Six Gardening Tips That Won't Hurt Mother Nature

04/25/2013 12:38 EDT | Updated 09/18/2013 04:17 EDT
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Spring is finally here and many people are heading outside to tend to their neglected gardens and yards.

Using pesticides and conventional fertilizers may make your backyard look like an oasis on the surface, but they're the real pests: using these chemicals could be affecting the health of your family and the greater environment without you noticing it.

You don't need to use a cocktail of toxic chemicals to keep weeds and bugs out of your garden. There are many ways that you can have a pristine backyard, while protecting the environment and your health at the same time.

Here are a few tips to help you green your green thumb this year:

1. Keep it natural - You know the saying "Mama knows best?" Well, in this case Mother Nature knows best. Use all-natural compost and keep pests at bay by using essential oils (lemongrass, cedar and eucalyptus can provide protection from an array of insects including mosquitoes, ants and fleas) and finding ways to invite beneficial insects (they help ward off the bad bugs) to your garden.

2. Choose native plants - consider adding plants which are indigenous to the area to your garden. They are already adapted to the local environment, are easy to grow and maintain, and require less fertilizer and water.

3. Vinegar, the natural weed killer - nothing can drive a perfectionist green thumber crazier than a weed in their garden. Instead of pulling out the toxic weed killer, take out a bottle of white vinegar from your cupboard. It can repel any plant (especially if it's in a sunny spot) and is non-toxic and cheaper than conventional weed products. Note: be careful which plants you spray with it, because it doesn't discriminate.

4. Or just give weeds a yank - if you catch weeds early enough, you can simply pull them out of the ground. It's best to do it early in the morning. Morning dew makes the ground moist, which in turn, makes it easier for the weeds to be pulled out.

5. Compost your kitchen scraps - why buy compost for your garden when you can just make your own from scraps from your kitchen? You can help speed the process up with the help of earthworms.

6. Help out the bees - in case you haven't heard, bee populations around the world have been diminishing in recent years. There's no time like the present to "bee" nice to these bugs, even in your own backyard, by providing a pesticide-free spot.

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