Below, we’ve compiled a list of tips & practices that may result in a more sustainable or eco friendly garden.
These tips and practices cover aspects such as the garden planning and design, the size of the gardening area, soil, plant life, water, gardening resources, and more.
Firstly, What Is Sustainable Gardening?
Some of the main aspects to sustainable gardening might be:
– Using resources efficiently
Including not wasting resources, efficiently converting resources to production, and using resources like water and energy efficiently to maintain the garden
– Minimizing negative environmental impact
– Being complementary to, or having a circular relationship with the local environment
For example, the garden, and the local environment and wildlife or organisms, might support or contribute to one another
Onto the list of sustainable gardening tips and practices …
1. Before You Start, Decide If You’re Willing To Commit Time & Resources To A Garden Or Not
Starting and maintaining a garden can take time, money, resources, and patience
So, those who haven’t grown one yet might want to ask themselves before they start if they genuinely prepared to make that commitment/investment.
People can save themselves that investment, and save on resources and waste if they realize they aren’t ready for the commitment.
2. Research & Assess The Individual Gardening Area & Location
Every gardening area and geographic location will have different variables and factors to consider that impact growing and gardening
These factors can involve things like the local climate/weather, the plant hardiness zone you’re in, the slope of the land, the type of soil on the land, and so on.
Finding out these factors and other relevant factors for your gardening area and geographic location gives you a good base of knowledge to work from.
3. Speak To Locals With Gardening Knowledge In The Area
After you’ve done your own research, it helps to speak to locals who have practical knowledge of gardening in the area.
Two places to find these people locally might be:
– At gardening centres and stores
– In online social media groups and on forums, where local gardeners can share their experiences and tips of (such as what might work, and what might not)
4. Consider An General Gardening Strategy & Design
Once you have a base of knowledge about gardening in the area, it’s worth thinking about what your garden goals are, and how you might like to design your garden.
This can involve things such as the area of the garden, the different plant life you’ll grow, where the different plant life will grow, what the maintenance and ongoing work on the garden is likely to be, and so on.
5. Consider The Size Of The Garden Or Growing Space
This includes the size of the overall garden area, but also the size of the area that individual plant life will be grown in.
The bigger the area of the garden, and specifically the bigger the area water hungry plant life, the more water intensive the garden might be to upkeep.
Reducing the size of the garden, or substituting some lawn areas for less water hungry plant life, or even hard surfaces that don’t require watering, can reduce gardening water demand (in addition to other gardening resources)
Some reports indicate that existing grassed areas that might be more water or fertilizeer hungry might be replaced with ‘early care perennial ornamental grasses, low growing shurbs, or groundcovers’
6. Consider The Soil Type
Knowing the soil type in your garden helps with knowing not only how to manage that specific type soil, but also what plant life can grow in the soil.
We’ve also put together different guides that reference reports of what plant life might grow well in different types of soil:
These guides are general in nature only. You’ll still need to independently confirm what plant life grows well in the soil on your land.
7. Consider Soil Health, Soil Fertility, & Soil Care & Maintenance
Soil health goes beyond soil fertility, and is making sure the soil is in a condition that is suitable for whatever it is being used for, or the function it has to perform
Making sure the soil is healthy is therefore important for the plant life being grown, an may impact the soil’s ability to support beneficial insects and microorganisms
Soil fertility not only impacts how effectively plant life can grown, but also the ability of the soil to hold onto moisture and nutrients, as well as other key factors in gardening
Soil fertility can therefore impact how efficiently gardening resources are used from a sustainability perspective
We’ve written several guides about soil fertility:
Read more about the full list of factors that might impact soil fertility in this guide
Soil Care & Maintenance
Soil care and maintenance impact things like soil health and fertility, and, there’s a range of different ways to care for, or maintain soil.
Some of those ways include:
– Adding fertilizers and nutrients to the soil
– Practices like tilling vs not tilling the soil, applying ground cover, organic matter, or mulch to the soil so it isn’t bare, and so on
In particular with organic matter, some reports indicate that 2 to 3 inches of material like dry leaves, grass clippings or prunings might be added. Organic matter can help improve the structure, moisture and nutrients holding capacity of the soil
Mulch might include materials like shredded bark, cocoa bean hulls, pine needles, grass clippings, and coir
8. Consider The Type Of Plant Life
The selection of the plant life that will be grown in a garden impacts various aspects of sustainability.
Some of the considerations for picking plant life might be:
– How water hungry they are
– How much fertilizer and other resources they require
– How durable/resilient they are
This can include being tolerant to hot or cold weather, to droughts, to diseases, and so on
– Whether they are native plants that grow well in, or are adapted to local conditions, such as the climate (or the local climatic zone), rainfall, and the soil types in the area
– Potentially growing more perennials that regrow vs annuals die off and don’t regrow
Some small perennials also have the benefit of growing, and can then be divided and planted elsewhere
– Growing companion plants which have a range of gardening benefits, and sustainability benefits
– Growing a diverse range of plants, such as flowers, herbs, foods plants, and so on
– Grow plants or flowers that attract pollinators like bees, and also butterflies
– Pay attention to what grows well after you’ve begun growing, and grow more of what grows best
9. Consider Growing Your Own Food
This may help replace some of the food you buy from supermarkets and food stores per week, which may reduce your food related sustainability footprint.
Herbs and basic foods like vegetables can be grown in some garden veggie patches.
You may need to sow both cold and hot weather crops at the appropriate times though.
10. Consider More Sustainable Watering Methods & Practices
Different considerations for sustainable water methods and practices might include:
– Using a bucket vs a hose vs a sprinkler/irrigation system
A bucket might be the most water efficient
A hose might be water efficient when used with precision
Some sprinklers and irrigation systems may be more efficient and precise than others, and, it helps to maintain these systems and fix leaks when they occur
– Practices to minimize evaporation
Such as watering when the sun goes down, reducing outdoor gardening in hot climates where evaporation is more of an issue than places with less sun
– Other water saving solutions
Such as xeriscaping, as one example
11. Consider Collecting/Harvesting Rainwater, Or Collecting Runoff
Some homes have rainwater collection or harvesting systems (like rainwater tanks) set up, and they might be able to be used to water the garden.
Other homes might consider various forms of runoff collection to have more water available for the garden, with one example being installing collection barrels at downpipes or in other places where there’s runoff
12. Consider Sustainable Gardening Inputs, Resources, & Materials
This may mainly involve gardening chemicals, and also materials.
The main aim here might be going natural or organic where possible, and reducing the use of synthetic and potentially toxic chemicals.
Fertilizers, pesticides/pest control, and herbicides/weed control might be three of the main areas of focus.
Organic fertilizers, some types of animal manure (like chicken or rabbit droppings), and compost (which turns into nutrient rich type of fertilizer) might be options
With compost, there’s different methods of composting available
Compost can also contain different green waste, such as food waste, but also grass clippings, deadhead flowers, dried leaves, and more
– Pesticides & Pest Control
There might be several natural pest control methods available, with IPM and also protective nets being examples
– Herbicides & Weed Control
Weed barriers installed underground (such as mesh, or newspaper) might be a non chemical ways to control some weeds without using herbicides
They may not be effective or practical in some instances though
This might mainly involve avoiding the use of plastics where possible
Using alternative materials like paper, wood or metal might be options
Using biodegradable materials might be another options, such as using biodegradable pots and seedling trays
13. Consider More Sustainable Practices With Seeds & Growing New Plants
The following might be considered sustainable seed practices, and sustainabl practices for growing new plants:
– Saving seeds, and reducing the need to buy new seeds from the gardening store.
When annual flowers for example seed at the end of the season, collect the dried seed heads and store them to sow later
– Regrow different vegetables and plants from food scraps
– Create new plants from existing plants with propagation (from seeds, cuttings, and other plant parts)
Some perennials for example can be propagated or divided up when they grow bigger
14. Recycle Garden Waste Where Possible
In addition to kitchen waste and green household waste, consider recycling green garden waste (trimmings, grass clippings, and other green materials)
Garden waste can essentially be circular in some instances, and fed back into itself
15. Consider Cutting, Trimming & Mowing More Sustainably
This could involve:
– Using manual clippers, trimmers and lawn mowers where possible
– Using electric trimmers and mowers over gas trimmers and mowers where the energy source is cleaner. The same goes for other gardening equipment like blowers
– In some instances, homesteaders have used animals like rabbits to naturally eat and control grass length
16. Repurpose, Upcycle, Downcycle Or Reuse Items For Gardening
For example, glass containers, toilet rolls, and newspaper might all be repurposed, upcycled, downcycled or reused in some way for gardening
17. Consider Eliminating Or Better Managing Garden Features Or Systems That Use Electricity
One example of a garden feature that uses electricity is a water feature that uses a water pump.
Can these water features run on clean energy, or perhaps removed from the garden altogether?
On a bigger scale, it might be worth considering what is the net positive or negative is greenhouse that use electricity for lighting and/or heating
1. Various ‘Better Meets Reality’ guides