll acknowledge that it may be happening, but I'm of the mind that the earth is and will always be in a state of change and that there's probably very little that we can do to stop it.

That being said, I feel there's no excuse to be irresponsible and wasteful either.  Whether you are to the left or to the right of the issue of sustainability or somewhere in the middle, and whether or not you think what you can do will make a difference, I urge you to ask yourself if there aren't little things you can do to be less wasteful and more mindful of the space on earth you've been granted the privilege to live upon.

It may seem trite to say, but it's true - every little bit helps.


garden girl said...

Kudos for all you do Kylee! I enjoyed your post. I use the dehumidifier water for my overwintering plants in the basement too. We have city water, so not only does using the dehumidifier water conserve water, the plants also seem to enjoy the chlorine-free water.

Darla said...

Excellent post! It if funny how we 'grow' along with our gardens over time for what is best for our environment.

F Cameron said...

Great information!

Unknown said...

Great, thoughtful post, Kylee. I think that this will be the year I finally get a rain barrel,too... although I still don't know where exactly to put the darn thing. :)

Anne said...

40 years since Earth Day. Wow! I know exactly where I was at the time--I was a high school junior. Even made an 8 mm "movie" on the topic. Sometimes disheartening how slowly we get to change. On the other hand. some of the practices you describe have become commonplace and I am grateful. Thanks for the great post!

tina said...

Awesome compost bin! Very interesting on the pelargoniums. I really must get to work on my rain barrel now.

Chiot's Run said...

I agree on all accounts. The more I garden the less I use of items not directly produced here on my tiny property. It's a challenge to be sure, and it takes patience (I can't expand the gardens as quickly as I'd like). I lot though that it makes me think more creatively about things and learn new things. This year I'm going to try a few cover crops for increasing soil fertility instead of buying amendments.

I also collect rain water, the plants LOVE it so much. We have 7 - 55gal barrels hooked into a system that collects water from the garage rood (3 1/2 car garage). We have a spigot to fill watering cans and a pump so we can wash cars and use a hose with it. This is one of the best things to do for your garden I think. If we ever build a house I'd love to put in a big cistern.

rick@rickety said...

What a very sensible stance on global warming. Thanks for the tips, I am just starting to garden.

Jan said...

Dear Kylee,
Great info, excellent sentiments and all written so thoughtfully and sensibly. I have learned so much from everyone who has taken the time to contribute to my project. I've learned that I'm not nearly as 'sustainable' as I would like to be. This is the year we will make some changes. Thank you for sharing so many of your personal experiences and practices. Thank you, also, for joining in on this! I have heard arguments on both sides of the 'global warming' issue, and am convinced the earth has always had 'cycles'...but we can help prevent problems by the choices we make and the actions we carry out. I just got back from my mom's house where she has SULPHER comes from a well. It has a smell and they can't get rid of it. It's not dangerous and is drinkable but I didn't realize it isn't good for geraniums. I'll give her a heads up as I know she usually plants some in pots. She just moved there so she will be glad for the info. I hope you're enjoying your spring and that the weather is being 'spring-like' and not too February-ish or July-ish;-) It's been all confused lately! Take care, Jan

Rose said...

What a well-written post, Kylee! Everything you said resonated with me down to the controversy over global warming. Whether or not it is an actual phenomenon or an exaggerated reaction to natural occurrences, we should still all be trying to take care of our environment. Like you, I didn't think much about composting or avoiding pesticides until I started gardening; funny how that changes your whole outlook on life.

Your comment about using the water from the dehumidifier also struck a chord with me--just the other day as I emptied mine into the sump pump drain in the basement, I thought to myself--what am I doing? Using that water is one more thing I'm going to add to my list of changes to make.

Robin's Nesting Place said...

Great post, Kylee! I would love to have a compost bin and a way to collect rain water.

It really bothers me when I see my neighbors spray chemicals/poisons on their grass and plants. We have retention ponds all over the place, (three just in our neighborhood), and everything they use ends up in the ponds and eventually in our drinking water supply.

Melanie J Watts said...

Good post Kylee, I have similar compost bins except mine are made of logs. Reading this has reminded me to get mu rain barrel out and installed by the side of the house.

Helen at summerhouse said...

Great post! I like the way you have shown how our habits and attitudes over the years, have changed to accommodate being greener. And it really isn't a hardship at all.

Heidi G said...

Great post, Kylie! You and I have very similar stances on the global warming issue, I think. Ah, northwest Ohio sulpher water. The water from the well at my family's homestead south of Archbold is very sulphery, and bubbly.

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