Want to develop your green thumb and help support a green planet? You can do both, and with these sustainable gardening tips, it’ll likely be easier than you think! So without further ado, here are our favorites.
18 Sustainable Gardening Tips
1. Go with natives.
If you want a garden that can provide in ways that go beyond you and your needs, consider incorporating native plants into your landscape. These are well acclimated to your area’s growing conditions, and there are likely already an abundance of other plant and animal species that are supported by this plant. Plus, they might require less water, too! Check out Native Plant Finder to determine what plants are native to your area, as well as the birds, butterflies, and wildlife that are typically associated with that plant.
2. Have a compost heap/bin.
Composting does it all—it prevents food waste and it can support a healthy garden! Use finished compost to prepare a new garden bed, or regularly add it to an area where plants are already growing.
3. Avoid all chemicals.
Once you realize all of the natural ways you can get rid of weeds and pests and fertilize, there will be no need for toxic sprays. If you live close to some farms, you can source their wasted manure (or use your own finished compost) to provide a nutrient-rich fertilizer for your garden. As far as bugs go, here are some DIY and natural pesticides from our blog.
4. Use mulch effectively.
Not only does mulch look nice, but it’s also very beneficial for your plants! Mulch will help to suppress weeds and it will also help to retain moisture so that your plants can go longer between waterings.
5. Welcome beneficial insects.
As a great way to keep pests at bay while supporting your local ecosystem, you can support the beneficial insects who might want to call your garden “home.” You can plant insectary plants (flowering plants that attract pollinators) or provide nonflying insects (beetles, spiders, etc.) with some form of shelter using straw, mulch, or leaves.
6. Reuse anything you can.
Old newspaper, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls lying around? These can all be used as seed starters. Similarly, large plastic bottles can provide protection for young seedlings when early spring temperatures drop low.
7. Minimize tilling.
Healthy soil involves a healthy network of bacteria, microbes, insects, and mycelium. Tilling can compromise the structure of some of this. So, if you can, try to avoid mixing the soil around too much, whether with hands or a hoe. It’ll also help to keep weeds down!
8. Water smartly.
Watering your garden is a routine you’ll likely have to get used to—especially in the dog days of summer. However, there are a few tips to keep in mind so that you can be as smart as possible with this limited resource. Mulch is a great way to minimize your water needs, but timing is crucial, too. Avoid watering in the middle of the day when the sun is hot, because water will be quick to evaporate. Also, try to avoid unnecessarily watering the leaves (this might weigh the plant down and lead to disease), and instead aim for the roots.
9. Install a drip irrigation system.
To help you water in a way that’s better for the earth and your plants, consider an irrigation system. This can be particularly helpful if you have a large area to water. Many systems will drip directly in the root areas, and will save you money and time!
10. Consider your climate.
Before you start planting, you want to ensure that you’re only choosing plants that will have the best bet of thriving in your local area! Start by referring to your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone, then consider things like wind, shade, flooding, pests, foot traffic, etc. to ensure that you choose plants suitable for those specific conditions. If you have a small space, consider container gardening.
11. Harvest water.
It may come as a surprise, but your garden might consume around 20 gallons of water a week. You can end up providing some—if not all of your water needs by capturing water in a new way. This can be as simple as using some bottles to capture the water leaving your drainage pipes. You can also use a larger, permanent structure that’s attached to your gutters.
12. Source free items.
You’d be amazed at what you can find for free. Try to create a raised bed using only repurposed materials, use donated tarps instead of weed-blocking landscaping cloth. Gather old socks or pantyhose to use as garden ties. Old windows can make a great cold frame. Even organize a seed swap to get some free seeds for next season!
13. Use hoop-house style covers.
This will extend your growing season—which can be especially helpful for those of us who like to eat tomatoes in the cooler months! You can make a hoop house (low poly tunnel) any size and shape, and can even repurpose some materials to do so. This video is great for a smaller hoop house for a raised bed.
14. Growing vegetables? Think about what you can/want to eat.
When spring comes around, excitement is in the air and many people begin to experiment with growing food. While it’s great to learn, try to only plant what you’ll want to eat! Many people end up with pounds and pounds of eggplant or zucchini, then don’t know what to do with it! Unless you have a way to share excess produce (check out options for donating to local food banks), or a compost system that’s capable of handling extra organic matter, minimize what you plant so that it doesn’t go to waste.
15. Use all resources available.
Whether you’re brand new to gardening or have been doing it for years, you’re bound to continue learning new things along the way. To learn even more, check out some gardening experts online.
16. Reconsider your lawn.
Your lawn might look nice, but beyond that, it really serves no purpose—and traditionally requires a lot of inputs (weed spray, water, mowing time) to keep it looking nice. If your area allows it, consider replacing some or all of your lawn with a pollinator garden, easy-to-maintain perennial plants, ground covers, or shrubs. It’ll be better for your local environment, and save you some time.
17. Save seeds.
When we grow food, it’s likely the harvest that keeps us excited. However, what comes after the harvest can be even more beneficial! The process will vary for different types of plants, but collecting and saving seeds will help you keep costs down during the next planting season, and will give you a peek into the magic that’s contained in each tiny little seed.
18. Use an electric or manual mower.
Save on fuel (and fuel costs) and get a little extra exercise by switching to an electric or push mower.
Wrapping Up Sustainable Gardening Tips
Whether you take away one or all of these tips, you’re sure to help our environment and your health by getting outside and gardening. The benefits are numerous, and whether you’ve got a small patio garden with a few potted plants or several acres growing food, developing your green thumb is one of the best and most enjoyable ways to support our planet.
Do you have any more sustainable gardening tips? If there are a few other practices you use, let us know in the comments!