The whole of April is Earth Month. It began as Earth Day in America in 1970 by Gaylord Nelson, the Governor of Wisconsin. This led to legislative changes such as The Clean Water Act and The Endangered Species Act and the establishment of Environment Protection Agency to monitor and enforce them. By 1990, 200 million people from 141 countries had joined in and it soon became evident that much more than a single day was needed. It also led to the first UN Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 where world leaders first pledged to protect the planet and its biodiversity. While many issues such as ending the use of leaded petrol have since been resolved, others such as the proliferation of plastics and the continued use of pesticides have not and they have been joined by newer concerns such as climate change and sustainability, so the need to think about what we do is even more urgent than it was in the 1970s. We need it to be Earth Month every day of the year!
At this time of year we are usually urged to curb our consumption, recycle, plant trees and do beach clean-ups, but I’m sure you’ve heard all that before, so I’m just putting together a a few nice ideas which you might not have heard about to give Mother Nature a hand. Most of the following are from the Old Farmer’s Almanac and the rest as indicated.
Bees, Bugs, Birds and Biodiversity
Get better yields and attract bees, butterflies and other insects by planting pollinator strips in your garden or between crops. In broadacre farming, these will also help to prevent the spread of diseases and pests.
Use fewer chemicals
- Planting Companion Plants will
help to deter garden pests. See the list here
- Learn to make your own natural pesticides here
- Here’s how to make your own organic fertiliser
- If you live in the UK, sign the petition to ban the use of neonicotinoid pesticides which are harmful to bees and have been banned in the EU
Encourage other plants and animals too
Birds, small mammals and other species such as lizards, frogs and spiders will also remove countless insects and pests and are part of a healthy eco -system. Give them a supply of water, food and shelter. Click here to find out more. Did you know that the USA celebrates Be Kind To Spiders Week from April 1 to April 7? Perhaps we all should. Some of Australia’s are poisonous, but most do us a great service. Read more here
1. Build Nest Boxes
If your local High School has woodworking classes or you have access to scraps of timber and woodworking tools, you could build some nest boxes suited to native birds and small mammals in your area. Check here for Australian birds, including how to site nest boxes correctly. Your local bird society will know what’s needed where you are. This could be a project for Men’s Sheds too
2. Plant more Native Plants and Wildflowers
Wildflowers are better adapted to your soils and climate, support your native species and generally require less care and maintenance than exotic imports.
- This list is for the USA by region
- Here’s one for Australia,
though not every plant will be suitable for each region.
Contact your local branch of the Native Plant Society for
more and pick up some tips on planting
- This list from the UK’s
Woodland Trust would suit most mid -latitude European Countries
- Here’s a lovely article about the
wildflower landscapes of Europe
- If you are in the UK, you could
rewild your school, your balcony or a whole meadow using Seedballs. I really liked the sound of the Forager’s Seedballs but unfortunately they don’t ship to countries outside the EU. However, there is no reason for not making your own using species which are native to your region. See instructions below.
- Making Seedballs looks like great
messy fun for all ages
- Perhaps a wildflower
garden in a pot is more your style.
Create Habitat and Wildlife Corridors
Why stop at the edge of your property? New South Wales has a GreenWeb Program which encourages home gardeners to plant native vegetation to create continuous corridors for wildlife and offers grants and advice to achieve it. It also operates a native plant nursery run by volunteers. After our terrible bushfires of 2019 in which billions of animals were lost and with more and more native species being added to the endangered list due to logging, development and other forms of land degradation, our native animals need all the help they can get.
Use less Water
- Use plenty of mulch or ground cover plants to prevent evaporation
- Set up a drip irrigation system.
- Make a raingarden. I love this idea. A raingarden will absorb 30% more water than a lawn and frogs will thank you too
- Speaking of lawns, if you must have one, select grasses suited to your area and learn how to cultivate one without having to use lawn food. See Section #9 here
- Catch your rainwater. Try rain barrels under your downpipes. Put a lid on them, especially in warm climates to prevent mosquitoes and other nasties from breeding and make sure there’s some kind of overflow so that excess flows into the gully trap. Indoor plants just love rainwater and it’s terrific to be able to water your garden if there’s a drought or there are water restrictions.
- Use less water by putting a bowl
in your sink as my sister does. That way you don’t need to fill it right up and
it makes it easier to carry outside or use on your flowerpots.
- Get a low -flow showerhead and use 70 -75% less water or
get a shower timer. Both will save you energy too, but we'll talk more about that next time.
I'm not so keen on using shower water on vegetables, but you could use the water from washing vegetables. Laundry waste water or bathwater may work on ornamental plants that don’t mind a bit of soap, other chemicals or fats and you can certainly use it to flush toilets. There are also specialist greywaterr recycling systems if your local council allows them. For comparison of greywater systems available in Australia see Choice
Recycling Food Waste
- Are you making your own compost yet? There are many ways to do it and it's a great use for your kitchen scraps. Learn how here.
- You could also start a wormfarm. You can buy commercial products or learn to make a simpler version here.
- Here's a interesting idea which I haven't tried
yet. If you don't have room or time to compost, organic gardeners,
poultry farms or worm farmers might welcome your scraps. In Australia,
you can connect via ShareWaste. Some of my neighbours are doing it informally through our neighbourhood network
- These are all ways to return goodness and fertility to soils. You could also make organic fertiliser from
Coming Soon: Earth Month - 2 Using Less Energy
Earth Month - 3 Reducing Plastic and Packaging