There’s no better way to connect with the earth than to plant a vegetable and flower garden. But if you’re new to gardening, it’s important to make sure that your efforts are as minimally damaging to the environment as possible. As you plan your new garden, take these tips and ideas into account to have a garden that’s green in every sense of the word.
1. Choose the Location: Survey your property for the best location for a garden, particularly for a vegetable garden. Vegetable gardens have specific needs, including good drainage, lots of sun (about 6 hours a day for plants requiring “full sun”), and proximity to a hose for watering. The beds around your house, which might be shadier, might be better suited for flowers. Make sure that everywhere you plant can be reached by your hose.
2. Consider Your Region: The most successful gardens are ones that take into account their climate and region — ones that contain native plants, which are most tolerant to the local temperatures, water levels and other conditions. In other words, don’t expect a lush green lawn if you live in a desert climate! You can look at hardiness zone maps to determine your climate conditions, which will help you better decide what plants will work best in your area.
3. Pick Your Plants: In addition to making sure that the plants you choose are indigenous varieties that will thrive in your area, you can also choose plants with eco-friendly benefits. Certain plants have natural pest-repelling properties, which can either be used as a perimeter to protect a vegetable garden, or even to help keep a patio free of bugs. Planting heirloom varieties of tomatoes, beans and other vegetables can help maintain plant diversity by ensuring that a wide variety of cultivars remain alive. And also watch for drought resistant plants, which require less water to thrive.
4. Go Natural: Ignore the synthetic weed and pest control products, and the chemical fertilizers. There are plenty of all-natural ways of keeping your garden in shape without resorting to artificial chemicals that can pollute the earth. Making compost from yard waste and food scraps will nourish your garden better than any artificial fertilizer, and it helps cut down on trash as well. And there are natural and organic pest and weed control methods that range from products you can purchase to homespun remedies, such as laying newspaper down to deter weeds, or using household goods to deal with pests.
5. Water Wisely: Keeping a garden healthy through the long, hot summer can mean an inflated water bill, unless you’re smart about water conservation. Experienced gardeners know that the best time to water is either very early in the morning, or in the evening; watering in the middle of the day will cause evaporation before the water has a chance to sink in. Even better is a drip irrigation system, which will deliver water straight to the roots, where it’s needed. Spreading mulch on top of garden beds helps slow evaporation. Finally, you could help save water by collecting rainwater in a rain barrel, and even, on a small scale, by keeping buckets or watering cans by sinks and tubs to collect water as you’re waiting for it to heat up before washing dishes or taking a shower.