Green gardening tips

May 22, 2009 (CHICAGO) You can still reduce, re-use and recycle in your own backyard.

The long weekend may be the perfect time to get out in the yard and do some planting. But before you head to your local nursery, you might want to take some tips from a Warrenville woman who's garden sips only as much water as she saves.

Here's a tip for building container gardens. Fill the bottom with plastics -- even better if you have some that's not recyclable. This keeps the planters lightweight so they're easily movable -- and gives a new purpose to items that may have been destined for a landfill. Then, cover the load with newspaper and fill only the top six inches or so with soil and compost.

It's the difference between watering just a short ways into the soil or all the way through.

Fill the pots with perennials, which naturally hold water longer and annuals that are labeled as heat and drought-tolerant. Shawna Coronado calls her passion, "conservation planting."

"By conserving water, I'm saving water for people that live near my community," said Coronado.

She only has to water about once a week instead of everyday and she only uses what her rain barrels catch.

The barrels are elevated on blocks so gravity can help the water flow more freely.

"A special thing about rain barrels is that it collects rainwater off the roof of your house and the benefit for perennial plants particularly and your vegetable plants is that rainwater has minerals and vitamins and things for your plant and it allows them to grow better," said Coronado.

In the winter, she empties the barrels and re-configures her downspouts so they don't freeze and crack.

While her backyard is filled with hundreds of feet of drought-resistant plants. She hasn't stopped there. Coronado has rescued furniture and other discarded items to decorate a curbside display for passersby to enjoy. And she is turning her front lawn into an organic vegetable garden. she plans to blog about the process to teach others how to do it. Coronado also plans to dedicate a row of crops for donation to a local food pantry.

"The idea of people right here in our neighborhoods not having food because of our current economy is really disturbing to me and I want to make a difference," said Coronado.

If you are considering connecting a rain barrel, remember that the water is great for nurturing your garden, but should not be used for drinking.

The Casual Gardener:

City of Chicago Rain Barrel Program:

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