Growing your own food is great for the environment and your health, but not all gardening practices are eco-friendly. With climate change, we need to make sure we leave the world better than we found it. Unfortunately, many gardeners use pesticides to manage weeds and carbon-intensive machinery to prepare their soil.
If you want to improve your gardening habits and decrease your carbon footprint, there are a few steps you can take. Here is a guide to climate-friendly gardening in 10 easy steps.
1. Make Compost
Food waste is a huge problem, and making your own compost is an easy solution. Doing so doesn’t require any expensive infrastructure, and you can utilize a small corner of your garden for compost savings.
Make sure to compost organic food scraps and avoid any toxic materials. Basically, if there is anything you wouldn’t want to eat, don’t put it in your soil.
Creating your own compost not only is good for the environment, but it also saves you money. Best of all, your crops may be tastier than ever. It results in food that is richer in nutrients, ensuring your plants are healthy and delicious.
2. Start Your Own Seeds
It’s vital to support environmentally friendly seed companies. Growing your plants from seed not only supports sustainable companies, but it also helps ensure high-quality crops at an affordable price. If you buy vegetable transplants, you have no idea the quality of soil or the chemicals sprayed to help the plants thrive. When growing plants from seed, you can be confident from the beginning.
With seed diversity being increasingly threatened and countless genetics lost to history, it’s vital to support rare seed preservation, especially in the face of climate change. Look for companies that are employee-owned and offer heirloom and hybrid varieties. By doing this, you can play a key role in preserving biodiversity for future generations.
3. Use Manual Labor
While it may sound easy to use a tractor and other machinery to cultivate your garden, manual labor is actually simpler and better for the environment. Most farm equipment contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and doesn’t have a place in a climate-friendly garden.
If you are growing a small garden, you don’t necessarily need tractors to plow up the ground. Using hand tools will be cheaper in the long run, and is better for the environment. You can hand-till your garden by using a shovel and rake instead of a rototiller.
4. Build Raised Beds
Raised beds are a low-maintenance, sustainable option for your vegetable garden. They result in better water retention and less soil erosion, making them better for the environment than traditional tilled beds. They are also easier to manage a small space intensively, enabling you to grow more crops in a limited space.
Building raised beds also allows you more control over water, soil amendments and fertilizer, which reduces overall waste.
5. Practice No-Till
Many gardeners today are getting into no-till gardening. It eliminates the need to prep beds for planting each season and results in lower fuel costs overall, saving you time and money. Utilizing no-till methods also helps soil retain carbon, reducing the need for amendments and lowering the overall carbon footprint of your garden. Plus, you’ll spend less money prepping beds each season and dealing with weeds.
6. Make Your Own Fertilizer
Commercial fertilizers tend to be terrible for the environment, full of toxic chemicals and other poisons. If you’re looking for a climate-friendly alternative, consider making your own. If you utilize other climate-friendly gardening methods, like no-till, you will also find that you need fewer fertilizers overall, especially as time goes by.
A great way to explore making your own fertilizer is to create a rooting hormone using apple cider vinegar or honey. This is a simple method to support growing plants and a cheaper, eco-friendly solution to getting nutrients to your crops.
7. Utilize Cover Crops
Cover crops help protect the soil when you aren’t growing vegetables to harvest. They add nitrogen, attract beneficial insects and reduce erosion. By cutting back on the time your land is left bare, they can also help reduce weed pressure.
Cover crop examples include buckwheat, clover, alfalfa, peas, winter wheat and ryegrass oats. For longer-season cover crop options, consider utilizing small grains like barley or rye and a nitrogen-fixing plant like peas. For shorter seasons, use buckwheat or field peas.
Cover crops are not removed from the soil, but instead add nutrients by remaining in the ground. Before your next planting, simply turn dead plant material into the earth before sowing seeds.
8. Plant More Perennials
Perennials produce food with less environmental impact, making them a necessary addition to your climate-friendly garden. They allow you to invest in plants that fit your specific needs, climate and soil type. For example, you can look for deer-resistant varieties or shade-tolerant shrubs, making efficient use of every corner of your growing space. Additionally, you can plant cold-weather perennials to extend your growing season and add resiliency to your garden.
Planting perennials incorporates permaculture growing methods, creating a more permanent ecosystem instead of just cultivating annual crops that must be replanted each season.
9. Create Pollinator Habitat
Pollinators are not just beneficial to the environment, they are also directly responsible for human health and well-being. They play a key role in our food supply and help maintain biodiversity.
Use native plants when creating a pollinator habitat, making sure to include a mix of flowering shrubs and other nectar sources. If you would prefer to keep most of your garden in annual production, consider planting hedgerows or buffer strips between annual crops or around the edges of your growing space. Consider crops that bloom throughout the season to provide a continuous source of nutrients for pollinators.
10. Save Rainwater
If you’re looking for a climate-friendly way to irrigate your crops, consider using a rain barrel. Rainwater helps to reduce surface runoff and water usage. If you have a garden shed or garage roof, installing a rain barrel is a creative way to capture water that otherwise would never be utilized. To maximize water-saving, make sure to mulch your garden and use cover crops.
Incorporating climate-friendly growing methods like making compost, using cover crops and planting perennials are simple ways to make your garden even more sustainable. Reducing your carbon footprint while increasing biodiversity is easy to do and yields delicious results.