How to Start a Sustainable Home Garden
With our growing concern over our influence on the environment, sustainable gardening has become increasingly popular. A garden is considered sustainable when it can be used productively over and over without the need for additional materials. The best sustainable home gardens are organic, but using pesticides or other nonorganic products occasionally does not mean the garden is not sustainable. Here’s some advice to help you get started maintaining a sustainable home garden.
The goal of a sustainable garden is to have a garden function from year-to-year with little use of outside materials. The lifecycle of such a garden starts with adding compost at the beginning of the season when seeds are planted. Water comes from sustainable sources and compost comes from the garden’s wastes. The garden uses organic soil treatments and pest prevention. At the end of the season, food is harvested, seeds are saved for next year, and waste from the garden is used for next year’s compost.
Compost is decayed plant material after microorganisms have fed on it. Composting is how the entire ecosystem of Earth functions. It’s not a smelly process either, compost has a deep earthy scent. Making your own compost is much easier and less expensive than buying enriched soil. Work compost into topsoil before you plant and you’ll be returning important nutrients to it. To learn more about the environment, consider going to an accredited online college.
Mulch is an additional layer of organic material above your topsoil. Mulch suppresses weeds, keeps soil moist, prevents runoff, keeps temperatures down, and increases beneficial bugs and microorganisms. Most can be made of different materials and the mulch you should use depends on your garden. You should put two inches of mulch on top of your soil, but be sure to not put mulch on top of your plants or have it touching their stems. For more details see our Mulching 101 post.
Watering effectively is also important for a sustainable home garden. Save rainwater in a rain barrel and you can water your garden between rains. Also consider buying local, drought resistant plants and you won’t need to water as much. When watering your garden also be sure to only water your plants and not the rest of the ground. This prevents wasting water and unintentionally feeding weeds. For a truly sustainable home garden, opt to go for a rainwater collection system with rain barrels.
Pests and Disease
When running a garden, there’s a possibility of dealing with plant diseases and pests. Commercial products can be hazardous to the environment and your health. Some organic options include planting sympathetic plants. Also encourage predatory insects like ladybugs to eat pests in your garden (See our Ladybug Natural Garden post for details). Gardening centers often sell predatory insects.
At the end of the season save your seeds from flowers and vegetables and you won’t have to buy seeds for next year. In many cases, you’ll have to process the seeds, collecting them properly and fermenting and drying them.
For example, tomato seeds need washing. When washing tomato seeds place them in water and put them in a warm place for a few days. After that, there will be a film of scum on top of the water. Take the seeds out and allow them to dry. This can take over a week with some larger varieties of tomato. For other types of plants, consult local gardening experts or other types of gardening information.
Gardening may seem like an expensive and tedious activity, but following these practices will allow you to have a garden with less effort and less expense.
If you’re interested in learning more about environmental studies, you can find more information here.
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