Sustainable Gardening: 8 Steps to an Eco-Friendly Backyard
For many, gardening is a hobby. A way to get outside, get their hands dirty, relax, or even grow food for their family. But it can also be a way to give back to nature and your local ecosystem through sustainable gardening.
What is Sustainable Gardening?
There is no concrete definition of what makes a garden sustainable. However, sustainable gardens generally aim to benefit the environment, rather than harm it. Sustainable gardeners try to avoid making excess waste and aim to minimize their negative impact on the local ecosystem.
Why Do Sustainable Gardening Methods Matter?
Over time, gardening sustainably can have a major effect on three big areas of impact:
Growing a sustainable garden can have some surprising impacts on your home, including:
- Lowering your air conditioning and heating bills by growing native shade trees.
- Teaching your children about the importance of being “green” and giving back to the environment.
- Helping you reduce food waste through composting.
Your Lawn and Garden
Opting to garden sustainably also has a variety of benefits for your lawn and garden:
- Planting native plants means fewer invasive species and weeds can thrive.
- Climate-appropriate plants grow bigger and stronger with less maintenance.
- Avoiding fertilizers and pesticides makes for a safer lawn and garden for your family to enjoy.
Your Local Ecosystem
The environmental benefits of gardening sustainably can’t be understated. By growing a sustainable garden, you can:
- Limit the spread of invasive plant species in your community.
- Reduce excess waste in local landfills.
- Minimize your water usage and water bill.
8 Ways to Make Your Garden More Sustainable
Whether you’re starting a garden for the first time or are simply looking for ways to make your existing garden more eco-friendly, check out these sustainable gardening tips!
1. Waste Less Water
Reducing your water waste is one of the easiest ways you can make your garden more sustainable. The average lawn only needs about an inch of water a week, and many gardens can thrive on minimal watering as well. Use a rain gauge to collect and measure rainfall each week and ensure that you aren’t over- or underwatering.
Most experts recommend using hoses or drip irrigation systems rather than sprinkler systems, as they have less water loss due to evaporation. Hoses and drip irrigation systems also give you more control to ensure water isn’t running off directly onto sidewalks or into gutters.
You can also set up a rain barrel system to collect water and control runoff. This method is especially handy in climates with variable weather that may experience longer periods of rain and drought.
2. Use Less Energy
The big culprit when it comes to outdoor energy use is your lawn. Opt for an electric or push-reel mower when possible, and be sure to keep your mower blade sharp for maximum efficiency. We also recommend pulling weeds by hand before mowing to avoid spreading them throughout your lawn and garden.
You can also reduce the size of your lawn by planting trees, shrubs, or enlarging your garden. Most gardens don’t use any fossil fuels at all, but if you do opt to include lighting in your landscape, choose solar-powered LED bulbs over fluorescent lighting. Not only do they use less energy, but they also cast a much more natural looking outdoor light on your garden and landscape.
3. Choose Appropriate Plants
If you’ve ever found a weed or plant in your garden that you just can’t seem to get rid of, chances are it’s an invasive species. Being aware of the invasive species in your area is crucial to preventing them from taking over your garden and spreading beyond your property.
Many sustainable gardeners champion native plants for growing lush gardens that attract local wildlife and maximize the environmental benefits of gardening. If you choose non-native plants, look for diverse, drought-resistant perennials to reduce water consumption and end-of-season yard waste.
4. Minimize Fertilizer Use
While there are no hard and fast rules against using fertilizer in your garden, sustainable gardening methods aim to limit the use of fertilizer to prevent runoff and plant overgrowth.
Start by testing your soil to understand what kinds of plants it can grow naturally, and what changes you may need to make. Many soils are already suitable for growing without added fertilizer. If your lawn or garden needs fertilizer, be sure to follow the directions for proper use to avoid runoff. You can also fertilize and enrich your soil with homemade compost.
5. Make Your Own Compost
Composting is a great way to repurpose food scraps and fertilize your garden. It allows you and your family to be more aware of your food waste, while giving it a new purpose in your garden. Getting started with composting can sound overwhelming, but if you start small, it’s actually pretty simple. Plus, adding compost to your soil will help it retain moisture better and need less frequent watering.
6. Save Your Seeds
Once you have an established garden, you can regenerate your garden with seeds from the year before. For a sustainable vegetable garden, regrow tomatoes, peppers, beans, and peas with seeds from the year before. You can also save seeds from dried flowers to replant the following year.
Be sure to store your seeds in a cool, dry place for their best chance of sprouting the following year.
7. Mulch Your Gardens
Mulching is crucial for growing a healthy, sustainable garden. It helps your garden beds regulate their temperature and retain more moisture, meaning less water waste in your yard. It also helps to suppress weeds so there is less need for fertilizers and pesticides.
Add organic mulch to your garden as soon as your plants are in the ground, and consider mulching any open patches of dirt in your garden as well to prevent erosion and runoff.
8. Keep Learning
While we’ve covered the basics of sustainable gardening, there are new discoveries every day that help our gardens make a positive impact on our environments. Keeping an open mind and continuing to do your research is the best way to keep your garden healthy and sustainable.