It can easily feel like the issues facing the environment are too immense for any one person to influence. But as a group, gardeners are in an excellent position to make a significant difference.
A few small changes to lessen the environmental impact of your gardening will soon add up to a vital contribution, and here are ten ideas to get you started.
1. Conserve Water in Your Landscape and Garden
Water is an increasingly scarce and valuable resource on a national and global level. Even if your local area enjoys predictable rainfall, you can still do your bit by conserving water when you can, leaving more for where it’s needed.
- Install water tanks to collect rainwater for using on your flowers and vegetables.
- Collect household ‘gray’ water from sinks, bathtubs, and so on to use in the yard.
- Turn off automatic sprinkler systems, and only water when necessary.
- Mulch your soil to help it retain water.
- Only grow plants suitable for your region, which will need less extra water beyond what nature provides.
2. Grow Your Own Food to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
There’s no need to be totally self-sufficient to make growing your own food worthwhile. Even a few salad leaves or herbs will lower your carbon footprint by reducing your reliance on intensive farming, transport, storage and packaging. Folks with limited space can still grow herbs and vegetables in containers.
And if you do have the garden space to grow a healthy supply of vegetables
, then all the better!
3. Improve Seed Diversity by Growing Heirloom Vegetable Varieties
And if you start growing food, concentrate on the many heirloom varieties that are available
. Growing these unusual crops will help maintain genetic diversity within a species
, reducing the risks of disease in the wider world beyond your yard.
4. Compost to Reduce Plant Waste in Landfills
Start a compost
heap to transform garden cuttings and kitchen waste into nutrient-rich soil
which your plants will love. With composting, there’s less waste going to landfill, and less need for chemical fertilizers in your garden
5. Crop Rotation Keeps Soil Healthy
Avoid growing the same plants in the same place year after year, especially if you’re growing vegetables. Using a crop rotation
system will give the soil the chance to recover between each crop, stopping it from becoming depleted
. This again reduces the need for fertilizers and also cuts down on disease and pathogen build-up.
6. Sow a Cover Crop to Enrich Your Soil
Whether or not you use a rotation plan, sow a fast-growing green manure crop (also known as “cover crop”
) such as clover or alfalfa once your annual plants are dying back. This helps set nutrients back into the soil ready for the next growing season.
7. Encourage Beneficial Wildlife in Your Landscape
You probably don’t want to encourage rabbits, rats or raccoons into your garden, but a variety of other wildlife is essential. Grow a wide range of plants and flowers to attract bees and other beneficial insects, which in turn attracts birds and small mammals. This helps build biodiversity in your yard to provide a healthy and self-sustaining environment.
8. Grow Plants in Reused and Upcycled Containers
If you garden in containers
, don’t limit yourself to shop-bought planters or plastic pots. All kinds of old household items can be re-used as pots
, reducing the costs of buying new ones and lightening the load on landfill.
Try a vintage tin bathtub as a flowerbed centerpiece, old paint cans as individual planters or a stack of old tires for growing potatoes.
9. Trees Help the Environment in Many Ways
Planting a single tree
in your yard will do an incredible amount for the environment. It captures and stores carbon, creates a habitat for wildlife and provides welcome shade to reduce water evaporation
And if you don’t have space for a large tree, a smaller shrub will still provide the same benefits without taking over your yard.
10. Cut Back on Using Power Tools for Gardening Tasks
Gardening by hand is harder work, but it reduces air pollution from gas-powered tools and lowers your energy usage from electrical ones
. Using hand tools
is also quiet. Power tools are a source of noise pollution and can impact your hearing over time if you regularly use them without wearing ear protection. And of course, the extra exercise gained by manual work is good for you and costs a lot less than a gym membership!
There’s no need to turn your gardening habits upside down to do your part for the environment. Making even a couple of these changes will build up a worthwhile contribution over time, and if you can do most of them, the impact will be extremely worthwhile. The more in tune with nature your gardening becomes, the better the results will be.
Rain gardens are a great way to help control soil erosion, redistribute excess water on your property and create a habitat to support a variety of wildlife. See how easy it is to create your own with our article on How to Make a Rain Garden