We’re all looking for ways to help the environment, lower our carbon footprint, and feel like we’re making a difference in the world. Some changes are easier to make than others. One area where this can be quite simple and be a reminder every day that you are doing your part is in your garden. The best part is that everything that is good for the environment is also better and easier for you.
Make Your Own Compost
Composting at home is a great way to reduce your food waste, enrich your soil, and feel better about doing it. It’s also not extra work if you do it the right way. In Spring when garden waste is plentiful, you can make your first batch and leave that to decompose while you get working on your second one. Aside from yard waste, start with things like coffee grounds and filters, eggshells, and fruit and vegetable peelings. Cut everything nice and small to speed up the process. Avoid meat, dairy, dog or cat feces and even things like garlic, citrus peels or onions which repel earthworms.
UPgrade: If you live near a coast line, seaweed is an amazing source of nutrients for your soil and can work as a great mulch. The benefits of seaweed are too many to list here but it can also be used in composting – and can be another fun excuse to visit the beach before the hot weather and crowds this summer.
Avoiding the big box retailers and looking to smaller, local suppliers for your plants and gardening materials is a great way to build a sustainable garden. Chain stores often have agreements with growers that lead to a lot of plant waste and incentives to grow quantity over quality. You may pay more locally but you will be safe in the knowledge that your money is reaching the growers, without whom none of us would have gardens. The quality is also generally better and you are dealing with people who have a genuine passion for the plants they are working with.
Installing a drip irrigation system is a great way to save on your water bill but also ensure that your plants are getting water in the right place and at the right time. Harvesting rainwater is another simple way to conserve water in your garden. Set up a rain barrel at one or each of your rain gutter downspouts and you will likely have lots of water for your entire garden. Planting low-water plants is also a great way to ensure that your garden isn’t using too much water.
Use Pesticides Wisely
While some chemicals can be necessary to achieve the garden you want, most are not environmentally friendly. Challenge yourself to replace one chemical you use with a more natural product. Identify the specific pest and get to know its life-cycle so you can decide on the best and safest treatment. Use pest specific, biological pesticides that pose little to no danger to beneficial insects or the environment. In place of fertilizer, use your own compost as detailed earlier in the piece.
Attract Pollinators (Bees, hummingbirds, butterflies)
Flitting hummingbirds, buzzing bees and colorful butterflies – who would not want these winged wonders in their garden? The great news is that they are not just there for show but are doing some very important work. They actually help fuel life on this planet! Plants flowers of all different colors to attract different types of pollinators and plant them in clumps so they can be easily found. Add some standing water and provide shelter from the elements. As we talked about in the previous point, use pesticides wisely. Don’t spray plants while they are in bloom and always follow the directions on the label
Adding mulch to your garden actually ties in with many of our previous points here as it is beneficial in a number of ways. Two of the main benefits of mulch is that it conserves moisture and helps prevent weeds. We have seen the importance of both in earlier points but adding an adequate layer of mulch to your garden beds is a great way to help with both. Mulch will also break down over time and feed back into the soil, improving it.
Good, strong trees are a gorgeous sight to behold in any landscape and instantly give a feeling of health and vitality and fresh air. Planting trees helps store carbon from the atmosphere into the soil. It also helps cool your home down in the summer. If you have the room to plant trees, it is a great way to also be environmentally conscious. You do need to be careful about where you plant them so they don’t damage your property. They are also a great way to provide a natural privacy fence between you and a noisy (or nosey) neighbor.
Lighting can provide a completely different mood for your garden at night but may also be necessary to find your way. If your garden gets enough sunlight, try some solar lighting. As with many environmentally friendly alternatives, solar lighting is less expensive, more convenient, and requires little maintenance or installation. The main downside to solar lighting is that they are generally not as bright as electric fixtures and obviously require sunlight to keep their batteries charged.