I have been asked to do a workshop on Sustainable Gardening so I thought I would share with you the notes from my presentation.
What is Sustainable Gardening?
It is a method of gardening that has as little external input as possible and as little external impact as possible. This is not always easy. We must rethink the way we garden and make some hard, but smart choices about how we do things. It’s about how we want our garden to function, to provide the elements we need (shade, food, relaxation etc.), and to balance that with choices that work with our local environment and not against it.
Here are some of what I think are the guiding principles to sustainable gardening.
Biodiversity protection & enhancement
• Plant indigenous species. Invasive species are taking hold in many of our local ecosystems, affecting biodiversity on a grand scale. You can help by planting low-maintenance natives that are endemic to your area, which support local ecosystems and require little water and zero chemicals.
• Healthy plants require little if any spraying. If you select the right plants and put them in the right location, water and mulch them, you will have fewer problems with plant pests and diseases. The key to healthy plants is healthy soil –add organic matter to your soil this will produce humus. Humus is vital for a healthy soil and makes move water and nutrients available to plants
• Provide a good habitat for native animals and birds-fresh water, nesting boxes, hollow logs, avoid pesticide applications, dense prickly shrubs for nesting, control cats and dogs that may attach native wildlife
• Plant trees. Plant as many large trees as your site will allow. They’ll cool your house in summer, shelter wildlife, control erosion and absorb tons of overly abundant carbon dioxide. Choose deciduous trees for your home’s north side, so the winter sun can warm your home but provide cooling shade in summer.
• Plant a layered garden trees shrubs groundcover. This copies a natural environment and maximises your productivity in the space available if you are growing food producing plants.
• Protect existing indigenous vegetation. Remove environmental weeds, plant indigenous plants, and recognise native animals will be attracted to indigenous gardens.
• Install a rainwater tank for garden and toilet use.
• Reuse grey water.
• Keep thirsty lawn areas to a minimum.
• Plant drought tolerant species.
• Group plants according to irrigation requirements.
• Mulch garden beds.
• If watering, do it early in the morning to reduce evaporation.
• Consider water restriction limitations when planning your garden.
• Wash your car on the lawn and use a bucket.
• Sweep paths and driveways instead of hosing.
Minimising energy requirements
In the garden, energy requirements include: labour, petrol, fertilisers, herbicides, etc
• Cut petrol use. Leaf blowers, lawn mowers and weed-whackers use inefficient, two-stroke engines, which exhaust as much as 30 percent of their fuel mixture unburned. Instead, use people-powered devices such as rakes, brooms, push mowers, hand clippers and saws, and skip the gym on lawn-care day.
• Grow edible plants. Almost every yard has space for a small vegetable garden and mini-orchard. Food gardens reduce grassy areas, and eating home-grown provides fresher food and eliminates the fuel required to grow, (fuel for machinery, fertilizers herbicides and pesticides-all petro chemicals) package and transport produce to your green grocer or supermarket and then to your home –eliminates the food miles associated with bought food.
Growing your own will encourage you to eat more fruit and vegetable and less meat which is very energy dependent.
• Make your own compost and fertilisers. Compost all your lawn clippings, leaves, pruning’s and kitchen scraps etc means you can buy less commercial fertilizer and mulch, eliminating the unnecessary cost as well as the energy expended in its production, packaging and delivery.
• PASS ON THE GRASS Keep energy intensive lawn areas to a minimum. Grass is a heavy consumer of labour, money and chemicals. Start eliminating or reducing the area in your backyard devoted to grass or plant alternative species that do not need to maintenance of traditional lawns.
• Use solar lighting and pumps.
• Use timers on pumps and lights if not solar.
• Use locally available products- to reduce transport distances.
• Plan your garden to use appropriate plants to assist with solar efficiency of buildings.
• Use materials from a renewable and sustainably harvested source, use locally sourced materials when possible.
• Buy in bulk to reduce packaging
• Buy second hand garden tools and equipment. They work just as well and cost less. If you must buy new, look for products made with recycled materials, choose durable warrantied options that will last the longest and avoid plastic.
• Recycle old tools. Give them away to a local charity or to the local recycling second hard centre.
• Rethink Reduce and Reuse. Do you really need it! If so choose the most energy efficient product, preferably from a renewable source. Take your own bags or boxes to the garden centre to reduce plastic bag use.
So, for the sake of the earth and future generations let’s try to be sustainable gardeners