Today I want to share more about our approach towards sustainable gardening. This post is a follow up to an article I wrote at the beginning of the year which covers our approach towards sustainable housing. You can find the blog post here.
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I am repeating myself here, but I just need to say it again: Sustainability is such a key value for me. Not only in my natural dyeing and handmade wardrobe endeavors, but it shines through every aspect of my life. And our house and garden are of course no exception. It is my objective to share our approach to provide some food for thought and ideas if sustainability is an important value for you as well.
What is a sustainable garden? This topic can be approached from different angles and will differ from garden to garden. Every region has its own preconditions, native plants, climate etc. And every gardener has a different aesthetic and value system. But I hope that you will get some inspiration from the ideas below. I read a definition of the term here that I find very valuable:
“Sustainable gardening is a term that has no technical definition. It’s the concept of using gardening practices that cause no harm to the earth and its inhabitants while attempting to actually enhance it. Words that define “sustain” and “sustenance” are support, preserve, keep alive, maintain, reinforce, and nourishment. These words help paint the picture. By practicing sustainable gardening, you practice good environmental stewardship.” – by Chris McLaughlin from www.finegardening.com
Let’s have a look at the different aspects of sustainable gardening that we focus on in our garden now.
#1 Wildlife-Friendly Garden
Providing food and shelter for wildlife is very important. Depending on the size and location of your garden, this can be taken different routes. But even if you only have a small city lot, you can always make an effort to incorporate as many bee- and other pollinator-friendly plants as possible. For example, last year we sowed phacelia all around our garden. Its original purpose was to enrich the soil and act as a green manure. But as an added benefit, it seeded itself and came back this year in random places. The pollinators absolutely love it and it is buzzing with activity all day long. Other plants that are great for bees are catmint, salvia, lavender, sunflowers and zinnias, just to name a few.
#2 Soil Nourishing Gardening Practices
Did you know that topsoil erosion is one of the biggest environmental problems that we are currently facing? This is caused by agricultural farming practices like tilling and the use of pesticides.
And while we only have a small garden plot, we are still trying the best we can to protect and enhance its soil. We do this by
- making our own compost and adding it to the garden beds
- not leaving any larger unplanted areas throughout the season
- avoid tilling
- not using any pesticides
- sowing cover crops to add nutrients to the soil
Besides phacelia, you can use clover, white mustard or lupins as green manure cover crops. You simple leave them over the winter and churn them into the soil before the next planting season.
#3 Low Watering Demand
When adding new plants to the garden, we pay attention to what works well in our area and doesn’t have any special needs like intensive water amounts to keep it happy. We also mulch our vegetable beds heavily to retain moisture. In our garden we use straw, but you can also mulch with woodchips or lawn clippings. When we do have to water, we do it either very early in the morning or late in the evening so that there is no unnecessary evaporation.
#4 Incorpotating Native Plants
Along those same lines we also focus on adding lots of native plants to our garden. Not only are they acclimated to the climate and growing conditions, they are also the most sustainable habitat for the native wildlife. The National Wildlife Federation has a wonderful site which tells you all about the native flowers, shrubs and trees in your area when putting in your zip code (U.S. only). You can find it here: https://www.nwf.org/NativePlantFinder/
#5 Producing Food
Another sustainable gardening practice is growing food in your garden. Every vegetable or fruit that you can harvest from your garden instead of purchasing it in the store, doesn’t have to be transported to you. Not to mention that it tastes much better and contains more nutrients if you can process it directly after harvesting. By choosing open pollinated seeds and heirloom varieties you are increasing the value of your homegrown food production even further!
I hope these five topics gave you not only some insights into our approach towards sustainable gardening but also some ideas to incorporate into your own garden. Do you have any additional tips or remarks? Come share in the comments below!