The Sustainable Garden

The sustainable garden works in harmony with nature and incorporates varied gardening techniques that improve the overall health of the garden while minimizing any negative impacts on the environment.  While many gardeners acknowledge the need for sustainable gardening, they have also inherited some pre-green legacies.To be clear, sustainable gardening includes:•    Organic gardening – the growing of food without the use of any fertilizers, like petrochemical pesticides, herbicides and inorganic fertilizers, that pollute our soil and water.•    Native Plants and Trees – this is one of the best ways to increase sustainability.  The principle applies to both commercial and residential development and is acknowledged by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) rating system.  When plant species are matched to the particular area, maintenance and maintenance energy requirements and costs are lowered.  These species generally thrive in their native environments whereas more exotic species struggle to survive.  Additionally, birds, insects and other wildlife depend upon the native plants and are able to benefit from the fruits, nectars and habitat these native plants provide.•    Double Digging – serves multiple environmental purposes.  Double digging allows the soil to hold more water, improves the aeration of the soil and puts organic materials at the proper depth enabling the plant roots to extend properly.  When double digging is accompanied by compost to build the humus and soil fertility, the process is often referred to as “growing the soil.”•    Vermicomposting – the composting of worms is a fun and easy way to assure that a pure supply of pure organic plant food is always available.  The only requirement is a shallow bin that allows air to circulate, bedding and worms.  Worm castings are terrific plant fertilizers.•    Backyard Composting – allows the gardener to return organic waste back to the soil.  Good compost serves as a huge food resource for plants.  This compost improves plant health by adding needed nutrients to the soil.  The three methods of composting are hot, cold or trenching.  All three methods are effective for producing compost.•    Drip Irrigation – the controlled, slow application of water that flows under low pressure through a plastic pipe or hose along each row of plants.  The water drips out through carefully designed perforations in the hose wall.  This is the best sustainable plant watering technique.•    Mulch – protects the soil by helping the soil retain moisture while suppressing weeds and insulating plants from extreme temperatures.  A variety of materials can serve as mulch including wood chips, straw, nutshells, paper, sawdust, leaves, seaweed, grass clippings, or compost.•    Integrated Pest Management (IPM) – forces the gardener to view insects differently.  No longer are those critters the enemy and gone are the chemical fertilizers used to control or eliminate them.  IPM techniques like planting companion plants to attract helpful insects or developing pesticides from the garden’s natural ingredients are a good way to go.Sustainability and gardening belong together.  Help nature do her thing and make your garden a green retreat.

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