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garden_tools_spring(MCT)—Some people call the holidays the “most wonderful time of the year.” I disagree. Springtime is my favorite time. I can get in the garden, get my hands dirty, and spend time nurturing my flowers and vegetables. This season, I’m adding to my spring traditions by learning how honeybees can help my garden grow. Whether you want to go all out or are tiptoeing into your yard for the first time, Do Your Part to make eco-friendly choices as you begin prepping your lawn for warmer weather.

A good idea is to start with the basics. Knowing what your soil needs and more importantly, what it doesn’t—is critical. Most county extension offices offer free soil testing kits. Scoop a sample of your soil in a box, send it in, and get a full analysis outlining exactly what nutrients your lawn needs. Many lawns actually don’t need as much fertilizer as you think. You can also find budget friendly soil testing kits at home improvement stores.

Once your soil is in tiptop shape, focus on non-toxic ways to keep the weeds at bay. Before you reach for a big cocktail of weed killer, try a cheaper and safer solution such as old newspapers. Simply lay the paper out in four to six sheet thick sections and spray with water to set in place. Newspapers won’t let the sunshine through to the weeds waiting to emerge. They also encourage earthworm activity that will eventually break down the paper, turning your present soil into better soil in the process. Consider covering the paper with mulch, leaves, or grass clippings.

Another easy way to save money and resources in the spring and summer is use a rain barrel — or two or three! I rely on the rain barrels I’ve installed outside my home. Some are containers I converted into a rain barrel with a kit from the hardware store. Others are ready-to-go versions that I bought and put to work. It only takes a matter of minutes to put together and then you have a free supply of water to nourish your lawn and garden throughout the warmer months. You can watch a quick video of me installing a rain barrel at DoYourPart.com/Columns.

And speaking of letting Mother Nature do the hard work for you, the bees I’m buying this season won’t be the only creatures doing the heavy lifting for me. They will help pollinate my plants. A few of my favorite beneficial bugs will have their own jobs to do. Ladybugs will devour pests such as aphids — which are known for eating up ornamental plants. Praying mantis will consume pesky flies and mosquitoes. You can actually buy these bugs online or at many smaller garden centers.

So before you put on your gardening gloves and get to work, see how a few eco-friendly solutions can help you grow your dream garden safely and without busting your budget.

Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, eco-expert and author of Do Your Part: A practical guide for everyday green living available at DoYourPart.com.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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