What Are Your Best Tips for Sustainability in the Garden?

| 8/10/2010 3:51:11 PM

ShovelMy guess is that organic gardeners already have sustainability on their minds. After all, growing your own food is a huge first step in leading a sustainable lifestyle. Plus, nontoxic, chemical-free methods are inherently more sustainable — for health, for the soil, for the water supply — than non-organic techniques.

But being a sustainable gardener goes beyond food. An organic gardener could fertilize with homemade compost, but could also choose to feed plants with certified organic fertilizer that was shipped thousands of miles in its plastic container to wind up on a garden center shelf.

Considerations of sustainability factor into countless other supplies, tools and methods present in your garden. Whether it’s your garden gloves, pots, garden fence, shovel or raised bed lumber, questions arise: Where did it come from? (Or ship from?) What raw materials were used to make it? Was anything reused or repurposed? How long will it last? Was a lot of energy used in its making? What was it packaged in?

Fertilizers, weed-prevention supplies and techniques, and insect-prevention supplies and methods all have their own sets of questions. How is this method or product affecting the earth? Other creatures? The long-term health of the soil?

Water usage is yet another area that offers great opportunities for choosing more sustainable options.

What do you do in your own garden to be a sustainable gardener? Please share your tips with our readers! And feel free to think big. Sustainability in the garden can go way beyond what’s mentioned here. We’re hoping to publish an article sometime next year with great advice on this topic, and we can’t wait to hear your creative ideas.

4/20/2014 9:00:12 AM

I save water by catching much of the water when I shower. I place a roasting pan in the center of the shower above the drain to catch the water as I am waiting for the right temperature. When I step into the shower I kick the pan to the side. When I am finished I then pour the water into a bucket. I use the water to water plants or to flush the toilet (it usually takes the water from two showers to flush). Another recycling tip is to take a small container to restaurants for my left-overs instead of using theirs.

Mandy Lange
2/12/2011 7:37:07 PM

For my sustainable garden, I have a large compost bin for enriching the soil. I use my paper shredder as a tool for my garden by using the bags of paper strips it creates for mulch and/or weed control in the garden. All my trellises are made from repurposed "waste" wood from my husband's work that would have gone to the landfill otherwise. It is untreated wood so it will not leach chemicals into the soil. I have a rain barrel system that collects all the rain runoff from the roof of our garage and that gives me the free, untreated, natural water that the plants absolutely love. Just a 1/4" of rain creates 30 gallons of water! That always amazes me! As for adding acidity to soil where acid-loving plants are, such as blueberries, I put used coffee grounds around the bases of those plants because coffee grounds are naturally acidic. For a lime substitute for my lilacs, I use crushed, cleaned egg shells around the bases of those plants which encourages them to flower because lilacs do not like acidic soils. I use sheer curtains to protect fruiting bushes such as blueberries from birds. This is a cheap alternative to expensive bird netting that can tear off leaves and fruits when you take the netting off to harvest fruits/berries.

Ralph R.
2/12/2011 9:19:44 AM

Free mulch for flower beds, garden and areas we do not want weeds to grow, provided by tree trimmers for power line co-op; They are always happy to have a location to empty trucks 7 year old Goat manure compost from a goat ranch nearby is free; They really appreciate we bring in a Bobcat and cleaned out 50 cubic yards of old manure. We also add all non protein food items from home to compost pile. Free firewood from an 800 acre ranch ; They love for us to come and clear out downed trees to let more grass grow; We have heated out 2400 sq ft house when temperatures got down to 8 degrees this winter with only wood (saving $100 - $250.00 per month on electric usage). All ash from fireplace is going in our in ground garden to help hold moisture in soil We have 35 container bins for tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, strawberries, cantaloupe and spices; We use these over and over adding compost to soil. These containers produce 3 to 5 times more produce than out in ground plants do. No weeding; Less water usage. We have four 330 gallon water recovery containers on our shop building and home to capture rain water. This is used in or garden and containers to prevent city water added chemicals from being introduced into our food. We raise orphan calves for our own beef , as well as selling these every six months to provide beef for others.

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