Thursday, October 15, 2009

My "Green" Initiative

Update 10/20/2009: When this was posted I did not realize that October 15 was "blog action day" and the theme was environmentalism. My choice of topic for this day was purely a coincidence. (HT: Gus Van Horn)

I am generally not one to jump on bandwagons. I usually find them too crowded for my tastes, not to mention the foul odor that seems to emanate from them. But over the summer I decided to hop aboard the "go green" bandwagon.

My green initiative has several aspects. The first, and perhaps most significant, was dumping tons of water on my plants during this summer's drought. I realize that most "go green" initiatives involve conserving water, but as an individualist I will "go green" any damn way I want, thank you very much. The results of this prodigious water use were two-fold. First, my water bill rose significantly. Second, my plants stayed alive, and a few actually thrived. In contrast, my neighbor's yards turned brown, which is not very green in my book.

Another thing I did this summer was get serious about man-made pesticides. In the past I have used pesticides sparingly, primarily because I don't enjoy wandering around my yard spraying toxic chemicals when the temperature is approaching 120 degrees. But I enjoy lace bugs on my azaleas, mealy bug on my hibiscus, and white fly on everything else even less. (Just in case you don't know, lace bugs will turn the leaves of azaleas a putrid gray color, and gray isn't green. Mealy bugs are scaly creatures that suck the life out of plants, and like white fly they are--can you guess--white. White isn't green either.) I realize that true "greenies" don't use man-made pesticides, but as I previously stated, I will "go green" in the manner that I choose.

Another part of my "go green" initiative actually involved something that rabid environmentalists might actually approve. I spent time perfecting my compost piles. You (and my wife) might think it silly to have compost piles in the middle of the nation's fourth largest city. You (and my wife) are wrong.

Compost provides micro-nutrients, microbes, and other yummy stuff to the soil and plants. It makes plants healthy, wealthy, and wise. It breeds earthworms, and earthworms are our friends--they chew up dead organic material and create lots of tiny holes in the ground. And the best part is, worm poop (technically called "castings") is very nutrient rich.

I used to buy dozens of bags of compost each year to spread throughout my yard and gardens. I tended to do this over a few weekends each spring, and it was back breaking work. Now, I can spread a little compost each week, providing my adorable little plants with fresh compost throughout the year. It saves my back and the soil benefits from the steady application of humus. (Humus should not be confused with hummus, which I actually enjoy eating.) And my wife doesn't think that so silly.

An unexpected benefit of my increased interest in compost was the opportunity to commune with nature. There is nothing quite like spending an hour turning a compost pile and letting the earthy smell of rotting vegetable matter waft into your nostrils. You just can't get that experience living in an apartment.

I've also learned many interesting facts about the biology of composting. For example, the ideal compost pile has about 5 parts "brown" to 1 part "green". Now, a rational person might think that "brown" and "green" refer to colors. And that would be wrong. "Brown" refers to carbon rich materials, like dead leaves. "Green" refers to nitrogen rich materials, like fresh grass clippings. So far the brown/ green dichotomy makes sense, but coffee grounds, manure, and urine are "green".

The results of my "go green" initiative have been mixed. This summer's drought undoubtedly stunted the growth of many of my plants. But I am optimistic about the long-term. My adventures with composting are showing signs of greatly benefiting the plants and reducing my watering requirements. My indiscriminate use of pesticides resulted in no mealy bugs or lace bugs this year. My "go green" initiative is not intended to save the planet or anything along those irrational lines. My "go green" initiative is intended for my benefit and my pleasure (and my wife's). And anyone who doesn't like that can kiss my jolly green thumb.


Lynne said...

These, and my daughter's liberal consumption of lime Jell-o, are the kind of green initiatives I can support!

Brian Phillips said...

Thanks Lynne,
I'm not a fan of lime Jello, but to paraphrase Voltaire, I will defend her right to eat it.