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Going green to save money

JoAnne Skelly

Claiming that a product is “green” seems to be the latest marketing trend. Long before “green” was cool, gardeners were using green practices, both to preserve our resources and environment and to save money. Successful and frugal gardeners have been recycling, reducing and reusing for centuries!

Organic mulch comes from reduced and reused organic material, such as wood chips, leaves, bark or other materials. Compost, or “garden gold,” is broken down or recycled vegetable and plant waste. Although these products can now be purchased at gardening outlets or nurseries, early gardeners made their own soil amendments. They had neither the money nor stores nearby to provide what they needed to build their soil. In these trying economic times, today’s gardeners may also want to make their own compost or mulch to save some money and keep good, usable organic waste out of the landfill.

Reuse leaves by composting them or using them as mulch to protect landscape plants during the winter. For an easy, economical compost solution, pile the leaves in a corner of the yard where two fences meet; add some grass clippings and a few buckets of soil. Mix up the pile a bit, wet it and wait. The backdrop of the fence will keep the leaves from blowing away. Winter rain and snow should keep the pile moist. If it is a dry winter, remember to occasionally add water to your pile. Mix it a few times. When spring comes, the pile will be rich, rotted organic matter. If this first method sounds too messy, throw the leaves in a barrel or bin with air holes, add a few shovels of soil and grass clippings, moisten the mixture, and cover it. Turn the mixture and wet it down a few times during the winter, and in late spring, you will have compost to add to your gardens and flower beds.

Indoor gardening can also help save some money. By gardening indoors in containers during the winter, you can avoid buying expensive herbs at the grocery store. Herbs do very well in a sunny window. Try cilantro, parsley, basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme. You can also grow some greens and lettuces if you have the containers and space, and peppers will even succeed indoors with enough bright light and care.

Save a few more dollars by growing your own winter flowers indoors. Flowers provide great relief from the winter doldrums. Begonias, geraniums and hibiscus make beautiful houseplants and bloom all winter. Bougainvillea, orchids, azaleas and gardenias require a bit more care and expertise, but are worth the effort.

You can get some other ideas on how to go green at the “Go Green With Nevada Blue” event at the University of Nevada, Reno Joe Crowley Student Union Oct. 27 – 29. There will be an open-air market of vendors promoting or using sustainable practices, guest speakers, panel discussions and more. For more information on the event, call the University’s Academy for the Environment, 775-784-8262.

For more information on gardening, contact me, 775-887-2252 or skellyj@unce.unr.edu, or your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Check out many useful horticulture publications at http://www.unce.unr.edu. “Ask a Master Gardener” by e-mailing mastergardeners@unce.unr.edu.

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City / Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.