Organic Gardening 101: Top Tips for Creating a Sustainable Garden

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In today’s world, it seems like everyone is trying to live as “green” a life as possible. And there's no better place to start than your own back yard.

Buying organic foods, recycling materials, reducing energy use - these are all things most people try to do on a regular basis.

Yet there are still many people who don't take the time to grow their own organic garden in order to reduce the amount of pesticides and herbicides they consume every day.

This article will give you some sustainable gardening tips to help you get started with a new eco-friendly garden, and show you how easy it can be!

What is Eco Gardening?

The term “eco-friendly” or “sustainable” refers to practices that help preserve the Earth by reducing waste, preserving habitats, and being mindful of our energy and water usage.

In gardening terms, this often translates into an organic garden where you use natural fertilizers such as manure instead of pesticides in order to grow your garden plants or food.

Sustainable gardening also saves you money by lowering your need for chemicals, plants fewer crops but uses companion planting to make them more productive and adds elements of your garden that attract butterflies, birds and other animals.

How Do I Start a Sustainable Garden?

A sustainable garden is one that can be maintained indefinitely without requiring any chemical products or extra energy. To begin with, you will need to start by looking at what you currently have in your yard. Check out a few of the ideas below to see if they might apply to you:

  • If you’re someone who is constantly fighting weeds or are surrounded by grass, converting part of your lawn into an organic garden can be very easy and will make all the difference in the amount of work you have to do in order to maintain your yard.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have a big empty space outside, like a large driveway or patio, consider turning it into a sustainable garden that can feed your whole family.
  • If you don’t have much outdoor space available, you could always look for a community garden. These are very common in areas that do not have an abundance of green spaces or grow food specifically to donate to local soup kitchens and homeless shelters. However, if you can find one nearby then you would be able to connect with other eco-friendly gardeners that you can learn from and exchange organic gardening tips with as well.
  • If neither of those options apply to you, then why not look into container gardening? Balcony boxes or hanging baskets can be a great option if you live in an apartment where outside space is at a premium. The beauty of this is that it lets you grow your plants almost anywhere and many vegetables can be grown in a relatively small space (unless of course you are planning on growing something like a watermelon)

Another fast-track way to start an organic garden is with transplants. Many people don’t realize that you can buy plants already grown instead of starting your own seeds at home. This makes it easier for those who prefer to just get out there and work in the garden without having to do the dirty work beforehand.

Once you've identified how much space you have available for your eco-friendly garden, you can plan out what you're actually going to include. These sustainable gardening tips will help you make the best use of your space.

Roundup guide to organic gardening

Conserve & Collect Rain Water

Rainwater is great for keeping your plants healthy, but in order to give your plants a steady supply of water, you have to be able to collect it. A great way to do this is with a rain barrel that will let you store the water so you can use it later on when your plants need watering again.

Rain barrel usage is perfect for people who aspire to have a sustainable garden. Collecting rain water and using it on your plants can help conserve water and show you how much rain falls in an average year in your area.

You may want to consider adding a standpipe or overflow pipe to the bottom of your barrel so that excess water will flow out of the barrel instead of spilling onto the ground. The best barrels are made from oak, or a high-grade plastic that will not leach any chemicals into your water supply like metal barrels might do.

If space is not an issue for you, then an underground rain tank will give you the most capacity for rainwater collection.

Recycle and Reuse Raw Materials

One of the main reasons that people look to sustainable gardening is because it can help conserve the Earth and take care of its resources. This often translates into using recycled materials and making choices that will reduce your carbon footprint by being mindful of material usage.

Don't buy plastic plant pots unless you're sure that they are made from recycled materials. You'd be surprised how many other household items can be transformed into plant pots, so with a little creativity you can say goodbye to plastic pots forever.

One thing you could try to do is reuse or recycle some old items in your garden. For example, anything made out of metal, glass or plastic probably won't hurt to recycle or reuse in your organic garden. If you have a few old wooden pallets laying around your garage then they might also be perfect for use in an organic garden as long as they haven't been treated with chemicals.

You don't have to limit yourself to those items though. As long as you can reuse an item or recycle it, then there is no harm in doing so. Just try to use your imagination a little bit and think of ways that you can apply those recycled items to something in your organic garden.

Some people have great success using reclaimed wood as well because it has not been exposed to chemicals from glues or paint and the wood may have been salvaged from a demolished building so it would not have been used anyway.

Buy Local

If you need plants, tools or materials for your eco-friendly garden, then always try to buy from local garden centres.

The benefits of buying local goods are numerous. When you support nearby businesses, it can help improve the economy and can even create jobs.

Buying local goods also helps you to support the environment by minimizing transportation costs, reducing emissions and limiting the impact that traveling has on the environment.

Buying materials from your local garden center or hardware store is a great way to promote all three of these benefits.

Use Native Plants

The reason that native plants are a good choice is because they need minimal upkeep and require less work. Native plants thrive in your local climate so all you have to do is find out what grows well in your area and then plant accordingly.

Native plants will also be naturally resistant to diseases or pests and might fare better than exotic breeds.

Make Your Own Compost

Use grass clippings and other garden waste to create your own compost. This acts as a natural fertilizer that will give your eco-friendly garden a healthy soil without using chemicals. It is very important that the materials are layered in such a way so that the composting process will work properly and the end result will be rich, fertile soil.

If you're wondering how to construct a compost heap as part of your eco-friendly garden, then follow these few tips:

• Layer organic materials with nitrogen-rich materials like hay for example on the bottom of the pile. This will start creating the balance needed for decomposition and give you some fertile soil at the bottom when finished.

• The next layer should consist of either another nitrogen-rich material or carbon-rich material. For example, straw would be an appropriate nitrogen-rich material, but grass clippings would be a carbon-rich material.

• Make sure your pile is large enough to retain heat (help it break down), but small enough so that you can turn it and mix the materials inside on a regular basis. This will keep the composting process working efficiently and make sure everything gets enough exposure to the elements.

• If you don't have enough of any one thing or if you want to add some new materials into the mix, then feel free to sprinkle those items over your pile and just keep building it up.

If you follow these steps for composting then your compost should be ready fairly soon (depending on the ingredients and the size of your compost pile). Ideally you will want to wait for a couple of months if possible, but you can use it earlier if needed. You can use this newly-made compost as a sort of mulch on top of your garden soil or you can mix it into the soil itself where it will help enrich the soil naturally.

Go Chemical Free

It's possible to apply natural methods to get rid of pests in the garden. You can use methods like companion planting for example. Plants are often naturally attracted to each other when they're planted together and if you plant the right combination together then the plants that repel pests will be stronger than those pesky weeds that attract them.

If you do have issues with weeds, be sure to use an organic weed killer to keep them under control.

Consider introducing beneficial insects to your eco-friendly garden. Ladybugs are one example, but there are other types of beneficial insects you could try, including parasitic wasps and lacewings, which provide natural pest control.

You could also put a layer of mulch down between your plants which will help prevent weeds from growing and keep them from getting sunlight.

Another method that's made use of in sustainable gardening is the rotation method. By growing plants to repel pests in one area of your garden, you won't have to worry about it being attacked by pests when you plant other crops there a few months later because those insects will stay away as long as the plants that repel them are growing elsewhere.

Grow Your Own Food

One of the many benefits of sustainable gardening is that it's a great way to get fresh and organic produce without having to buy it from all the way over in another country.

Growing your own food is also a great way to save money on groceries and these savings can really add up if you plant enough things or have a large garden. You'll typically spend less on simple things like seeds, soil, and tools than you would on buying the food from the supermarket.

In addition to saving money, there are many health benefits associated with growing your own organic food. For one thing, the chemicals that are used when commercially grown produce is harvested are not present in your homegrown vegetables so they're healthier for you.

Secondly, commercial growers use a lot of pesticides to ward off harmful insects and pests. These chemicals can be harmful to you or your family if they're consumed in large quantities, but at least you'll avoid them entirely when you grow your own food.

You can also grow more food than you need for yourself and give the extra to friends or neighbors who would like some healthy treats! This will also help to promote a sense of community because now you have shared something with someone nearby and people are making an effort to share with their neighbors instead of just being lazy which will make everyone feel better about themselves.

Plant Trees and Hedges

If you have space, try to plant trees or hedges in your organic garden. There are many benefits.

  • A natural barrier to keep pests away from your crops.
  • Can provide shade for certain plants which will make them grow better.
  • Plant fruit trees and enjoy producing your own fruit!
  • Improve air quality, reduce your carbon footprint and also provide a habitat for wildlife.
  • If you develop your hedges to a certain size it will provide privacy from the street and neighbors.
  • Planting hedges with thorny leaves can help deter unwanted people.
  • Hedges can also be used as a windbreak on exposed sites or near walls.

The benefits of planting trees in your garden are plentiful, but it's up to you to decide whether or not they'll be worth having in your garden.

Trees and hedges can cost a little money to plant, and take some time to grow. But if properly looked after they will provide benefits that last for years and years.

Make Homes For Wildlife

Bird boxes, bug hotels hedgehogs and Bee hives are human-made refuges for local wildlife. Artificial refuges enable people to protect our wildlife and encourage them to flourish in their own backyards.

An added bonus of making homes for wildlife is that they are very easy to make.

This doesn't mean that they will look unsightly, they can be designed to fit into any garden design or backyard space without spoiling the visual appeal.

Use Electric or Manual Garden Tools

Dispense with your gas powered lawnmower, hedge trimmer or chainsaw. They're not even needed for the average garden. Electric tools (especially if you have solar or are signed up to a renewable electricity supplier) or manual tools do just the same job, without the emissions.

The benefits include:

  • Electric tools are more efficient and environmentally friendly.
  • Manual tools are cheaper than electric or petrol ones.
  • Feel like you're doing your part to reduce pollution.
  • Save money on fuel costs that would be spent with petrol powered equipment.

Electric or manual tools will help to improve the physical appearance of your garden without the environmental impact.

The Final Word

Starting an eco-friendly garden can seem intimidating if you're not particularly green fingered, but it really doesn't need to be. Most of it is just common sense, and following the sustainable gardening tips above will get you up and running in no time.

Using organic methods will provide you with a healthy, free source of fruit and vegetables and a backyard that will be the envy of your neighborhood.

So don't be daunted, and don't delay! Do just a little work each day and your project will come together before you know it.

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Arabella Ruiz is a senior researcher at The Roundup. She lives in San Antonio, Texas and has been interested in the environment from an early age. Arabella loves to campaign for environmental causes and fundraise for charities that aim to preserve wildlife habitat, protect endangered species or help people with climate change problems.
Arabella Ruiz
Arabella Ruiz is a senior researcher at The Roundup. She lives in San Antonio, Texas and has been interested in the environment from an early age. Arabella loves to campaign for environmental causes and fundraise for charities that aim to preserve wildlife habitat, protect endangered species or help people with climate change problems.

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