A sustainable garden guide is an indispensable tool for those who start or dream of one day creating their own garden. In off grid farming or farming on homestead, sometimes, it can even be useful even though we think we already know how to create and maintain a sustainable garden because maybe there is some concept that we had not interpreted well. I am referring to those false truths that can lead us to make more than one mistake, especially in farming.
When I started planting my garden, I was almost unaware of everything I now know about gardening. My garden idea was a lush green space filled with my favorite flowers that I would enjoy tending and watering. I knew that I had to dig to plant, water and remove the withered flowers; perhaps I came to know terms such as pruning and fertilizing, but no idea how or why.
The basic principles of Sustainable Gardening
It is essential that you know the qualities of the soil that you have in the garden, its physical, chemical, and biological characteristics determine what you can plant and how to care for it. The most important aspects to analyze are texture, pH, depth, salinity, and content of mineral nutrients.
The climate conditions are important for the design of a garden because each plant needs conditions of temperature and humidity that do not occur in all regions. In an area where the cold prevails, you cannot plant the same as in another where it is hot.
When choosing plants we must stick to what we know about the climate and soil in our garden. Other important factors are location (sun, shade), its size as an adult, its resistance to pests, and its water needs. If you pay attention, almost all the cards of the plants that appear in books and gardening manuals usually indicate this.
My garden in its early days was not sustainable, nor ecological, nor anything more than the place where I gave free rein to my aspirations as an amateur gardener with total disinformation. In the first years, the successes and failures were only the results of chance or fortune of meeting people who knew what they were doing and advised me on a plant before selling it to me.
They say that from mistakes you learn and I have learned from mine, I have corrected many and I continue correcting others, but I know that gardening is easier if you inform yourself and learn, like any other task, so I have made an effort to learn and Thus I have come to have a garden as sustainable as possible.
I am not a professional gardener and I cannot give masterclasses, but with the experience I have learned some important notions that I can transmit.
What is sustainable gardening?
Sustainable Gardening also known as off grid farming or farming on homestead could be defined as a set of criteria and techniques designed to make more efficient and rational use of natural resources, with lower maintenance costs. Also known as differentiated gardening or organic gardening, sustainable gardening is gardening adapted to the environment, that is, it takes into account the environmental conditions of the farming place.
And what is your objective? Obviously, achieving sustainable development as opposed to uncontrolled development that endangers the planet’s resources for future generations.
A sustainable garden seeks the balance of the ecosystem and the self-sufficiency of the plants and involves less expenditure of resources and maintenance
If you are starting a garden or if you are deepening your knowledge of sustainable gardening, you are interested in knowing that there are many factors that influence its good health and beauty. There is a lot of work to do, but I assure you that what you learn and the results you achieve will fill you with satisfaction. The more information you collect before entering the subject the better because the more chances you will have to be right and you will save time and money.
Is Sustainable Garden Sustainable
The sustainable garden is the one that is cultivated following the traditional ways of life of the environment, working in the most natural way possible and taking advantage of the resources (water, soil, fertilizer) that nature gives it.
Due to climate change and the extinction of natural resources, gardening must be oriented towards finding the balance of the ecosystem and the self-sufficiency of plants. Is an absolutely sustainable garden possible? I can only assure you that in Mediterranean gardening and urban environments it is frankly difficult but, still, we have to make it as sustainable as possible.
False truths: Half-truths
So far nothing new, I suppose, but the false truths or half-truths alluded to at the beginning can lead us to believe that a sustainable garden is, necessarily, a dry land. There are also those who limit sustainability to measures such as using only succulent plants, including even those species that are classified as invasive exotic.
On the opposite side, some people think that a sustainable garden is one in which only native plants are introduced, a very common mistake, when in fact there are many non-native species that do not alter biodiversity at all and, furthermore, They help the design of gardens with sustainable criteria.
What is an ecological garden?
Ecology is a factor that is intimately linked with sustainability. It is often associated with the use of organic fertilizer products and pest treatments, but it goes further. An ecological garden must not generate waste, it cannot introduce invasive flora into the environment, it must respect native fauna and flora, it must maintain orographic characteristics, etc.
There are so many factors that would be difficult to name them all, but with a little interest in the subject and common sense, you can know or, at least, investigate when in doubt. The Ministry of Agriculture has a series of detailed guides where you can consult any question.
Remember that our ancestors had fewer resources and maintained exquisite gardens, why not do it ourselves? In addition to satisfying our environmental awareness and looking after the environment, we will save money and work less. I attest to this and can tell you that I have gone through several different stages, in case you want to save any.
- During the first years of gardening and with absolute ignorance of gardening, I insisted on having the plants that I liked the most without thinking about their needs: roses, hydrangeas, succulents, rhododendrons, bromeliads, cicas, fuchsias, eponyms, etc. A variety that denoted absolute ignorance, as well as a somewhat dubious taste.
- Bromeliads, hydrangeas, fuchsias, and other plants from cool and humid climates were dying. I began to investigate and discovered the reason: it was neither soil nor climate for them. I was in my second phase as a gardener and thought “I’m going to put them in the dark places and change the soil for the right one.” I started buying sacks of acid soil for acidophiles, nonstop watering those that required moisture, and beating myself up fighting the elements. And in the end, I only managed to get so much heat and humidity to attract the fungi that settled at ease in my garden.
- Currently I have learned something and, although I know that I have a lot left, I try to be the one that adapts to the environment and I choose the plants that work in my garden. What works well? Basically, everything in the environment, not necessarily the closest one. So I find out what a plant wants before I introduce it. Avoiding complicated exotic plants is not giving up a beautiful garden, on the contrary, it is giving up a ballast.
Know the soil and climate of the garden
For me, the two fundamental factors when making a garden are the soil in which the plants will grow and the climate in which it is located. The soil is, without a doubt, the most complicated. Making a garden where plants can live in the most natural way possible is difficult in the environment of a home where construction has altered the characteristics of the terrain. Neither the depth nor the quality of the soil is similar to what the field that existed before the building had originally, but with some initial amendments, you can improve it a lot.
The weather is important but more intuitive. The most important factors are environmental humidity, rainfall, and temperature. Normally they are values that do not fluctuate much, but you can still find that one year it freezes more than usual or it does not rain at all. It is what a garden has, plants are living beings and you have to know and care for them to keep them healthy.
Fertilizers and pesticides
As I said above, the ecological garden is associated with the use of fertilizers and pesticides of organic origin. Cultivating a garden with sustainability criteria favors biodiversity and considers the balance in the use of plant protection products, both organic and synthetic.
Whether you are going to start a garden or already have one, I advise you to work towards a sustainable garden. It benefits you personally because it saves work and money, but also, you contribute to the maintenance of the environment and the conservation of the planet. Can there be better reasons?
Sustainable gardening guides
It stands to reason that a completely valid sustainable gardening guide for all climates is a pipe dream. What is more, it is contradictory, since we are talking about harmonizing the garden, as far as possible, with the environment and, therefore, if the environment changes, the scheme and design of the garden changes. For this reason, the sustainable garden guides, the more adapted they are to our area, the more valid they will be in their entirety.
In the absence of a guide in our community, we can, at least, follow some basic guidelines and, in this case, we can find useful information from a source that offers confidence and when selecting plant species we can consult if we have doubts, any publication in this regard edited by specialized sources on Environmental issues and organizations of the respective community.
Sustainable Garden Guide | Much more than a garden
The guide that I share today -at the end of this post is approved by the United States Department of Agriculture website and written by Cornell University. This means that we have to know how to read between the lines those tips, such as the selection of plant species, which refer specifically to a region -in this case, that of the Community of Madrid- although the essence of the guide contains criteria perfectly transferable to any garden.
It is a concise but comprehensive guide. Its presentation and design help to fix concepts clearly. A series of measures are detailed that will help the choice of elements in the home garden as well as everything necessary for the planning and creation of the garden design.
Plants in sustainable gardening
This guide includes a list of recommended plant species (vegetables and flowers), grouped according to size, which indicates, in addition to the scientific and common name, their status as native or non-native, as well as information that includes soil type, tolerance and other relevant observations for each species. The selection of plants is indicated for gardens in the Community of United States, but there are a large number of species, so we must first check if any of the species that are selected are really valid, if we talk about another area. The groups included are the following:
- Herbaceous with rhizome
- Herbaceous, etc.
The plants are the stars of the garden and your choice can be performed following sustainability criteria and not just by their appearance. First, the most suitable plants are the species best adapted to the environmental conditions of the garden: they are less demanding and more resistant to local pests and diseases.
In addition to native species, you can also find native (non-native) plants, whose climatic requirements coincide with the conditions of a given region, which will help them consume little water, save us resources and allow them to develop more healthily.
What should we look for to make our garden sustainable?
- Adapt as much as possible to the climate and soil.
- Save water by selecting suitable species, using efficient irrigation methods, and taking advantage of rainwater.
- Achieve a minimum expenditure of energy resources and a minimum production of waste, which we will then try to reuse or recycle.
- Promote diversity.
Make the most of your own and other people’s resources