What does Sustainable Gardening Mean?
The word Sustain means to keep at a certain level.
When we apply this to gardening
* The implication is gardening with as little negative impact on the environment as possible.
* Places a value on our ecosystem and future
* Creating a garden that can be maintained and kept alive without unnecessary chemicals, pollution and use of water.
* Gardening that preserves our ecosystem, and works with nature rather than against it
* Can also mean gardening that is friendly to insects, wildlife, pollinators and
microorganisms living in the soil
Sustainable Gardening starts with a mindset. It means making conscious decisions from early planning stages, plant selection, soil preparation, controlling weeds, insects and disease, equipment we use, and disposing of green waste.
Keep in mind Sustainable Gardening is not about All or Nothing. Its about doing what we can, and maybe pushing ourselves to do a little better.
Benefits of trying to garden with sustainability in mind
* Preserving the ecosystem
* Reducing pollution and landfill waste
* Reducing the use of valuable drinking water
* Helping to feed/shelter wildlife, pollinators, insects and microorganisms in the soil
* Our peace of mind, and satisfaction that we are trying to do better
* Change attitudes and practices of the community
We might ask does it really make a difference? I am just one person with a little plot of land. Like voting, one vote seems to not matter, but a bunch of one votes added together does.
Sustainable Gardening starts with the design
When planning your garden or landscape take these things in consideration.
* How much lawn do you need/want. Grass is not bad, and has many benefits. Maintaining a perfect lawn can and most likely will go against the principles of sustainable gardening. (watering, chemical, fertilizers, mowing)
* Impervious surfaces such as concrete, brick pavers, shed water, and it has to go somewhere. Paths, patios and driveway made with permeable surfaces such as gravel or mulch allow water to pass through into the soil.
* Use of trees. Trees can shade your home and help reduce cooling costs, Trees can also shade areas for plants. Of course trees absorb carbon dioxide, and help produce oxygen. Trees also provide shelter for birds and insects.
* Dry creek beds can collect and divert water runoff to help keep more water away from our sewer systems.
Plant Selection is critical for maintaining sustainable gardening practices
* Consider natives plants. Native plants used in the correct cultural conditions can generally require less water and use of chemical to fight insects or diseases. Most natives will also benefit pollinators and wildlife. Keep in mind, many non-native plants are also well-suited for use in our climate.
* Native or not, choose plants that thrive in the given cultural conditions of spot you want to use them. Consider sunlight (current and over time) moisture, and wind, and space allowed to grow without the need for excessive or constant pruning.
* Choose plants with a purpose: pollination, food, and shelter for wildlife. Don’t discount your enjoyment as it is important also.
* Choose plants that have little or no serious insect or disease problems so you can avoid
using chemical to maintain them
Soil makes a difference
Creating a soil with a sustainable environment for earthworms and microorganisms has many benefits that are essential to gardening without creating negative impact
* Reduces the need for constant fertilizing as the living organisms create organic matter
* Reduces the amount of watering required as earthworms help aerate the soil, and the organic matter created help keep clay from compacting
* Keeps plants healthier so they are more resistant to disease and insect damage
* Helps reduce water runoff by allowing water to be absorbed into the soil
We can give our clay soil a head start by working in compost, manure or good top soil by turning it in with a shovel or tiller. Even top dressing the soil with compost helps over time.
Using Espoma Bio-Tone Plant Starter adds Mycorrhizal fungi which spreads over time and allows the roots of plants to take up moisture and nutrients more efficiently.
Tips for maintaining your garden and landscape with minimal impact to the environment
* Consider a walk behind reel mower
* Consider an electric or battery powered mower
* Mow less frequently
* Live with a few weeds
* Use organic fertilizer and chemicals if needed.
* Aerating the soil periodically helps water sink into the soil promoting deeper roots
* Get your soil tested every few years, maintaining a the proper ph is critical to keeping lawns healthy.
* Use organics to avoiding adding chemicals and salts to the soil.
* Don’t over fertilize. Like us with vitamins, plants will only use what they need.
* Sprinkle compost around plants, and let mother nature work nutrients into the soil.
* Again do periodic soil tests to see what your soil needs.
Insect and Disease Control
* Use organics when possible. Keep in mind, just because a product is organic that
doesn’t mean it doesn’t have harmful effects on insects and other animals.
Vinegar come to mind. Read labels, and think before acting
* Consider if the problem is worth treating. Some insect are here for a short while and their damage may be minimal. Same with some funguses. Once the conditions are gone so may be the fungus.
* Is the problem going to be reoccurring? If so maybe best to replace the plant with a different type of plant.
* Remove infested leaves from the ground surrounding plants.
* Keep your pruning tools clean.
S* oft bodied insects like aphids can be killed with a hard stream of water.
* Japanese beetles can be squashed with your fingers or shaken into a dish of soapy
water. The beetles are somewhat sluggish in the early morning.
* Collect rainwater with rain barrels
* Use drip irrigation or soaker hoses to avoid evaporation that comes with over head watering.
* Use timers to avoid over watering.
* Water in the early morning hours to avoid evaporation and also help avoid
* Water longer and less frequently, but not so long that you are getting runoff.
Finally, share your knowledge and experience. Encourage others to strive for
sustainable gardens and landscapes.