Earth Friendly Gardening Practices

The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is committed to earth-friendly gardening practices. Volunteers learn about these as they assist the horticulturists as do attendees at the Learn on Saturdays classes held every winter from early January to the end of March. The Botanical Garden promotes the following earth-friendly practices:

  • Strive to reduce, reuse and recycle at home, at work and in your community.
  • Think holistically. Gardens are dynamic places. By selecting methods and materials that support your holistic goal you will achieve a healthier garden and overall environment.
  • Care for the soil. Soil is alive with beneficial insects and microorganisms. Use organic, earth-friendly and soil supporting practices. Be proud of your compost pile. The addition of organic material adds up to soil health and wealth.
  • Test your soil so you know of any deficiencies rather than randomly applying fertilizers or soil amendments. Do the testing yourself using a soil-test kit or pay a nominal fee to have it done professionally by the Soil Test Lab at Iowa State University: www.extension.iastate.edu/store (type ST11 in the search box and download the instructions).
  • Remember, healthy soil produces healthy plants, better able to survive stress and retain moisture.
  • Manage weeds by removing them to your compost pile before seeds form. If seeds have formed, better send them to the landfill; the heat generated in a home compost pile is unlikely to kill weed seeds.
  • Respect your tools. Clean them before putting away. Use the right tool for the job. (You can use your pruners as a screwdriver or wire cutter but they will no longer be effective plant cutting tools.) Use earth-friendly manually operated tools when possible, or electric.
  • Garden where you are. Choose plants that will thrive in your garden conditions. Your plants will be happier and you will be too.
  • Reduce the amount of lawn and replace with earth-friendly plants - roses that require no spraying, native plants that don’t require undue irrigation during periods of normal drought, hardy perennials that return year after year, a mixed shrubbery border. These practices create habitat for wildlife and provide pollen for pollinators.
  • Support pollinators by growing a selection of plants that flower in different colors and shapes to provide nectar and pollen from early spring to late fall. Plant in clumps or swaths of one kind of plant. Include native plants and avoid pesticides.
  • If deer, rabbits and other critters menace your garden, adopt a policy of planting only things commonly held to be distasteful to animals. Other than tulips, most fall-planted bulbs that bloom in the spring qualify. Instead of hostas, plant pulmonarias, brunneras, tricyrtis and Japanese painted fern, to name a few possibilities.
  • Conserve water. Harvest rainwater and apply by hand where it is needed.
  • Garden better, avoid pesticides and other chemicals. Find natural solutions such as beneficial insects, soaps, oils and manual removal.