Seeking to create a sustainable garden is an act of good self care and an ideal way to garden with greater ease and more joy as we age — it also means less labor for you and contributes to more eco-friendly communities and a healthier planet.
Below are some of my favorite suggestions to help make your garden more sustainable:
- Go organic. Avoid using pesticides, herbicides, and inorganic fertilizers that pollute our soil and water. If you must use chemicals, chose the least toxic options.
- Utilize IPM. Check your local county extension department to find the Integrated Pest Management website. You can use it to solve pest problems while minimizing risks to people and the environment.
- Conserve water. Use a diversity of water-wise plants to keep your water usage down. Water efficiently and deeply with drip irrigation. Use rain barrels to collect runoff and swales to replenish groundwater.
- Compost. Build your soil by using compost as a top dressing once or twice a year. Start a worm bin and feed the worms your kitchen waste; worm castings make a wonderful fertilizer. A good rule of thumb when you’re planting is to use 50 percent native soil with 50 percent fresh compost.
- Mulch. Mulching is such a great thing to do because it signals the end of spring weeding and planting, and it finishes off your garden. When organic mulch is applied two or four inches deep around your plants, the mulch will block out the sun and reduce your weeding. It helps maintain moisture in the ground, will keep the soil temperature even, and provides food for plants.
- Create a wildlife habitat. Replace your lawn with native plants to attract pollinators. We like to plant milkweed, for example, to keep our monarch butterflies coming back. Add bird feeders, and supply water with birdbaths, ponds, and fountains.
- Choose the right plants. Select native plants that are adapted to your soil and your local climate—these will require less work on your part to stay happy.
By working towards growing a sustainable garden, we create a win-win situation — where our gardening experience works much better for us as our bodies shift and change, and where we’re actively contributing to creating a world that’s better for the generations to come.