Greener Acres

Gardeners, listen up: All your efforts to coax new life out of the Earth may actually be harming it. That’s the message Joe Lamp’l will deliver Feb. 6 as keynote speaker of the Cleveland Botanical Garden’s annual Sustainability Symposium, which is expected to draw more than 250 people from the casual weekend gardener to the professional landscaper. Lamp’l is an author, syndicated columnist and the host of PBS’s GardenSMART, during which he urges gardeners to make simple changes to reduce their environmental impact. Lamp’l took a break from shooting his new PBS series Growing a Greener World, debuting in May, to talk with us.

Isn’t gardening a pretty green endeavor to begin with?
That’s true; we gardeners spend so much time working to beautify our little corners of the world. But the problem is on the surface it may look really nice, but we’re doing some things that aren’t so kind to the environment.

What changes should gardeners make?
Water usage is a huge problem. People don’t understand that more plants are killed by over-watering than under-watering, and in the process they’re wasting a precious resource. Also, too many people are programmed to reach for the chemicals as soon as they see an insect out there, when only 3 percent are actually pests. When we use outdoor power equipment, we’re also putting a lot of pollution into the air, and there are so many great alternatives today that are very eco-friendly.

How tough a sell is this with gardeners?
Studies have shown that up to 80 percent of people who work outside are at least curious about more eco-friendly options. But they’re not always willing to pay more, and they want them to work just like synthetics, and they don’t. They can be just as effective, but they work in a different way. People will have to change their way of thinking.
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