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Environmentally Friendly Gardening

Updated in June 2015 by the Manitoba Association of Home Economists

Yards can be made more environmentally friendly with little or no cost and some reorganization of time,

activity and plant varieties. Try some of these ideas.

  • Set up a rain storage barrel in an obscure corner of the yard. Be sure to have a secure lid so children and animals cannot fall in and so mosquitoes cannot propagate. Use the rainwater to water flower pots/indoor potted plants.
  • Select plants that do not need large amounts of water. Consider perennials such as silver mound, perennial alyssum, baby’s breath, bergamot, bellflower, peony, hen and chicks, yarrow and veronica (speedwell). Lilies and irises also appreciate drier beds. Some annuals to consider are: hollyhocks, calendula, godetia, Dahlberg daisy, gazania, Livingstone daisy, portulaca, marigolds, geraniums, petunias and perennial salvia.
  • Check plants to be sure they need water before watering. Scratch the soil to check for dampness down about 2-3 cm (one inch). Gardeners often have a tendency to water plants before they need it.
  • Water plants early in the morning. Less water is lost to evaporation than if watering is done in midday when the sun and wind are at their fullest. Morning watering also lessens the chance of fungal growth on plants and is less inviting for slug activity.
  • Watering gardens longer and less often (e.g., once a week) promotes deeper root growth and reduces water usage.
  • To minimize water usage, consider xeriscaping.
  • Make the most of your beds. Plant some vegetables or herbs in the flower garden. Parsnips, carrots, basil and parsnips add interesting foliage.
  • Time your plantings so that you get the most out of your garden. Radishes and lettuce can be put in the area where tomatoes will be planted later. They will be ready for use and can be eliminated from the shared space when the tomatoes are becoming bushy and require more space.
  • Plant fruit trees rather than ornamental trees. A small yard can provide space for grapes, plum, sour cherry and crabapple/apple and still leave room for vegetables, flowers, lawn and family activities.
  • A bird bath and birdhouses will help attract birds, as do the berries/fruit on particular shrubs or trees. Bird feeders in the winter will help attract and sustain birds that over-winter. You may also be interested in putting up a hummingbird feeder to attract hummingbirds.
  • Consider vegetation that attracts bees and butterflies. These are often more fragrant flowering plants and shrubs/trees.
  • Compost grass clippings, dried leaves, eggshells, paper, fruit and vegetable wastes. Do not compost protein foods such as meat and milk. Shovel some dirt into the compost to help the process along. Add water and stir frequently. More information on composting is available from environmental organizations, municipal offices and the Internet.
  • Dig lawn clippings and other compost waste into the garden.
  • Plant spruce, cedar and like trees on the north side of the house to protect the house from the north winter winds. Leaf bearing trees to the south will shade the house in the summer but let the sun bring warmth in the winter.
  • Use soapy laundry water for watering radishes and onions to control maggots.
  • Pour boiling water on weeds and grass to kill them, rather than using herbicides. Leftover boiling water from making tea can be poured on a dandelion or weeds in sidewalk cracks.
  • Mow with a push lawn mower. It is surprising how easy new models are to push and maneuver around the yard.
  • Place a board or black plastic held down with weights over plants that you want to get rid of. Leave for a time and the lack of sunlight will cause the plants to die.
  • Dry clothes out of doors on a clothesline. Alternatively, a folding clothes horse can be easily put up when needed and stored folded in the garage or behind some shrubs. Some clothes can be put on shrubs to dry.
  • Increase the size of your garden devoted to growing edible foods. Processing some foods such as tomatoes is easy to do. Many vegetables can be frozen. Check our website for more detailed information on freezing and processing foods.
  • Cover beds in fall with mulch and/or leaves to protect plants for the winter. The mulch/leaves can be worked into the beds in the spring to enrich the soil.

Keeping the yard neat and tidy will lessen the chances of providing a home for rodents and other pests. Stagnant water gives mosquitoes a place to lay eggs so eliminate this hazard by setting your watering equipment carefully to avoid overlapping. These hints will help keep your yard friendly in many different ways.

By Millie Reynolds, Home Economist

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New Summer Job? Don’t let it kill you.

Injury rates among young workers spike between May and September, when young people are off school and in their seasonal jobs.

Many of these accidents are the result of pressures and distractions of a new job, a lack of understanding about electricity, and not being careful. It’s important for new employees to ask questions or speak up when they have concerns.

How much electricity does it take to cause fatalities?

Every year in North America, electricity kills hundreds of people in the workplace and at home, and it maims many more. It takes about 1000 milliamps of electricity to run a 100-watt light bulb – but under the right conditions, it can take only 50 milliamps to kill.

Whether the voltage is high or low, an electrical current can cause serious injury or death if you become a path for electricity to get to the ground.

Here are some tips to help you avoid the safety hazards common to summer jobs:

• Be aware of overhead wires when shingling, siding or painting. Use extreme caution and stay a

safe distance away when raising, lowering or moving pipe, rods, ladders, or equipment.

• Do not touch service wires that enter a building.

• Do not trim trees closer than ten feet (three metres) to power lines.

• Call Manitoba Hydro if tree branches are touching power lines.

• Never climb hydro poles or attach signs or equipment to them.

• If you are outside during an electrical storm, stay away from large trees or poles, especially if they are the tallest in the area.

• Use a GFCI outlet when using power tools outdoors.

• Before you do any digging or disturbing the ground deeper than 15 cm, verify the location of all underground electrical or natural gas lines via

Prepared by Linda Carter, PHEc Public Safety & Education Coordinator, Manitoba Hydro

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MAHE Board Member Interview: Diana Mager

We’re back for another instalment of our MAHE Board Member Interview series. Today we’re talking with, Diana Mager, President of the Manitoba Association of Home Economists.


Who are you and what do you do?

Diana Mager, PHEC.

Work: I am a Partnership Implementation Officer for the Keeyask Generation Project at Manitoba Hydro. Keeyask is a hydroelectric generating station that is being built at Gull Rapids on the lower Nelson River in Northern Manitoba. I help manage the business partnership between Manitoba Hydro and four partner First Nations.

Volunteer: President of the Manitoba Association of Home Economists

I’m proud to lead a Professional Home Economics Action Team identifying competencies for the practice of home economics, which includes Human Nutritional Sciences, Family Social Sciences, and Textile Sciences. One of our priorities is working with the University of Manitoba to build these competencies into a pathway for human ecology teacher education and other related areas of high demand employment. I had the honour of presenting this innovative work at the International Federation of Home Economists (IFHE) annual conference last year in Valletta, Malta.

How long have you been a MAHE member?

Since 1995

What do you enjoy most about being a MAHE member?

Connecting with people who have the same passion for food, family and community well-being, and knowing that I belong to an association that is responsible for maintaining high standards of knowledge, integrity and ethics of its members to ensure the public receives the services of proficient and competent home economists.

 What piece of advice could you offer to new PHEc’s or IPHE’s?

Allow yourself time to build a resting bench on your life’s pathway – a space that allows you to reflect on past accomplishments, gives you time to appreciate where you are now, and the opportunity to envision where your journey might lead!

For more, please check out our past interview with Heather Deibert.

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