As you plan this year’s garden, whether it’s a new vegetable bed, un-thirsty perennials, shade trees , or anything in between, think of how they will affect your surroundings. Will they take up less of the earth’s resources and not too much of your own time and energy? Changing weather patterns make it smart to find new, more sustainable ways to garden. Downsize your garden’s neediness without sacrificing beauty or productivity.
Start with a smart design.
- Does your garden utilize permeable paving like gravel or pavers that help manage runoff, giving the soil more time to absorb rainfall and recharge the ground water?
- Have you considered installing a rain garden or small, planted basin to catch and filter rainwater and keep it onsite?
- Have you grouped plants in your garden according to their water needs? Do you have some plantings that can survive on rainfall alone after their second season? Have you chosen plants that are locally grown and adapted to our climate?
- Do you have an irrigation system that is efficient without being wasteful? Do you water slowly, deeply and infrequently so there is no runoff? Do you water in the early morning or evening to maximize absorption?
- Do you have deciduous trees to provide cooling shade in the summer and allow sunlight to warm the house in winter? Do you have trees and shrubs to clean the air of nitrogen and sulfur dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide? Trees also breathe in carbon dioxide ( a major greenhouse gas) , use the carbon to build mass, then exhale oxygen. They retain more carbon than they lose so every tree you plant helps reduce your carbon footprint on the planet.
- Does your garden feed and shelter birds, butterflies and other wildlife? Do you have perennials such as echinacea, lavender, penstemon or salvia to attract pollinators like bees and hummingbirds? Have you planted flowers that attract beneficial insects to help control harmful insects? Do you use organic pesticides?
- Do you make your soil a priority by adding compost each year? Do you mulch your soil to keep down weeds and conserve water? Do you use natural fertilizers like manures or fish emulsion that feed the soil? Do you compost the green and brown waste your garden produces-fallen leaves, weeds without seeds, grass clippings, spent flowers and vegetables?
- Do you stay ahead of weeds , pulling them before they set seed and spread?
Take steps to make your corner of the world contribute to the larger landscape around you.