When we choose to go down the path of being more eco-friendly and sustainable, we want to be able to change as much as we can, as soon as we can.
A great place to start is within your home and especially in your garden. Creating a space outside for a sustainable garden can be done no matter how big or how small your garden space is so there are no excuses to get started.
What Defines a Sustainable Garden
A sustainable garden is a garden that brings no harm to the Earth or those around it. It should have been built or formed with eco-friendly products and practices. A truly sustainable garden is developed with absolutely no chemicals including in the reinforcement and development of the garden itself, so we also need to ensure that we know where the soil, seeds and plants are coming from and what processes they have also been through.
What Are the Benefits of Creating a Sustainable Garden?
Apart from the obvious benefits to the environment, there are more benefits to the Earth than you initially realize. Some of these benefits of creating your own sustainable garden include –
- As consumers, you know exactly the origin of the ingredients that you “shop” for in your own garden. When you shop in-store or from a market, you need to put a lot of faith in others when you are told that something is truly organic or not treated with chemicals.
- You will save time and money by using items from your own garden.
- Picking only what you need is a huge bonus, as you are avoiding food wastage, therefore contributing less to landfill.
Considerations when creating a sustainable garden
While having a sustainable garden is something that every household should have, there will always be considerations for its development. Some of these considerations are –
- Avoid spending money on fancy garden beds or containers. Purchasing more resources for this project defeats the purpose of a truly sustainable garden. If you do have funds allocated to changing to a sustainable lifestyle, you are better off spending that money on reusable bottles and other eco-friendly items. Instead utilise containers you have at home such as old buckets, baskets, and maybe even gumboots. Pinterest has some great ideas for reusing items for gardens, and sometimes all you need to do to an item you would normally throw away is put a hole in it for drainage.
- Developing a sustainable garden may require you to purchase soil, compost, or fertilizer. Often these contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment. If you haven’t already considered starting your own compost at home, do so before creating your garden. Then you can not only dispose of your food waste effectively but you can also make your own sustainable fertilizer.
- There is no point in having a sustainable garden if you cannot water it sustainably too. Water uses energy and unless you already have a system in place that is sustainable, it is often reported as one of the most wasted resources. To save water, that you can use on your sustainable garden, you can –
- Place a bucket in your shower to collect excess water for your to then use on your garden
- Run your washing machine hose into the garden itself so it can collect the gray water.
- Invest in an organic mulch to place on the top layer of your garden, which holds the moisture in, and then you can water the garden less.
- Spend time considering what you will plant and why. Certain herbs, vegetables, and flowers require more water and maintenance and some cannot be planted together, therefore they will not thrive. There is also no point in planting a food source that you won’t actually consume or use yourself.
- If you have limited space to create a sustainable garden, then it is best to plant things that provide multiple benefits. If you are wanting some colour in your garden to brighten up a space, plant low maintenance leafy plants and natives that also benefit insect life especially bees. Plant herbs that are good for culinary and medicinal use or that make excellent teas.
- If you do see that your garden is thriving and growing more than you need, make sure you have planned in advance what you will do with excess produce. Community swaps are popping up everywhere and family and friends will also be grateful for fresh produce. The last thing you want is that your sustainable produce only goes straight to the compost because you cannot use all that you grow.
- Make sure you get your family involved, especially children. Get them to make their own sustainable gardens that they can look after. Decorating washed cans from pantry items instead of recycling them, make great small gardens for children to maintain.
5 Actionable Steps to Creating Your Perfect Sustainable Garden
Choose the right spot in your garden
Choose a spot in your garden that is suitable for maintaining long-term. Ensure the area is free from tree roots and lawn as well as not pooling water after heavy rain. It also needs to be in a spot that gets 6-8 areas of sunlight daily.
To ensure you get the most out of your sustainable garden, there needs to be time spent organizing and planning. Start with a list of what you purchase the most from the most. From there, take this list and research when the best time of the year to plant that produce.
Spend the time planning – both in and out of the dirt
It is recommended that you consider what plants like growing next to each other that isn’t as compatible. An example is basil and tomato. Not only do they taste amazing together but they love growing together and do not compete for nutrients in the garden. When you have made appropriate pairings or know what to avoid, sketch out your garden on paper and plan what you will plant where.
Prepare your sustainable garden area
Before you plant, you need to ensure that your garden is prepared properly. If you are using a raised garden bed or a section of your landscaped garden, start by weeding and/or mowing the area to remove the weeds and any grasses that may be there. No need to remove it all, but ensure it is short enough to be covered. Lay the area with uncoated cardboard to cover the area you will be used to plant. This will stop the initial weeds ruining your soil, but will break down as the soil becomes moist and your plants grow. Then add compost and then top with organic, nutrient soil. Your area is then ready to start planting. The same layering can also be done in pots and other containers. Just make sure that if you are upcycling non-traditional containers like tins and buckets, that you add drainage holes at the bottom.
Measure out your gardening area
There are many ways you can do this however a popular way is to use string to divide the garden bed into sections. Once you have measured out sections you will be able to have a visual indication that you are not planting your different variety seeds too close to each other. It is also recommended to use sustainable garden plant tags to label what you have planted in each section. There is nothing worse than your crop thriving only for you to not be able to identify what has actually grown where.
Plant your sustainable garden
The fun part has arrived, however, you need to make sure that you stick to your plan. Remember this is the best way to get the most out of your sustainable garden long-term. Once everything has been planted, ensure you give the garden area a thorough saturation with water. Layer the moist soil with mulch to get the moisture to stay in the soil longer.
Now you have created your sustainable garden, ensure you create a schedule to maintain it as well as when your produce should be grown and what to plant when.
Creating your own sustainable garden can be the most rewarding process, especially as you start harvesting your produce and using it on a daily basis. There is nothing quite like picking something from your garden and eating and cooking with it straight away.
While your produce is growing, use the time to take your sustainable practices to the next level and learn about how you can use all parts of the food and how to compost correctly. This will really make the sustainable garden you created a closed-loop system, as the compost you make, will go back to your garden and replenish the nutrients that were grown in that very post.
Implementing sustainable practices is not something you do, it is how you live your life. Once you start with something like this, making changes will not seem as much of a chore and you will be able to implement more eco-friendly practices in all aspects of your household.