Eco-Friendly Gardening: Sustainable Practices for Your Green Space

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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. 

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