By Sommer Cartier, for Let’s Talk Plants! January 2023.
Turn Your Garden into an Earth Friendly Garden
Our home gardens play a vital role in creating aesthetically pleasing natural landscapes in our yards. They also play a vital role in creating natural landscapes for critters who depend on these spaces for water, food, refuge and more. The way we design our gardens, from plant selection to the nutrients we add to our soil and more, impacts the health of our environment. When using techniques that are safe and in harmony with our natural environment, we protect our natural resources, minimize waste and pollutants and boost diversity. Here are a few eco-friendly practices you can incorporate into your garden to help make the earth a better and healthier place to live.
Select Appropriate Plants - Understand and adapt your garden to your local climate/microclimate. In San Diego, we are far too familiar with water scarcity and drought. Earth conscious gardeners can help protect this precious and limited resource by planting drought tolerant veggies that require infrequent waterings. Equally important is selecting plants that welcome pollinators and natural enemies. Not only does this practice help encourage biodiversity, but it also reduces the need for pesticides and other use of chemicals in the garden.
Nurture the Soil - Soil is our life support system. It provides the material to ground our roots, hold water and nutrients, and is the home to a plethora of micro-organisms that decompose organic matter and fix nitrogen. When we cultivate healthy soil, we help protect the life within it.
Practice Responsible Pest Management - Solve Garden problems and minimize risks to people and the environment by reducing the use of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. Whenever possible, use organic methods and materials that are in harmony with our natural environment. Pest management starts with soil. Feed your soil plenty of compost and organic matter to ensure your plants receive all the nutrients needed to stay healthy and fight off pests. Always be mindful of which pests you are trying to remove from your garden. Many pesticides and insecticides are broad spectrum, meaning they are effective against all insects, even the good ones. To reduce overuse and inappropriate use of these chemicals, become familiar with the practice of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and apply it in your garden.
Protect Wildlife - Create habitat for insects, birds, mammals, and other living creatures and avoid toxic chemicals that may harm them or the environment. As previously mentioned, practice Integrated Pest Management principles in your garden to avoid harming the creatures that live in and around.
Conserve Water and Protect Water Quality - Often in our gardens we water as if our supply is unlimited, even when there are several practices, we can use to reduce water use. Start by installing drip irrigation that places water at the soil where it is needed and at a rate the plant can absorb. Water in the early morning or late evening to avoid losing water to the afternoon heat. Incorporate permeable surfaces that help reduce run off, and inherently pollutants that flow into our streets, while allowing the earth to absorb and filter the water.
Conserve Energy and Protect Air Quality - Avoid practices, small as they may be, that require use of fossil fuels and contribute to climate change. Think about switching to manual or electric tools, shopping locally and using recycled containers and materials whenever possible.
Reduce Waste - At the very least, reduce the amount of waste you create in your garden. Even better, turn your waste into a nutrient rich compost that can feed your garden. Kitchen scraps and gardening materials are often bagged in plastic and sent to the landfill. Composting these items instead reduces the overall amount of trash in landfills. Composting can also reduce harmful waste that ends up in our rivers, streams and oceans. When we use compost, rather than synthetic fertilizers, we reduce harmful run-off that results in an overgrowth of aquatic vegetation that reduced the oxygen supply in water and can kill aquatic species.
For more information about eco-friendly gardening practices, or to learn how to become a Certified Earth-Friendly Gardener, visit the San Diego Master Gardeners webpage or click HERE. When you choose to cultivate an earth friendly garden, you consciously alter how you choose to interact with your natural world and commit to protecting our precious resources and environment.