The effects of climate change are altering our planet in many devastating ways. While our individual impact may be small, it’s important that when we garden we do so in ways that minimize our impact to the environment. In this article, we’ll look at ways we can enjoy gardening while doing so in a sustainable way that helps reduce any negative impact we may have on the environment. If we all do our part we can make a big difference.
The first step is to focus on environmentally-friendly methods for caring for the area you are responsible for, namely your lawn and garden area. If you aren’t sure where to start, the following sustainable gardening ideas may be able to help.
Design Your Garden Carefully
Before you even start working the soil, it is a good idea to plan your garden for the most sustainable design possible. This includes choosing your plants carefully for the area you have available and optimizing for your natural area.
For instance, you want to ensure that those plants that grow best in shady areas have the perfect placement next to the tall, full plants to guarantee they will thrive. The plants that need full sun should also be carefully placed, while those that require a lot of water are located in the dampest areas of your garden.
Not only does this type of design give your plants the perfect placement to meet their needs but it also means that they will require less work on your part to keep them healthy. Aside from watering and weeding, they will naturally grow better. This also means you have to do less work to create the correct environment for your plants, which is less impactful and harmful.
Plant Native Species
Native species are those that are already growing in your region, so are suited to every aspect of it. This includes the amount of rainfall you usually get, the soil type, and the climate. Look into the indigenous plants of the area and plant more of them in your garden or yard. These will require less work since they have already adapted to the area and require minimal care to thrive. This reduces the amount of resources you’ll need to care for them which is not only good for the environment, but also easier on you the gardener.
When choosing those native species, it is best to pick perennials instead of annuals since they will return each year. They will also get larger and fuller with each passing year, so you can divide them to replenish new areas of your garden or give them to family or friends to help them grow theirs.
Perennials that are native to your area will likely need less watering and special treatment, growing healthy and strong with little effort. This reduces the amount of resources you’ll need to care for them, and works to minimize the effect you have on the environment.
Though not everyone has the space for too many of these, if you can plant a tree or two in your garden, it can be quite beneficial. Trees remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil for the plants to use as needed. They also offer some shade for those plants that don’t do well in direct sunlight, giving them a cool place to grow. A tree also provides shade for those working or relaxing in the garden, making it a much more enjoyable place to be.
Trees are excellent ways to offset carbon, and are a great choice for those that have the room and are able to care for them. Even when planted indoors, they have a net positive effect on the environment.
Mulch is another great addition to sustainable gardening since it improves the soil in a variety of ways. It starts by adding much-needed moisture to the plants by ensuring that the soil doesn’t dry out which can cut down watering. It also moderates the soil’s temperature, which is a must during the spring and fall when it can fluctuate several degrees over the course of a day.
Mulch prevents soil erosion and reduces compaction, so it is ready for planting at any time. It is also full of nutrients to help your plants grow strong, reducing the need for store-bought fertilizers. You can use mulch to cover any bare patches in your garden until you’re ready to plant or after planting to give those plants everything they need to thrive.
Best of all, mulch is compostable and will naturally decompose. This means that it will eventually go back into the soil and help continue keeping it nutrient rich.
Compost is beneficial for a few reasons. First of all, everything that goes in your compost bin is putting less in the landfill in your area, so you are creating less waste. The compost you’re creating can also be used as an organic fertilizer for your garden, giving it the nutrients it needs. Lastly, since you’re using compost for fertilizer, you don’t have to buy any, saving some money while still providing all the nutrients your plants need.
To create compost, first collect the green waste from your yard. This includes grass clippings, dead leaves, and flower heads. You can also add much of your kitchen scraps, like veggies, coffee grounds, eggshells, and so much more.
You also need the right bin for the job. You can use a continuous compost bin for a steady supply of compost or a batch composter to create smaller batches when you need them, depending on the size of your garden.
For more information on composting checkout our getting started guide!
Don’t Use Chemicals
If you notice weeds or harmful bugs in your garden your first instinct might be to buy off the shelf chemicals to deal with the issue. Fortunately, there are other options that are much more environmentally friendly and don’t use any harsh chemicals.
There are a number of natural and chemical free solutions for both pests and weeds. Vinegar is a commonly used weed killer that is natural. Just be careful with it as it can kill the good plants too.
Many of those plant-eating insects can be picked off by hand. You can also try organic pest-control methods or introduce beneficial insects to your garden to get rid of them. Ladybugs are a good example since they eat aphids and other plant-eating bugs. They are also quite pretty and do not harm your garden. We have an entire article on natural pest control techniques that you can read to learn more.
Conserve Water When Possible
Our planet only has a finite supply of water, so using as little of it as possible is another important step to sustainable gardening. Choosing heartier plants that require less moisture is a good start, but you can also take steps to reduce the water you use even more.
First, forgo using sprinklers. Though they are easy to use, they do waste a lot of water, especially if you leave them running for longer than is necessary. Taking a watering can and adding water where it is needed ensures that less of it goes to waste.
You can also collect water in your yard to reduce how much of the water from your tap is going into your garden. Placing a rain barrel or two beneath the downspouts of your eaves troughs is a good way to collect a great deal of water that you can then use in your garden. This water is free of treatment chemicals, so is healthier for your plants, too.
You can also collect the water from your shower or washing machine by using buckets, provided you’re using eco-friendly soaps for both areas. The less water that goes down the drain, the more you have to keep your plants thriving.
Lastly, using the right plants for the environment is a big water saver. As noted above, native plants are going to do better, and often need less water.
Growing pretty plants and flowers makes your garden look lovely but growing your own food can add a lot of value to your garden. Depending on your climate, you can grow a variety of vegetables, fruits, and herbs in your garden. This ensures you’ll have a constant array of fresh food to add to your meals, plus it saves you a great deal of money since you don’t need to purchase as many from your local grocery stores.
Most veggies are seasonal, so you can consistently have some to harvest. For instance, lettuce and other greens sprout quickly, so you can start eating them in the spring. Tomatoes, peppers, and beans show up a bit later, giving you some other options during the hot summer months. You can even sow cool weather crops again at this time to give you some edible plants during the cool autumn months.
Even better, with an indoor garden you can grow edible crops year round. It takes some planning and space to do right, but with a little effort you can enjoy delicious, home-grown produce year round.
No matter what plants you’re growing in your sustainable garden, they will produce seeds right before drying out at the end of their growing season. Rather than buying new seeds every year, collect these from your current vegetables and flowers. Then store them somewhere cool and dry until you’re ready to plant again the following year
Having seeds on hand will also allow you to start a variety of plants in your home when the weather is still cool so that they are already established when the weather warms up enough to plant them outside. It’s a small step, but every bit counts.
Use What You Have
One of the best ways to create a sustainable garden is to use what you already have on hand in or out of your home rather than buying new gear every year. Old planters, plastic milk jugs, bathtubs, and many more containers can be reused to grow whatever you like. You can also use what nature has to offer, like cutting and painting sticks to mark vegetable rows or larger branches for fencing. How you create your garden is only limited by your imagination, so let it run wild.
Sustainable gardening is important to help us preserve the earth we have. The above are some easy to implement tips to move towards that goal, but there are so many other things you can do. Did we miss something? Let us know how you sustainably garden and we’ll add it to the article.