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Happy Earth Day! Garden with the planet in mind

Ways to cut down on plastics in your own landscape

These sturdy 1- and 2-gallon planting pots can be recycled and reused, at home, at a community garden or local nonprofit group that propagates plants, or through businesses such as Home Depot.

These sturdy 1- and 2-gallon planting pots can be recycled and reused, at home, at a community garden or local nonprofit group that propagates plants, or through businesses such as Home Depot. Kathy Morrison

Today, April 22,  people around the globe commemorate Earth Day, one of the world’s longest-running environmental awareness campaigns. Since 1970, Earth Day has spotlighted major issues affecting our planet and the ways individuals can tackle solutions at the grassroots level.

An estimated 1 billion people representing 190 countries will take part in some sort of Earth Day activity this year, according to the Earth Day Network.

The 2024 theme: “Planet vs. Plastics.” The proposed goal: Reduce the production of plastics by 60% by 2040.

“Our theme, ‘Planet vs. Plastics,’ calls to advocate for widespread awareness on the health risk of plastics, rapidly phase out all single-use plastics, urgently push for a strong U.N. Treaty on Plastic Pollution, and demand an end to fast fashion,” says “Join us as we build a plastic-free planet for generations to come!”

For example, plastic represents 80% of marine trash, note Earth Day experts. Besides polluting rivers and oceans, plastic waste has negative impacts on wildlife. A recent study showed that birds accidentally eat a lot of plastic, especially those living near water. About 90% of seabirds consume plastic as part of their daily diet, which can lead to disease and death, says the National Geographic. (Plastic does not digest.)

For gardeners, every day can be Earth Day. How can you reduce the use of plastics in your garden?

* No black plastic mulch or landscape fabric. Designed to cut down on weeds, black plastic absorbs too much heat and cooks the roots of plants that it surrounds. And it does nothing for the soil while eventually ending up in landfills. Organic alternatives – such as dried leaves, wood chips, compost, shredded bark or straw – do more than suppress weeds; they also feed the soil and roots while retaining soil moisture and keeping roots comfortable.

* Reuse and recycle plastic pots. The sturdy 1- or 5-gallon pots that come with new plants can be reused for years. If you have too many, don’t toss them. Ask your local nursery or community garden if they need them. These pots are recyclable. The Home Depot launched a recycling program to accept any plastic garden containers (not just the big pots and regardless of their point of purchase). Look for the green recycling signs in Home Depot nursery departments.

* Use plastic alternatives. Instead of plastic pots, use egg cartons, cardboard or paper pots to grow seedlings.

* Cut down on garden chemicals. The more chemicals you use, the more plastic containers that pile up in your garden shed. Eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides in your garden, and your plastic use goes down, too.

* Pay attention to packaging. Buy plants grown in paper pots. Select fertilizers or amendments packaged in paper or cardboard. (Note: Rodents will chew on paper containers given a chance. A large covered plastic tub for storage can act as a barrier and still cut down on the other plastic use). 

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Garden Checklist for week of June 16

Summer officially starts Thursday. The good news: No triple-digits – at least until next weekend.

* Warm weather brings rapid growth in the vegetable garden, with tomatoes and squash enjoying the heat. Deep-water, then feed with a balanced fertilizer. Bone meal or rock phosphate can spur the bloom cycle and help set fruit.

* Generally, tomatoes need deep watering two to three times a week, but don't let them dry out completely. That can encourage blossom-end rot.

* Tie up vines and stake tall plants such as gladiolus and lilies. That gives their heavy flowers some support.

* Dig and divide crowded bulbs after the tops have died down.

* Feed summer flowers with a slow-release fertilizer.

* Mulch, mulch, mulch! This “blanket” keeps moisture in the soil longer and helps your plants cope during hot weather.

* Thin grapes on the vine for bigger, better clusters later this summer.

* Trim off dead flowers from rose bushes to keep them blooming through the summer. Roses also benefit from deep watering and feeding now. A top dressing of aged compost will keep them happy. It feeds as well as keeps roots moist.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushier plants with many more flowers in September.

* From seed, plant corn, pumpkins, melons, radishes, squash and sunflowers.

* Plant basil to go with your tomatoes.

* Transplant summer annuals such as petunias, marigolds and zinnias.

* It’s also a good time to transplant perennial flowers including astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia, salvia and verbena.

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