10 Sustainable Gardening Tips

Sustainable gardening uses resources in a smart and ecologically-minded way. The happy result of gardening this way means you'll have less waste, use fewer chemicals, and overall, gardening will cost less. Here are 10 sustainable gardening practices you can put into action in your own backyard.

What is Sustainable Gardening?

Sustainable Gardening with purple and pink flower beds

So, what is sustainable gardening? Although the term doesn't have an official definition, its general principles are that of minimizing human impact on the earth. Sustainable practices at home include avoiding polluting chemicals, preserving natural resources, and reducing waste whenever possible. These sustainable gardening ideas will help you contribute to a happier, healthier planet.

1. Go Organic

organic traditions iron pellet fertilizer

Going organic is an important part of sustainable gardening. Using fewer chemicals in your garden is more ecologically sound and more cost effective. If you're raising food for your family, gardening organically is even more important. Start from the ground up by building good soil rich in nutrients and add natural compost to amend the soil. If you discover insect pests or plant disease in your garden, treat them with organic solutions.

See Organic Gardening Benefits

2. Mulch Your Landscape

mulch, video still, landscaping

Not only is mulching a great way to prevent weeds from springing up in your garden, but it's also an ideal method to soil moisture conservation. In areas with watering restrictions, this is especially important. Add a 2 to 3-inch layer of the mulch of your choice to your garden beds and around landscape plants. Mulch options for sustainable landscaping include: shredded bark, cocoa bean hulls, pine needles, grass clippings, and coir (made from coconut hulls).

Mulch Must-Knows

3. Plant Natives

Sunflower Helianthus annus 'Holiday'

Knowing how to grow a sustainable garden includes knowing what plants to use. Sustainable plants are those that are indigenous to your region, also called natives. These plants take less work, usually require less water, and thrive better than other perennials because they are already suited to your climate, rainfall, and soil types. Additionally, native plant species provide food and shelter for the native insect and bird populations.

4. Lose Your Lawn (Or Part of It)

Molinia Caerulea ornamental grass

A gorgeous, green, and weed-free lawn uses a lot of resources. Water and fertilizer are needed to keep most lawns looking in top shape. You can have more sustainable landscaping by reducing the area planted in grass and replacing it with easy-care perennial ornamental grasses, low-growing shrubs, or groundcovers.

5. Water Less

rain barrel on back patio

Using less water is an important element of sustainability, especially in areas where water is scarce and restricted. Xeriscaping, a method of gardening and landscaping that reduces the need for watering, incorporates a wide variety of attractive drought-tolerant shrubs and perennials. To collect water from Mother Nature to use on your plants, install a rain barrel at the base of one or more of your downspouts.

6. Grow Your Own Food

fresh summer vegetables in crate

Growing sustainable vegetables, fruits, and herbs is satisfying, easy, and delicious. Plus, raising some of your own food is an essential part of a sustainable lifestyle. For a successful sustainable vegetable garden, plant intensively and by season. Crops, such as greens and lettuce, sprout quickly in the spring but die out in summer's hot temps. Beds can be interplanted with hot-weather crops such as tomatoes and peppers. When autumn temps cool down, you can sow cool weather crops again, getting three seasons of food from the same area.

7. Plant Perennials

hosta plant growing in garden

Long-lived perennials are an excellent way to get more bang from your gardening buck. Choose perennials that are adapted to your USDA Zone; you can find zone information on the plant tag. To save money, buy small perennials; they'll get bigger and better every year. Every couple of years, they'll need to be divided, which gives you more plants to enlarge your sustainable backyard garden or share with friends.

8. Save Seeds

plant seeds and young plant

When annual flowers go to seed at the end of the season, collect their dried seed heads and store them in a dry place all winter. You can sow the seeds in your garden next spring—no need to pay for additional seeds! Try this with marigold, sunflower, and morning glory.

9. Start Composting

Compost, dirt, worms, garden, gardening

One the best ways to partake in sustainable gardening practices is to compost your green waste. Grass clippings, deadheaded flowers, dried leaves, and more can be turned into a nutrient-rich sustainable fertilizer in a compost pile.

10. Mow with an Electric or Manual Mower

grass, yard, mowing

Using a gas-powered lawn mower for an hour pollutes the air as much as driving a car for 45 miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. If you'd like to reduce your carbon footprint, consider manually operated lawn-care equipment, or use electric mowers, trimmers, and blowers.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for these tips! I definitely agree with mowing using non gas-powered lawn equipment. No mess, very little energy cost compared with fuel, no toxins, a little less noise, and much easier to maintain.

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