Sustainability in the Garden

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Garden prep

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, sustainable means “harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged”. Like leaving only footprints when you visit a park or beach, the idea is that you leave a place or property the same or perhaps even better than before.

Here are some techniques we can use in our own gardens to be sustainable:

  1. Take care of your soil & work to improve it by adding organic matter. Avoid over-tilling and don’t work the soil when it is wet as that can destroy soil structure and contribute to compaction. Keep the soil covered with crops or mulch to encourage microorganism activity. Test the soil to learn soil pH and nutrient levels so that you can adjust if needed.
  2. When selecting ornamentals for your garden, choose wisely. Consider the function you want the plant to serve, as well as mature size, existing growing conditions, and maintenance needs. Select plants that have few insect and disease problems. Native plants are best for wildlife, but non-natives can be used as well, just avoid plants that are considered invasive.
  3. Scout for insects and disease regularly by inspecting leaves and stems. When caught early, problems can be managed using mechanical, cultural, or biological techniques, whereas if a problem is not noticed until significant damage is done, it may require the use of pesticides to manage.
  4. Use rain barrels to collect water that you can use to irrigate plants. Rain gardens can be used to capture excess rainwater runoff temporarily and allow it to percolate into the soil. Group plants with like water needs together in the garden.
  5. Use a mulching lawnmower and leave your grass clippings on the lawn. Those clippings contain nutrients and can reduce your fertilizer needs by 1/3. Don’t sweep your leaves to the curb for pickup. Run over them with a  lawnmower one or more times to chop them and then use them as mulch in your ornamental beds or cover your vegetable garden with them for the winter. When pruning ornamentals, if possible, compost in place, meaning leave the prunings in the bed to decompose & return organic matter to the soil.