“Sustainable” is a term most associated with using eco-friendly practises in any industry. One might think, gardening is inherently anyway an eco-friendly activity, why is there a genre of landscaping called sustainable gardening?
Sustainable gardening combines organic gardening practices with resource conservation. In general, sustainable gardening means to make as little negative impact on the earth as possible, and value ecosystem as a whole over simple aesthetics. Sustainable gardens should imitate natural ecosystems, such a forests, where there is no use of chemicals even in the form of pesticides and synthetic manures.
Before we dive into the different types of sustainable gardens, it is important to know the main 3 benefits of it. They are:
- Reducing carbon emissions: Modern gardening techniques use synthetic fertilisers, which often contain toxins that are destructive to the soil. The chemicals in these fertilisers are poisonous to humans, wildlife and marine life when they reach the nearby water bodies. These fertilisers may be good for the growth of plants in the moment, but overtime they cause more harm when the PH imbalance of the soil happens.
- Creating less waste: One of the significant principles of sustainable gardening is to use organic fertilisers, which are made from composting organic waste. A lot of the organic waste can be gathered from our own households that are often thrown away like - waste food items.
- Supporting endangered species: Planting local plants and flower species can attract a lot of local species like the bees. Bees help in pollination for the plants and flowers to grow better.
3 main types of sustainable gardening are:
1. Vegetable Garden
These gardens can be grown in your balcony or backyard. They don’t have to take up a lot of space. You can grow your own food and be a little more self-sufficient. Most importantly, this way you get to grow your own seasonal vegetables like cucumber in summer months, and mustard in winter months. With the world becoming more global and with the use of modern technologies, we don’t have specific seasons for vegetables anymore, most of the vegetables are not available throughout the year.
2. Indoor Herb Garden
Even if you don’t have an outdoor space available, sustainable gardening can still be done by planting herbs. Herbs like coriander, mint, curry leaves, chilli, and so on, can be easily planted and maintained even indoors in compact spaces. This way you can consume essential herbs (which can be used as spices in Indian cuisines) fresh and in an organic way.
3. Pollinator Garden
These gardens are planted with flowers that provide nectar or pollen for insects that can pollinate. The space required for this type of garden can be as small as you prefer, even small balconies can be used. These gardens not only look aesthetic, but can be used for food, shelter and nesting sites for pollinating creatures like the bees. Blooms of lavender and oregano attract the bees and wasps.
Easy ways to start sustainable gardening practices:
1. Eliminate chemical use
Chemical fertisers and pesticides are only a “quick” solution, however, unfortunately, many of them also poison our soil, waterways, wildlife, and crops.
Compost piles take material that would typically go into the landfill and turn it into a valuable nutrient-dense material that our gardens love. A compost pile isn't just great for reducing waste; it also rejuvenates worn-out soil. With a compost pile, waste transforms into riches, and we all benefit. Compost is a natural fertiliser, and there are tons of compost bin options for apartments too.
3. Conserve water
Use drip sprinkler systems to avoid wasting water, that would be done by over watering. These systems also help those that have limited free time on their hands or travel often.
4. Plant native
Non-native species usually require more water, effort, and nutrients than native species, meaning they use more resources overall. In addition to using fewer resources, native species also attract more native pollinators, providing shelter and food for them. Native plants are usually more drought-tolerant, meaning they need less water resources. Plus, so many native species are hardy to your environment without needing any extra help.
5. Reuse & repurpose
Instead of sending used materials off to the landfill, consider whether they can serve another purpose in the garden. Broken and imperfect bricks can be used to create row markers within your planter. Egg cartons can be used to initially plant plantlings.
You can repurpose waste materials like lawn clippings, old leaves, wood chips, saw dust, etc. to make mulch. Mulch reduces water evaporation, so it assists in conserving water. It also prevents weeds from growing. Vegetables grow much more robust and happier when they have a layer of mulch protecting them from temperature swings.
Sustainable gardening practises are not that complicated to implement. Of course, it may be a bit of an effort at the start, but eventually they end up saving time and money in the long run. The actions of each gardener matter, even if you implement just one or two practices, it makes a difference. Although, when it comes to providing safe and healthy food for our family, no amount of effort is too little.