Gardening can be a great green practice for your everyday life. It can help increase air quality and help maintain soil health. But did you know that you can garden and landscape specifically to increase your home’s overall sustainability? Certain plants, landscaping designs, and gardening practices can actively improve your home’s carbon footprint, reduce resource use like power and water, and minimize damage to the land around you.
Deciding to make the change toward sustainable gardening and landscaping doesn’t need to occur all at once. You can gradually incorporate the following tips and changes into your garden as your time and budget allow.
The term “organic” describes a set of regulations set by the National Organic Program (NOP). These regulations must be followed to be labeled organic for sale.
Using organic practices in your home garden can improve the health of your crops, as well as increase the sustainability of your garden. Some organic processes that you can follow at home include:
Stopping or lessening chemical use on produce;
Soil amendment practices, such as adding conditioners;
Growing crops with the season.
These practices can reduce the number of chemicals you’re putting into the soil and onto your food. This is not only better for your health, but has a host of environmental benefits. Going organic can prevent the pollution of underground water sources which can improve the quality of your water, can prevent the striping of natural nutrients from the soil, and stop the killing of helpful garden insects, such as earthworms.
Mulch is made up of natural materials that, when applied to the top layer of soil, can provide a lot of sustainable benefits. These benefits can include:
Preserving soil moisture;
Improving soil fertility and health;
Reducing weed growth;
Adding zero-waste aesthetic value.
You can use mulch on the crops in your garden or on your flower beds. Mulch can be similar to compost in terms of benefits and application. However, compost is typically made up of decayed organic matter, such as food scraps, and gains most of its benefits from the gasses released when this matter decays. While mulch is composed of things like wood chips, yard waste, and similar matter, and gains it’s benefits from being a protective layer and adding soil drainage.
Choose Plants Wisely
The plants that you decide to grow in your yard or garden can affect your sustainability. This is why it’s important to choose the plants for your landscaping wisely. Some great options include growing plants indigenous to your area. Indigenous plants are great for pollinators and local wildlife, and they require less fertilizer than non-indigenous plants.
Perennials are another great option for sustainable gardening, as they return year after year. Finally, ground coverage plants can be a wonderful and pretty alternative to growing a large lawn. Lawns require a large amount of water and fertilizers and therefore aren’t that sustainable. Alternatives like creeping charlie or sweet woodruff are much lower maintenance and can provide value to pollinators.
When choosing plants for your yard, be sure to consider the following before placement:
By matching plants up with their ideal conditions, you can not only improve the health and longevity of the plant but also reduce the amount of fertilizer and other extra care they will need. You can find out what soil type your area is on the USDA’s soil survey.
Manage Water Use
Managing and being more conscious of your water use is another accessible way that you can implement sustainable practices into your gardening and landscaping. The first step to managing your water use in your yard is to understand your yard’s plumbing system. By doing this, you can repair any leaks or malfunctions that are unnecessarily wasting water, and accurately assess whether you’re over or underwatering. Other things you can do to manage water use in your yard include:
Installing a water collection system;
Using waterless landscaping, like astroturf;
Using smart irrigation technology;
Saving unsalted cooking water for plants;
Utilizing low-water landscaping, like cacti and succulents.
Being diligent about leak detection and management is another way you can manage your water use, as well as prevent unwanted damage to your yard, and even your home. Managing water use in your yard isn’t just good for the planet, it can also prevent lawn diseases, control the unwanted growth of mushrooms, and save you money on water costs.
Composting and Reuse
Composting and reusing are sustainable gardener’s best friends. Saving and reusing gardening items, such as pots, potting soil, and leftover seeds can cut down on your gardening waste. Zero-waste gardening is a practice that many eco-conscious gardens are turning to. This is the practice of avoiding garden waste by diligent reusing, recycling, and composting.
Composting has become a popular way to reduce and transform household waste. Compost is a nutrient-rich, and natural way to feed your plants without pesticides.
You likely have the makings for a great compost pile right in your kitchen. Most organic matter is compostable, including:
Coffee grounds and filters;
Fruit and vegetable peels;
Tea and tea bags;
Paper towels that are free of oils;
Cardboard that is free of dye, oils, and harsh chemicals.
Before you start composting, you’ll need to understand two fundamentals of the process — compost needs heat and movement. To get the best results, you’ll want to be able to regularly turn your compost so that you can keep introducing oxygen into the pile. You’ll also need to be able to prevent the compost from getting too cold or too hot. The ideal temperature for compost is between 135 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and the NOP recommends turning your compost five times within 15 days.
Not all organic material is compostable. Some items can disrupt the chemical balance, cause insect problems, or simply won’t break down over time. The following items shouldn’t be added to your compost pile:
Meat, fish, poultry, or raw eggs
Grease or lard;
Coal or ash;
Disease or pest-affected plants;
Yard waste that contains pesticides;
Dyed or glossy paper.
One specific thing that you should avoid composting is any byproducts of the black walnut tree. When broken down, the twigs, leaves, and shell casings of the black walnut tree release chemicals that can be harmful to plants.
Use Electric or Manual Equipment
Switching from gas-powered equipment to electrical or manual equipment is better for the environment, and can help save you money in purchasing gasoline. The following tools can be purchased either in electric or manual versions:
Investing in electric tools, lights, and other decorations that use solar cells as part of their power source is another step further into reducing energy use from tools.
Making the move toward sustainable gardening and landscaping can start in your own backyard. Sustainability can be scalable to your available resources and budget and can grow with your needs.
If you need help setting up or locating your existing backyard plumbing, Mr. Rooter can help. We can also perform an inspection of your entire system to ensure it’s working properly. To get started, call (855) 982-2028 or request an appointment online today.