April 19, 2012  4:29 PM

OSU horticulturist gets busy planning a yard that prevents pesticides

 

Weston MillerWeston Miller's garden

As spring turns to summer, the yard at Weston Miller’s house is “in transition.” The Oregon State University horticulturist just built a fence and is now in the process of selecting plants for a large bed that will attract beneficial insects and birds to his yard, and also will require minimal maintenance or pesticides.

Weston will start with a mix of native plants, and a few fig, persimmon and scab-resistant apple trees. He’ll also incorporate sedums that attract honey bees and bunch grasses that create habitat for beneficial insects like ground beetles. Lastly, he’ll include hearty herbs like lavender, rosemary, bee balm and thyme, loved by all kinds of critters (from hummingbirds to humans). Natural pest-eaters help maintain a healthy balance in your garden – much safer for families and waterways than toxic chemicals.

Is your yard in transition, too? Whether you’re upgrading like Weston, or starting fresh at a new place, facing a blank slate can be overwhelming – and expensive. Weston offers his expert tips to help you get your new garden off to an effective and economical start:

Prepping and planting

Start with the soil. Fork or lightly shovel at least six inches of compost into new beds, getting it in as deep as you can. But time this around the rains; soil that sticks to a shovel is too wet to dig in.

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Choose the right plants. Weston says Metro’s native plant guide is a great place to start. And the Sunset Western Garden Book is a good one-stop shop for regional plant and growing information.

Plant densely. Weston suggests planting most perennials 18 inches apart from center to center to fill space around trees and shrubs. Thick planting allows plants to grow into each other and crowd out weeds. Later, plants can be thinned and moved to other places in the yard.

Water plants in and give them a boost with an organic slow-release fertilizer.

Don’t break the bank

Buy smaller plants and buy in bulk. Purchasing flats can save money and allows you to pop in filler plants, which discourage weeds when your plants are small and tie your beds together with a consistent look and feel.

Bulk compost is cheaper than bags. Share a delivery with a neighbor if you don’t think you can use it all. Look for landscape supply companies in your neighborhood that provide economical delivery, but remember: all compost is not the same, so make sure you know what’s in it and whether it’s organic before you purchase it. (And veggie gardeners take note: you’ll want the best quality, highest nutrient compost you can find, preferably made with animal manure or food-based compost in the mix.)

Download a free gardening coupon. Valid toward compost, native plants or hand-weeding tools at more than 30 retailers around the region.Go

Sign up for a free workshop with Weston and other gardening experts

Learn how to grow a robust garden, from flowers to veggies to grass, without chemicals.Go

Read more about Weston Miller’s gardening expertise
Learn more about gardening without pesticides

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