Eco-Friendly Gardening: Sustainable Practices for Your Green Space

Take care of the planet while you garden

It doesn’t make sense to garden if we are not approaching the practice in a sustainable way. Why steward land if we are contributing to its demise at the same time? The good news is that it’s easy to be environmentally sustainable in the garden – and it often means being sustainable for your budget!

If you want to start a garden, it’s important you understand this: You don’t need to buy a million tools, gadgets, and accessories to get started. When I started my garden, I was limited in budget and time, but I didn’t let that stop me. I found ways to make my front and backyard flourish by using things I already had, and opening myself to my community’s resources. 

Using what you have

While traditional tools like a watering can and some planters are great, they are not necessities to growing your garden. I filter my drinking water with one of those two part pitchers; a section for the water on top, and the main jug that holds the filter + filtered water. The top of my filter broke a couple of years ago, so I lost a filtering system but gained a pitcher for my garden. It holds as much water as many watering cans, and gets water from the source to the plants!

You might be surprised at how many things can become a planter: Coffee mugs, drawers from dressers, jars, old trash cans. I often get asked about one of my compost bins (pictured below). It’s actually an old hamper that found a new purpose in my garden! I put a worm composter on top, and it’s a great place for old food to decay and worms to populate. Plus, seeds in the compost will germinate & grow through the holes in the hamper, and it’s fun to see what grows. 

Do you have any scrap wood and some power tools? If so, there’s no need to buy plant stands. Drill/cut a couple holes in a plastic planter, thread some kitchen twine through it, and now you have a DIY hanging planter. Old peanut butter jar? Perfect container for your propagations! Start seeds in egg cartons. Once you get started, you’ll see that the garden is a place for repurposing just about anything with a little creativity. 

Invest for the long run

When I do buy tools for my garden, I consider the price for the longevity of that tool. For example, a plastic watering can may be cheaper than a galvanized steel watering can, but the plastic watering can is more likely to break, and you’re more likely to spend money replacing it. 

This doesn’t mean you should throw away the plastic watering cans you already have, but when it’s time to buy a new tool, consider the one you won’t have to repurchase anytime soon. That will be good on both your wallet, and your environmental impact. Although quality materials are more expensive up front, their long-term durability can balance out the cost.

Where do your plants come from?

Plants can lead to… More plants! There are many environmental taxes to buying a plant from a store, for example: Let’s say you want to buy a canna bulb. In a very general overview, this needs to be grown at a nursery, planted in a plastic planter, sent to the store, and brought home by you. If the plant doesn’t look good at the store, it might not sell and get thrown away (even if it’s still alive). If the nursery can’t sell it to any vendors, there’s a high chance it will get thrown into a dumpster and burned (yes, burned).

I’m not saying it’s bad to shop at nurseries, but when we gardeners consider the plants we all have between us, it becomes clear that by sharing plants between us, we could eliminate a high degree of environmental waste (and save money!). I was given several bags worth of canna bulbs early into my gardening journey, and they took root in my garden, leading to many more canna bulbs (more than I anticipated, actually, which became a problem I had to solve). 

Between propagating, digging up plants that grow prolifically, and sharing seeds, we can increase the plant life around us while using less waste & energy. 

What we can learn from sustainable garden practices

We should be sustainable because it makes sense. The opposite of sustainability is rushing, cheating, and working for a short reward at the expense of long-term success. What good is short-term success if there’s nothing to look forward to later down the line? As you work toward achieving your goals in life, I encourage you to think about some of the themes discussed in this blog. 

Are you going the “cheaper” route, and more likely to have to stop to fix a problem (like a broken watering can) in the future?

Are you focused on durability, and choosing tools that will make it so you can reliably make progress on your goals for a long time?

Are you thinking about what you want your life to look like when you do achieve your goals, or just focused on achieving your goal even if it means everything else in your life has fallen apart?

Choose to be sustainable because it means you are working in a way that will avoid burnout, promote long-term success, and create ideal conditions for your goals to continue growing – both in your life, and in your garden. 

Watering Wisdom: Tips for Efficient Water Use in Your Garden

One thing you absolutely need in your garden

There is something all gardeners need to figure out when planning a garden. 


Without it, our plants can’t grow. Our watering systems will vary depending on factors such as how many plants we have, where we are, and how much rain we get, but one thing is certain: Water is a critical element in our garden.

Our watering needs change with the seasons, and we need to adapt alongside our garden’s needs. I’m located in Houston, and our hot summers (especially without rain) can present a challenge for garden hydration, while we don’t need to do much in the winter.

In this blog post, we will explore different ways to water our outdoor plants, as well as how to use water efficiently. These methods include rainwater harvesting, hose watering, and using watering cans. 

Ways to water your garden

Let’s break down some ways to water. 

1. Rain Barrels

Rainwater harvesting isn’t legal in every state, so make sure you do necessary research before jumping in. It’s legal in Texas, so I installed two 50 gallon rain barrels under my gutters to collect rainwater that would otherwise collect on the ground. I use this rainwater to fill watering cans that I then use to water my plants. I like this process because the rainwater has nutrients that benefit my plants, and I don’t have to rely entirely on water from my hose. This is especially helpful in the summer months when water is in high demand – although the amount of rainwater I have is contingent on the amount of rain we get, so I may have empty barrels during a drought. When the rain comes regularly, I use rainwater as much as I can instead of the hose. 

2. Hose

I use the hose sparingly, and only when it’s needed. I have an attachment with different spray options so I can direct the water in the stream that’s best for the situation at hand. Using a hose to water leads us to a gardening consideration: What are we planting?

If we plant tropical plants but don’t live in a subtropical climate, we will need to water them more to compensate for the lack of natural hydration. This is one reason why you may have heard about planting plants that are native to your area. Not only are they beneficial for the ecosystem by supporting local wildlife, but they have evolved to the specific climate they are native to. This means that under normal conditions, they are prepared to grow with the natural rainfall of your area and shouldn’t need any “intervention” with additional watering. 

3. Watering can

This is the tool we often imagine when we think of gardening. They help us bring water around our garden, and help us use the water deliberately. While the hose will water continuously (unless we stop the flow), the watering can distributes water only when we tip it. This allows us to be intentional with our water and not waste it on parts of our garden that don’t need it. 

Learn from my experience

My garden is a combination of native plants, tropical plants, herbs, trees, and more. The best seasons for gardening in Texas are spring and fall because we get a freeze or two in the winter and the summers are hot and dry. As I shared earlier, I don’t need to water much in the winter, but I’ve learned a lot about watering in the summer. 

There are a couple of things I do to keep my garden maintenance practical while still having water-loving plants in my yard. 

1. Layering plants: “Two for one”

I position plants in layers so if I water one plant higher up, the excess water will fall into another plant that’s positioned underneath it. This way I am watering “two for one.” 

2. Grouping plants

I love tropical plants and would love to have massive monsteras and philodendrons all over my yard. But, this isn’t practical in Houston so I try to put my water-loving plants close together so when I water them with the hose, the stream is maximized. Any “fallout” water goes into another thirsty plant instead where it isn’t needed.

3. Making garden choices that make sense for my area

As I shared previously, I would love to have certain plants all over my yard, but I know it doesn’t make sense for where I am. After a particularly dry summer, I realized it took much time, energy, and resources to water (and worry about watering) plants that are not equipped for Houston. This led me to have fewer of them in my garden, and instead focus on more plants that are hardier for my zone. 

Final tip: Know your zone

The United States is divided into different “zones,” and we can learn about our zone from ​”The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.” This map “is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which perennial plants are most likely to thrive at a location. Following the guidance associated with your zone will help you make practical decisions for what you plant, as well as how you water, and save you a lot of heartache trying to grow things that won’t do well.

Tropical monstera deliciosa

Native passion vine