Preserving the Environment

Four Tips To Build an Eco-Friendly Garden

August 21, 2018
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Four Tips To Build an Eco-Friendly Garden
Garden1
Community gardener Sarah Milner-Simonds tends to chickens being kept on her allotment in Ealing on August 18, 2009 in London, England. Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images
From reducing water usage to composting food scraps, here are a few ways to make your green spaces beautiful and sustainable.

Gardens are good for the environment and, arguably, good for the soul. But you’re undercutting your good work if you’re still using, say, a gas-powered lawnmower or irrigating your lawn more than it needs.

Here are four ways to make gardening more eco-friendly.

USE A BARREL

Just think for a moment about all the water that hits your roof during a rainstorm. Now imagine all that water being put to use.

Using a rain barrel is a great way to capture much of that roof runoff.

Typical rain barrels can hold 40 to 90 gallons of water. All of that can be used to water plants or wash cars. It’s also great for your wallet, as you will be able to decrease your municipal water usage.

If you don’t know what size of rain barrel to buy, use this formula to help you calculate how much rainwater you can collect based on the square footage of your roof and the annual rainfall in your area.

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A sign announcing the use of recycled water is posted in a garden at the new Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center on July 18, 2014 in San Jose, California.Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

GO NATIVE (WITH YOUR CHOICE OF PLANTS)

Pro-tip: Pine trees are pretty, “fir” sure (get it?). But they don’t belong anywhere near your Florida beach home.  

Instead, use native plants when you build your garden. Drought-resistant plants native to your area means that you can water them less. “Going native” can save your water consumption by as much as 60 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

In New Orleans, a program pays homeowners to replace pavement with native plants on their property, as part of a larger project to help mitigate flooding in neighborhoods where green space is limited.

Local plants also attract local fauna, which is great for pollination. For example, agave plants native to the American Southwest produce massive flower stalks that hummingbirds find irresistable.

GET SMART ON IRRIGATION

If you rely on irrigation to water your lawns and gardens, then you know the amount of water wasted when your lawn is irrigated the same day of a massive rainstorm.

But there are smart ways to irrigate your lawn without overwatering. It just takes a little advance planning.

Evapotranspiration relies on sensors to measure how much moisture is in the ground and irrigates based on the exact needs of your lawn.

But if investing in fancy sensors is not your thing, or you want a more DIY approach to setting your irrigation schedule, here are a few tips:

  • Irrigate early in the morning or late at night to lessen evaporation
  • Try a drip technique, in which you line your garden with a soaker hose that slowly drips water directly on the roots of your plants
  • Capture gray water to reuse in your garden. You can even rig your home so that water from your washing machine or shower flows directly into your garden  

DON’T TOSS THE SCRAPS

You know that entire plate of food you’re throwing away after Thanksgiving? Here’s the problem with that:

When we discard uneaten food and scraps, it goes directly into landfills. As it rots, it releases methane, which is almost 30 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Western Australia, for example, dumped nearly 700,000 tons of organic waste in 2012, each ton releasing about one ton of greenhouse gas, mostly in the form of methane. In America, we throw away way more than that — about 30 times more, in fact, with roughly 25.9 million tons of food waste filling American landfills each year, according to a 2009 report by the U.S. Agriculture Department.

That is food — or wood chips, or grass clippings, or leaves, or even t-shirts — that could easily be composted and made into fertilizer for your garden.

And composting also helps the soil in your garden. It can help clean up soil contaminated with pesticides, and it helps retain moisture so that you don’t need to water your plants so frequently.

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