Glen Ridge

Earth Day in the Garden of Eden By Elisabeth Ginsburg

The best way to celebrate Earth Day is to help the cycle along with good sustainable gardening practices. Every garden is an ecosystem, irrevocably tied to the earth, so every day is Earth Day in the garden.

Plants-the ones we cultivate, as well as the unwanted ones we call "weeds"-sprout from the soil. Competing vigorously with each other for water and nutrients, they eventually flower. Some attract pollinators; others await the wisp of air that will float pollen grains from male to female flowers. Pollination leads to seeds, which inevitably fall to earth. Many germinate, beginning the cycle again. The plants may take center stage in the continuing garden drama, but other characters, including birds, animals and insects make their own entrances and exits, feeding on fruits, flowers and leaves. Sometimes they also help with vital chores like pollination or seed distribution. Eventually, after completing their own life cycles, all return to the earth, enriching the same soil for the next generation of plants.

Beauty in Diversity

With development obliterating open land in many places, our ecological hopes, dreams and activities must be realized in our own backyards. We can help our backyard ecosystems by planting a variety of species and paying special attention to those that produce berries, fruits or seeds that serve as food for birds, small animals and insects. Shrubs and trees provide shelter and nesting sites and even the smallest bird bath looks like a spa to a chickadee. Try to include at least a few species native to your geographical area to ensure that those plants continue to have places within their native range.

Chemical Free

Use as few backyard chemicals as possible-it's better for you, as well as the inhabitants of your garden. If you garden organically, the forces at work in your garden will balance themselves. Birds will eat predatory bugs like Japanese beetles and ladybugs will fest on the aphids that afflict both roses and tomato plants. The garden may not be "perfect", but it will be beautiful, fragrant, productive and alive in every possible way.

Compost is Golden

Composting-on Earth Day and every day-is an easy way to reduce household waste and enrich the soil. Backyard composters come in an array of shapes and sizes, so that even container gardeners and apartment dwellers can produce small amounts of the "black gold" that does so much for plants. Use it liberally in place of chemical fertilizers and soil amendments.

Hopeful Acts

Earth Day empowers each of us to change the world-without going far from our doorsteps. Celebrating in the garden is an inherently hopeful act.