Sustainable Foods: Starting Your Own Organic Garden
Sustainable gardening might seem like a trend, but its popularity has come just at a time when we need it the most. Sustainable gardening is a philosophy and practice of gardening in a way that does no harm to the natural environment and the ecosystems that support it.
You might be surprised at what sustainable gardening involves and how easy it is to do, even if you’re working with a small space.
About Sustainable Gardening
Everyone knows that home gardening and big agriculture are in two completely different leagues. Big agriculture is built around farming practices that destroy soil and natural ecosystems through the use of chemicals, including pesticides, and farming practices that don’t support soil quality.
Home and community gardens aren’t completely immune to similar negative effects of gardening.
Not paying attention to how plants affect the nutrients in soil and planting varieties of fruits and vegetables that aren’t native to the area can demand extra resources, deplete the soil of nutrients, and create havoc in the ecosystem to the point that new troublesome insects and creatures are introduced, while beneficial insects aren’t getting what they need to thrive.
Sustainable gardening helps to repair some of this damage and create an environment that’s more supportive of growing organic produce in the future.
What’s even better is that sustainable gardening practices are easy to implement in your home garden -- whether you have an acre in your backyard devoted to growing fresh produce or you have a wonderful container garden flourishing on your apartment patio.
Benefits of Sustainable Gardening:
Supports Natural Ecosystems
Reduces Toxic Land Waste
Prevents Invasive Species
Reduces Your Carbon Footprint By Growing and Not Shopping For Food
10 Ways to Make Your Gardening More Sustainable
Consider the space you're working with. You might look at your yard space and think there's no way you could grow your food because your yard is too shady or you only have a small patch of sunshine.
First, your garden doesn’t need to be in one nicely defined square in your yard. Instead, choose to have smaller garden plots or container gardens in different areas of your outdoor space, focusing more on plants that can thrive in each of those environments.
For instance, leafy vegetables and root vegetables typically will grow best in shady areas of your outdoor space, while vegetables like tomatoes, squash, and peppers will do best in areas that receive full sunlight.
Let the space you have work for you, rather than feeling restricted in your gardening capabilities by it.
Plan for a Spaced-Out Harvest Season
One of the best ways to make your gardening more sustainable is by planting foods that you’ll be able to harvest throughout the summer and into the fall. This reduces your dependence on store-bought produce.
Arugula, dandelion greens, members of the onion family, and many herbs can be harvested in the spring (some will need to be planted in the fall) while you’re waiting for summer and fall harvest seasons.
Choose plants that will harvest at different points of your gardening season, so you always have some delicious, fresh, homegrown produce on hand.
Choose Native Plants
Study plants that are native to your local area. Choosing native plants reduces stress on the soil and environment; plus, these plants have usually adapted to have some level of resistance to native pests and critters.
Garden Using Companion Plants
Certain plants grow exceptionally well when they’re planted together. This is called companion gardening. A combination of plants can be beneficial for soil nutrients, pest control, increased crop productivity, and can help you use your gardening space more efficiently.
An example of companion planting would be planting tomatoes and basil close to each other. The basil works very well to repel many of the insects and moths that like to cause havoc for tomato plants. Add parsley to the mix, and you can attract beneficial insects.
The other part of companion planting is knowing which plants to keep apart. Green beans will thrive with beets and cucumbers nearby, by garlic and chives are considered enemies of green beans in a garden space.
Use Natural Pest Control
You don’t need toxic pesticides for your garden to thrive. There are plenty of plants that are natural insect and pest repellents.
Most of these plants fall in the category of herbs and have a wonderful ability to protect garden spaces by releasing their scent and oil into the air and soil around the garden.
The first step is to make sure that the pest control plants you want to use are compatible with the other plants in your garden.
The next step is to plant varieties of flowers and herbs such as basil, lavender, lemongrass, and petunias around the perimeter of the garden space to offer a level of natural protection to the plants inside.
Consider Beneficial Insects
Do a little research into beneficial garden insects that are native to your local area. A little digging and it’s easy to find ways to attract most types of beneficial insects.
For instance, do you know that Green Lacewings will eat mealybugs and aphids? Planting dill or coriander will help to attract them.
If your efforts to attract beneficial insects fail, there are some you can order online and introduce to your gardening space. Just make sure that they are species that are native to your area to ensure that they thrive and succeed at their jobs.
Compost for Nourishment
Composting is one of the most effective sustainable gardening tactics. Not only is nutrient-rich compost great for your garden, but composting also reduces the amount of waste you're sending to landfills.
Composting was once thought of as something that you needed a lot of space to do, but today, you can find tips and equipment for composting in a space as small as an apartment patio. Even if you're limited in space or do mostly container gardening, a small composter is a great asset.
Use “Human-Powered” Gardening Tools
Skip using gardening tools that run on fuel or electricity. Even something as simple as switching to an old-fashioned push mower for your lawn is a huge step in the right direction. By using human-powered gardening tools, you're reducing stress on the grid or reducing fumes released into the air or toxins released into the ground.
If you’re physically able to till and dig by hand, then do it. It’s also really great exercise. However, if you have limited physical capabilities, this is one of the steps toward sustainable gardening that you shouldn’t sweat. Anything you can do to garden and grow your own food is good for you and the environment.
Use Your Own Seeds
Finally, you don’t have to rush to the gardening store to purchase a new batch of seeds each year. Granted, it’s fun to peruse all the seeds and dream about the garden you’ll have, but it’s also a good idea to keep your own seeds, just in case you’re not able to source your favorite seeds from somewhere else next season.
Remove the seeds from your homegrown produce and research how to preserve them for use next year. Also, if you leave a few pieces of produce in the garden to decompose after the harvest, you’ll likely find that a few new plants will sprout up from those seeds next year.
Collect Rainwater and Use “Rainscaping”
Collecting rainwater is a great way to use natural resources without stressing the environment. Set up a rainwater collection system and use that as much as possible to water your garden. Consider “rainscaping” garden architecture which helps rainwater more efficiently find its way to thirsty plants without completely drenching the soil.
Sustainable Gardening Practices Ensure Healthier, More Productive Gardens In the Future
Implementing even just one or two sustainable gardening practices is one of the healthiest things you can do for your garden. The quality and nutrient density of the foods you eat improves, and you get to feel great about how you’re supporting the environment in the most natural way.