Environmental sustainability has permeated all aspects of human endeavor and at its core, it denotes the effort to lead an existence that is in accordance with all life on the planet, but at the same time, provides sustenance and nourishment.
Sustainability is typically associated with environment preservation, more specifically with landscapes and gardens. A sustainable garden is an organic garden taken a step further where you follow organic gardening practices that sustain soils and plants, and you’re able to produce healthy produce for your family.
As much as some people may see organic gardening as yet another environmentally-friendly pass time, if done improperly, such gardening will potentially harm the environment. Therefore, if green gardening is your priority, here’s a list of several sustainable practices to get you started on your organic garden project.
When you’re planning to design an organic garden, you should consider all resource-preserving principles to protect the soil, plants and minimize water waste. Namely, when building decks, walls and pathways, the sustainable gardener utilizes reclaimed, environmentally-friendly building materials. The same principles apply when working on soil. Also, there’s a ripple effect when you opt for organic and sustainable products – buying from businesses that use sustainable practices, their success becomes yours as well. Plus, you set a great example for other gardeners to follow.
Selecting vegetables and vegetation
Another way to grow an organic garden is by picking plant life that is native in the area where you live as they have already adjusted to the local climate. Additionally, you can opt for plants resistant to drought and pests. They are generally very low maintenance needing minimal amounts of water and no pesticides. This puts them high on the list of resource and energy-conserving plants. Moreover, choosing plants that are mutually compatible is also a sustainable practice. Companion plants will help prevent insect infestation, conserve water and boost plant growth.
Gardening by hand
An effective way to reduce your garden’s environmental impact is by personal, hand maintenance and avoiding the use of any chemicals or power tools. This is a recommended practice as both chemicals and power tools emit harmful gasses that add to the air and soil pollution. As an alternative, do your gardening with simple tools like a hoe, spade, rake, shovel, and good, old-fashioned muscle power. Maintaining your garden this way won’t harm the environment and it won’t cost a dime, but it will require your time and effort so be ready to spend a few hours a week gardening to stay on top of things.
Another way to go is to create a no-dig garden. As the name suggests, this type of garden requires no digging at all and it’s great for beginners and gardening enthusiasts with limited garden space with a busy work schedule. Creating it doesn’t require a lot of complex work; once set up, the garden is basically low-maintenance but the rewards are huge!
No garden could be called sustainable without composting. This involves practices that turn organic material into a rich soil conditioner enabling you to produce your own natural plant fertilizer and avoid the use of any harmful chemicals.
Composting supports backyard sustainability by improving the soil in your garden, minimizing the need and use of synthetic fertilizers, reducing the amount of garden waste that would end up at the landfill and by locking in moisture and helping you conserve water.
Create your compost by saving all the organic matter from your kitchen, without meat scraps, but include all the weeds and leaf cuttings from your garden. Put them all in a composting container or compost pile. Leave it to cure for a few weeks until it becomes dark and crumbly and then add it to your garden. Compost will provide the necessary minerals for your plants thus eliminating the use of synthetic fertilizers or plant food.
Water is one of our most precious commodities and it must be protected for quality as well as preserved. Sustainable gardening utilizes rain barrels and water collection systems instead of getting water from municipal or private sources. Such sustainable practice protects the water quality as it doesn’t use any herbicides or pesticides that would contaminate soil and end up in the water supply.
Permeable soils also help in water conservation by controlling the runoff. Sustainable gardening uses ground covers and mulch to enable soils to withhold water and prevent evaporation and drainage. Another practice dictates the garden design referred to as the “rain gardens” – this design utilizes terraces, raised beds holding pools to collect rainwater, allowing it to be absorbed slowly back into the soil.
The main aim is to use only the water provided by nature in the form of rain and runoff, but this is only possible in wetter regions. In areas where rainwater collection is difficult or impossible, sustainable gardening turns to direct water methods such as a simple watering can or a form of drip irrigation to minimize evaporation loss.
All these methods together can help you get closer to sustainable gardening. There are many more creative additions you can make yourself as a personal touch to your sustainable garden. The best tool you can use in pursuit of sustainability is knowledge and the greatest impact you can have on sustainability is sharing that knowledge.