Gardening is already a positive step towards a more sustainable future, but did you know there are lots of ways to improve your sustainability and reduce your impact on the environment through creating a more sustainable garden? The Diggers Club’s Marcelle Swanston can get you started.
Marcelle’s tips to a sustainable garden
Making your own compost at home stops green waste from being placed into the rubbish and instead, creates good quality organic soil additives. Garden waste and kitchen scraps in plastic rubbish bags ends up in landfill, where it cannot be broken down efficiently as it is in an anaerobic environment where it creates greenhouse gases, including methane. However, when placed in your compost, it breaks down easily, bringing nutrients and beneficial microbes to your soil.
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2. Grow your own food
According to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), the food we eat makes up 28% of our ecological footprint. Growing any portion of your own vegetables, fruit or herbs not only saves you money at the supermarket, stops unnecessary packaging, ensures your produce is chemical free without the high price tag, and brings more nutrients and natural vitamins to your diet, it also eliminates the food miles associated with most produce in Australia. Alternatively, shop at your local farmers market or get involved in a food swap with other keen gardeners.
3. Plant a tree
If you have any room in your garden, consider planting a tree. According to greenpop.org, just one established tree can produce enough oxygen for four people. Trees also draw carbon from the atmosphere and store it, reducing harmful greenhouse gases. But trees are not only good for the environment, they are good for you too. Trees create shade which can lower ambient temperatures around your home, especially in summer. This can help to reduce cooling costs, while also creating a pleasant place to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee in the morning. Local wildlife will thank you too.
4. Be organic
Use only organic products in your garden. Move away from chemical sprays, herbicides and synthetic fertilisers and use natural soil improvers like compost, make homemade pest sprays with ingredients from your kitchen (like garlic, chilli and soap) and treat weeds with boiling water or use a hoe to manually remove them. This will not only save you money, but the produce you grow will be even better for you.
5. Beneficial insects
Invite beneficial insects into your garden with an insect house or hotel. When given a place to live, many beneficial insects will set up residence in your garden, reducing the need for sprays. Sowing seasonal flowers will also help to bring them to the garden and keep them close. Look at sowing Queen Anne’s Lace, alyssum, dill, borage and cosmos.
Mulch your soil to save water, reduce erosion and minimise weeds. Organic mulch also breaks down over time, adding organic matter to the soil. Some plants act as a living mulch, so are decorative as well as practical, such as baby sun rose and oregano.
7. Maximise your site
Look at ways to make your garden more efficient. If you’re on a slope, water from top to bottom. Place herbs and vegetables in full sun but close to your home for ease of access. Shade windows in summer with deciduous trees and climbers to save on cooling costs and minimise large hard landscaping features to minimise runoff.
8. Group plants
Plants with similar requirements should be grouped together to make caring for them efficient. Thirsty plants should be placed in an area together, so that applied water is used effectively. The soil may also benefit from additional applications of organic matter to increase water retention. Meanwhile, the drought tolerant sun lovers will require a very different watering regime, if any at all, but caring for them will be simpler if they are planted in groups.
9. Collect water
Gather your own water. A rainwater tank is a valuable resource for the garden, especially the vegetable garden. Don’t forget to collect the cold water from your taps as they heat up too. This is often enough to water indoor plants as well as thirsty vegetables.
10. Gardening for health
There are numerous studies on the health impacts of gardening, from mental health, to Vitamin D absorption and simply keeping active. Whatever the impacts, there is no denying that when you feel better, everyone benefits. You’re happier, which makes other happier too, you need less trips to the doctor, less medications and you can be growing nutrient rich food and a beautiful space for all. Gardening has many benefits for our health and the health of our environment, and every little action we take can have a positive reaction for ourselves, our community and the world around us.