Transitioning to sustainable gardening is easy to do, plus you’ll produce less waste, use fewer chemicals, and save money. It’s also the best choice for the planet.
There is a lot of buzz in the gardening and food-producing world about sustainable gardening. It’s a lot to understand, and for the home gardener, it may seem incredibly overwhelming, time-consuming, and complicated. However, using sustainable gardening techniques doesn’t have to be difficult. These tips are ways to incorporate sustainable methods that are simple and easy for anyone to do.
A key to remember is that you don’t have to do everything at once. Turning your garden into an eco-friendly, pollinator-friendly space takes time, and things don’t just happen overnight. It’s best to choose a few gardening practices to change and focus on those for the first year. The following year, you can tackle other tips and techniques, and eventually, you’ll have a beautiful, environmentally -friendly sustainable garden with all the perks that come with it.
What is sustainable gardening?
Before we get into the top tips on how to create a sustainable garden, it’s important to understand what the buzz phrase means and why it matters. A sustainable garden is organic gardening taken to the next level. It’s not just about using less or no chemicals or using non-GMO seeds. Sustainable gardening is a lifestyle choice. This type of gardening is not a one-time change; it is a gardening style that focuses on the long-term effects of creating an eco-friendly space focusing on the future of our earth and the soil, which grows all of our sustenance. If the soil is laden with chemicals, bereft of nutrients, and barren for farming, we will not be able to produce enough food.
The United Nations’ Brundtland Report defined sustainable development as “… design, construction, operations and maintenance practices that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Sustainable farming respects and renews natural resources and utilizes them with consideration for future generations. A renewable garden incorporates eco-friendly gardening practices in harmony with Mother Nature. Instead of forcing the earth to produce what we want, we work with nature to find the best way to grow what we need. Sustainable gardening methods reduce our carbon footprint while preserving and protecting our future and the future of our limited resources. Conservation is necessary because our water resources are limited, healthy land is not predetermined, pollinators are essential, and plants need all these things to provide us with food.
Sustainable gardening is crucial because it is literally the future of our planet. At the current rate in which commercial farming practices poison and harm the earth, we will soon face a huge struggle to grow healthy, chemical-free food.
While the majority of harmful gardening practices are done on a much larger scale than the home garden, it is essential for all of us to embrace viable gardening methods. Each of us makes an impact on the earth, and small changes have large consequences.
The Importance Of Healthy Soil
All too often, we take dirt for granted. It exists beneath our feet, and we use it without thought or consideration as to how our use effects it. Earth is a living eco-system, though. The more we use it, the more we deplete it of natural nutrients and benefits. We use dirt to grow foods that are necessary to live. We use it for grazing and growing food for those animals. Trees depend on healthy soil, and we rely on trees to clean our atmosphere of harmful carbon and pollutants. Soil holds waters and nutrients, anchors plants and trees, filters rainwater and provides a home for many necessary microbes, insects, and animals.
Because it provides the necessary support system for all living things, it needs to be treated well. As we farm and garden, we take nutrients out of the earth in the production process. Tomato plants utilize microbes in the dirt for health, depend on the earth for nutrients, and need it to hold water. When the soil can no longer do this, we cannot grow tomato plants. This is just the beginning of the consequences when we leech the earth of usefulness, but on a large scale, it becomes a life-threatening situation.
Poor soil leads to drought situations, decreased resilience to flooding, and the inability to grow food crops. Understanding the impact soil health has on our world is the first step in understanding the importance of viable gardening methods.
How can I make my garden more sustainable?
The great news is that even if you don’t want to get into the detailed scientific studies about soil health and sustainability, you can still work towards creating an earth-friendly garden. These sustainable gardening tips are designed to be simple for the home gardener. We all live busy, hectic lives, and carving out time to devote to the garden can be a challenge enough on its own. The future of our planet, while important, often takes a back seat. Choose a couple of gardening ideas from the following list and focus on them. You’ll find that tip often leads to another, and before you know it, you’ll have a gorgeous, thriving, sustainable garden.
12 Sustainable Gardening Tips
You Can Start Today
A method in which kitchen scraps, landscape debris, organic matter, and garden waste are recycled and turned into a rich, beneficial growing material. Creating a compost pile is easy, and the rewards are exponential. It is one of the easiest ways to return nutrients to the earth. Waste becomes riches with a compost pile. Composting is the perfect natural way for home gardeners to create nutrient-rich fertilizer and reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers. Organic matter and grass clippings are no longer waste; they are valuable resources. Our comprehensive composting guide will get you started with all you need to know about starting a compost pile, the different types, and how they work.
2) Ditch The Chemicals
Chemicals and the natural eco-system do not go well together. Anytime we use chemicals to fight pests, combat plant diseases or temporarily improve the earth, we are gambling with our future. The majority of chemicals stay in the ground long after their usefulness is exhausted. When we use chemicals against pests or diseased plants, they can end up polluting streams and other water sources. Chemical-free gardening is the best type of gardening, and it is essential to creating a sustainable garden. Agricultural chemicals are known to kill pollinators, disrupt and eradicate insects – both beneficial insects and pests – and significantly alter the nutrient make-up of the garden. Pesticides don’t discriminate between helpful bees and pesky beetles. It goes far beyond that, though. Toxins used to kill mice, voles, and rats are effective, but the consequences of their use doesn’t stop with the rodents. Raptors, like bald eagles, owls, and red-tailed hawks, eat the poisoned mice and succumb to the poisoning, as well. Pesticides and poisons have no place in a healthy, sustainable garden. Pest control can be done naturally by inviting predatory insects, bats, and birds to your garden. Providing safe, food-friendly landscapes for these beneficial species dramatically reduces the need for chemicals.
3) Grow Native Plants
Native plants require less from the environment in terms of water and nutrients because they are naturally adapted to grow in that climate. The best plants for your garden or yard will vary depending on where you live. Garden home centers and local gardening experts will know the best plants for your area. Planting native wildflowers and vegetables help pollinators, native wildlife, and birds by providing valuable habitat and food sources.
4) Investigate Sustainable Garden Design
Designing the garden with sustainability in mind is the best place to start if you’re new to gardening. If you already have a garden, this is a bit more complicated, but it’s not impossible. Plan to grow water-loving plants in the sections of the garden, which are naturally wetter. Start seeds of shade-loving vegetables next to those that grow tall and will provide shade. Install the garden in a place with easy access to water, so it doesn’t need to be transported. Installing the compost pile nearby for garden waste also greatly increases the effectiveness of the system. When you think of design, think of how the end-user (you or other members of your family) will use the space. It is more important that the space is functional as opposed to beautiful. Of course, it’s wonderful if the garden is gorgeous too, but if the compost bin, water spigot, or rain barrel is far away or difficult to access, it won’t be used. Decisions like this will have a huge impact on the success of your garden and the move towards sustainable practices.
5) Conserve Water
If you live in an area with significant average rainfall, efforts to conserve water may sound unnecessary. However, water is not an endless resource, and utilizing it efficiently is essential. Our water supply does have limits. Using less water is important because when we water the garden from taps or spigots, we are using clean, drinkable water. It’s also expensive, especially in areas with limited rainfall. Collecting water in rain barrels protects our potable water resources as well as provides ‘free’ refreshment to our vegetable plants. Using drip irrigation is also highly recommended because it utilizes less water; sprinklers and other common spray watering systems waste water in large amounts due to evaporation and oversaturation. How many times have you walked past a sprinkler system with gallons of water draining down the sidewalk or road? That is entirely unnecessary, not to mention what it does to the water bill!
6) Plant For Pollinators
Pollinators get a lot of mention in these tips about sustainable gardening, and for a good reason. Pollinators do a lot of work for us that often goes unnoticed. The human and pollinator relationship is symbiotic and essential for the survival of both. Vegetable plants must be pollinated in order to produce fruit. Humans can do it by hand, but it is extremely time-consuming. Bees, butterflies, ladybugs, birds, and many beetles pollinate at a rate that is impossible to replicate. A mason bee can pollinate up to 5,000 flowers per day. Encouraging these wonderful insects to take up residence in the garden is extremely beneficial, plus they’re fun to watch. In the past 50 years, there has been a massive decline among pollinator species due to humans using chemicals, destroying habits, and growing non-native plants. We need these natural pollinators today more than ever. Research the local species in your area and plant the flowers they love. The plant species you put in your garden makes a difference. The Xerces Foundation created these incredible lists of pollinator species by state.
This is one of the easiest tips. Mulch your vegetable garden with chopped up leaves, straw, grass clippings, sawdust, or woodchips and reap the rewards for years. Using waste from the yard makes it super sustainable. Those materials won’t end up in the landfill, and you save yourself a lot of money, too. Mulching protects the garden from drying out and means you need less water. It also helps inhibits weeds from growing, which is always a huge benefit! An application of mulch moderates ground temperature, creating a more comfortable growing environment for your vegetable plants. Mulch also adds nutrients back into the ground as it decomposes, prevents dirt from becoming compacted and difficult to plant, and prevents erosion.
8) Plant Trees
Trees assist in neutralizing carbon emissions. The more trees we plant, the better! For the sustainable garden, fruit trees are an excellent choice. Not only do they help the environment, but you get fresh apples, plums, peaches, or oranges, as well. Be sure to pick them when they become ripe, so nothing goes to waste. Try to choose trees native to your area because they don’t need as much water and will grow better.
9) Use A Different Lawn Mower
We know, those gas-powered lawn mowers are nice! So easy to use, and they do a great job. However, they’re not great for the environment. If you’re physically able, try mowing with a hand-push type or use an electric one. There are options available for more eco-friendly lawn mowing options. Plus, during the summer, ditching that gas-powered lawn mower will provide you with some excellent exercise!
10) Utilize Nature’s Abundance
Instead of purchasing chemically treated wood to build a fence, consider using boughs, wood scraps, or branches to build a natural one. Or, plant a row of tall hedges to create a natural border. Use old bricks or stones to create walkways, paths, or edges in the garden. These items go to waste so often, and they look rustically wonderful in the garden. Repurposing old bricks as plant markers is one of our favorite gardening ideas. Use waterproof paint if you do this!
11) Practice Crop Rotation
When vegetables are planted in the same section of the garden every year, they become more susceptible to pests and diseases. This is because pests and bacteria will hang out in the ground over the winter, waiting for their opportunity. Crop rotation doesn’t eliminate these problems, but it does significantly reduce infestations because the pests have to work harder to get the plants they want. Some crops, like beans and peas, are heavy feeders and will take all the nitrogen from the soil where they are planted. If you grow the beans in the same place every year, the harvests will get progressively worse because there aren’t enough nutrients available. Or, you’ll have to rely on chemical or commercial fertilizers to ensure the plants are getting enough nutrients. A garden journal is an excellent way to keep track of where each vegetable is planted year by year.
12) Choose Drought Tolerant Plants
What you plant in your garden makes a difference. Choose flower, tree, bush, and vegetable plants that are drought-resistant. These plants require less water and less time to tend. Sustainable gardening is easier when you choose the best plants for your climate, including naturally pest-resistant, hardy varieties.
Choosing a sustainable way of life and gardening is vital to the future of our planet, and it starts with the small practices we use every day while growing food. Don’t worry if you can’t do it all at once, or if you struggle to follow any of the tips. Every effort you make is important. Trial and error is part of the process. Quite possibly, you’ll develop ways to improve upon the methods you’re currently utilizing with ideas not even listed here. That’s great! We have the ability to change the future if we want, and it starts with sustainability, Planting a tree is a great place to start!
When we understand the impact our daily choices make, it becomes easier to implement environmentally-friendly gardening practices. As you think about the next growing season, make a list of the things that are important to you and how you can work towards turning those goals into reality. Do you want to grow healthier food for your family? Do you want to help the pollinators? Do you want to discover ways to combat garden pests naturally? These sustainable gardening ideas are here to help you get started on this worthy journey. We are all in this together, and we can create a beautiful and sustainable earth for future generations.
“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” – Native American Proverb