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Sustainable Gardening

16 TIPS FOR SUSTAINABLE GARDENING

Sustainable gardening is a set of practices that minimizes any negative impact of gardening on human health and the environment. This includes reducing the use of harmful and polluting chemicals, reducing waste, and preserving and restoring our natural resources.

By building a more sustainable garden, we are able to grow plants that are better for our health, reduce air, soil, and water pollution, fight against climate change, become more self-sufficient, and save money in the process.

1. Avoid using synthetic fertilizers.

These are made with chemicals and inorganic substances derived from fossil fuels, which aren’t only bad for our health, but also pollute our air, soil, and water and emit heat-trapping greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

What to use instead:
Opt for organic fertilizers or make your own with mineral-rich food scraps (such as crushed eggshells, coffee grounds, and shredded banana peels) and yard waste (such as grass clippings, weeds, and tree leaves).

2. And synthetic pesticides.

Many pesticides are also made from fossil fuels and are toxic to both our health and the environment.

What to use instead:
Beneficial birds and insects or try a natural DIY pesticide recipe.

3. As well as synthetic herbicides.

In addition to being hazardous to us, herbicides can disrupt the natural balance in our garden by killing non-target plants and beneficial organisms.

What to do instead:
Pick weeds out by hand or layer soil with mulch to prevent weeds from growing.

4. Ditch gas-powered equipment.

Gas-powered garden tools, such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers, release tons of toxic and carcinogenic emissions as well as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

What to use instead:
Manual or electric alternatives.

5. Practice no-till gardening.

Tilling destroys soil structure and the living things within it that keep it healthy. It also releases stored carbon into the atmosphere, which traps heat and contributes to climate change.

What to do instead:
Cover soil with mulch or plant cover crops that fix nitrogen, such as legumes.

6. Compost.

Composting diverts waste from landfills, while enriching our soil and reducing the need for chemical fertilizers.

What to do:

  1. Add equal parts green materials like food scraps (for nitrogen) and brown materials like yard waste (for carbon) into a bin.
  2. Water it regularly – just enough to keep it moist but not wet.
  3. Aerate the pile once a week by turning it over with a garden fork.
  4. Once it is dry and crumbly (~2-6 months), add it to your garden.
7. Layer your garden with mulch.

Mulching acts as a natural fertilizer, improves soil quality, regulates soil temperature, conserves soil moisture, saves water, prevents soil erosion, suppresses weeds, and provides habitats for beneficial insects and microorganisms.

What to use:
Organic waste, such as grass clippings, weeds, shredded leaves or bark, compost, wood chips, sawdust, shredded newspapers or cardboards.

8. Conserve water.

Clean water is a scarce resource and we should be as efficient with our usage as possible.

What to do:
Harvest rainwater with a rainwater barrel or with buckets. Reuse cooking water and the water you wash produce with.
There may be some restrictions or regulations so please check with your local laws prior to doing so.

Photo by Nguyen Bui
9. Choose native crops.

Native crops are adapted to the local climate, so they are the most efficient to grow as they require the least amount of care and resources.

What to do:
Native crops differ from place to place, so do some research. Many governmental organizations have guides or encyclopedias for native crops.

10. Save the seeds of your best performing plants.

By saving our best seeds, we develop varieties that are most adapted to our growing conditions, which makes our garden more resource efficient.

What to do:
Extract the seeds. Store in dry and cool area. Once dried, seal them in a container and freeze them. You can also do a seed swap with other gardeners.

11. Add flowers to your garden.

Flowers attract pollinators like bees, birds, and butterflies, which by collecting pollen and spreading it to nearby plants, will increase our harvest.

What to do:
Check out our flower section for how-to’s on adding flowers to your garden.

12. Optimize your garden.

Strategically planning out the placement of our plants can save us a lot of resources.

What to do:
Place plants that need more sun in sunny areas, plants that need more shade next to taller plants, water-intensive plants in moist areas or where rain directly hits.

13. Repurpose.

Repurposing unwanted household items to use in our garden is a great way to divert waste from landfills and save us money from having to purchase new things.

What to do:
Turn used bamboo toothbrushes or popsicle sticks into plant tags and empty toilet paper rolls or egg cartons into plant starters. Get creative with what would otherwise be considered waste.

14. If you have the space, plant a tree.

In addition to providing shade and keeping temperatures cool, trees clean the air by removing pollutants and storing carbon, making them crucial in our fight against climate change.

What to do:
Check out Tree Canada’s guide on tree planting

15. If you have kids, get them involved.

After all, they’re the ones inheriting this planet, so why not teach them at a young age the importance of sustainability? It’s also a great way to keep them active and in touch with nature.

What to do:
Check out our post on gardening with children.

16. Let your garden go wild (partially).

We can save ourselves time, resources, and money when we let a part of our garden take its natural course. Not only will it give our garden a natural element, it will also help preserve biodiversity.

What to do:
Nothing. Enjoy!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember to start small and take it one step at a time. Gardening is a journey and we are here to support you along that journey.

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