By Sheri Dean
As winter begins to draw to a close, many people are starting to plan for the gardens they’ll have during the warmer seasons. The decision to start or maintain a garden is a great way to help the environment while also practicing a beneficial hobby. Science has shown that gardening can help you fight diseases in the long run while improving overall mental health.
However, there are certain practices, such as pesticide usage, that have become commonplace in gardening despite the negative effects they can have on both the environment and our health. In sustainable gardening, the aim is to work with nature as much as possible instead of working against it.
In this post, we outline several tips for how to start and maintain a sustainable garden.
One of the most well-known ways to start a sustainable garden is to create your own compost and add it to your soil. Compost is organic matter, such as leaves and food scraps, that has been deliberately decomposed to be added to soil.
Many day-to-day objects that often get thrown in garbage can be used as part of your compost. For example, coffee grounds and paper coffee filters, tea leaves, shredded paper, and even hair and pet fur can all be composted. Over a few weeks, the organic matter will break down enough to be added to the soil, which will help it maintain both nutrients and moisture.
Depending on the space you have and your personal preferences, you can choose from various indoor and outdoor composting options.
Composting is a great way to recycle and nourish your garden.
2. Companion planting
It takes some planning and research, but companion planting is a great way to organize your garden. This is the practice of growing different plants together so that one can benefit the other, or so that they can benefit each other mutually. While there is technically no scientific data to back up the specific benefits, this practice dates back thousands of years and has been observed to be beneficial by many farmers.
There are many possibilities, as well as tried-and-true methods, when it comes to companion planting. For example, some plants naturally repel certain insects and pests, keeping neighboring plants that may be more attractive to these pests safe. Similarly, a taller, leafier plant may be planted next to a crop that needs less sunlight to provide the needed shade. The roots of certain plants can also affect the soil in such a way that they provide increased nutrients to neighboring plants. Keeping this in mind, your garden will be much likelier to be fruitful and sustainable.
3. Integrated pest management
While this term may sound a bit complicated, it simply means that when it comes to managing the pests that inevitably come with gardening, it’s important to start with the least toxic method and only use pesticides in extreme cases.
With integrated pest management, the goal is to avoid attracting pests, keep them out of your gardens, and treat getting rid of them as the last resort.
It takes planning, but this method is generally very effective in maintaining gardens and keeping pests at bay. In the event that you do need to use pesticides, try making your own all-natural solution or be sure to shop for one that specifically targets the pest you are trying to get rid of. This will minimize the damage done to neighboring plants.
4. Saving water
While abundant water is necessary for the growth of most gardens and environments in general, it’s in the best interest of the environment to save as much water as possible. There are several easy ways to make sure you get the most out of the water you use.
Make sure to time your watering right--outdoor gardens need their water in the morning to retain moisture. Cover soil with a thick layer of mulch, which helps with water retention and provides vital nutrients to the soil. Also, only water plants when needed--the vast majority of plants do not need to be watered every day, and can actually experience diseases such as root rot if they get too much water. If the top layer of the soil is still moist, then you can leave off watering that plant for the day.
Finally, many sustainable gardeners have had great success with collecting and storing rainwater for the purpose of maintaining their gardeners.
Whether you’re planning to start your first garden this year or are a seasoned gardener, these tips should give you an idea of how to think of your garden as a little ecosystem that can be planned out and cared for. In turn, this will help the environment of your local neighborhood while allowing you to experience the various health benefits of sustainable gardening!
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This is where you can find more in-depth information on how to reduce waste in our local communities and live more sustainably.
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