Tips For Creating Eco-Friendly Gardens

Gardening is a fun and educational way to take part in the environmental movement. It is important to highlight, however, that gardening could contribute to detrimental environmental issues if it isn’t conducted in a sustainable manner. In this article, we review several ways gardening could affect the surrounding environment and things you could do to mitigate those problems.


High Water Consumption

Many new gardeners are hit with the unwanted surprise of receiving an enormous water bill. Most forms of gardening require high levels of water consumption and that could be bad news for gardeners who live in dry areas, where water conservation is a key component of environmental sustainability. A study by the EPA found that about 30 percent of water used by an average American family is for outdoor use. More than half of that is used for the purpose of watering gardens and lawns. That’s a lot of water devoted to one activity. Fortunately, there are simple methods you could employ to optimize the garden irrigation process.

The first recommendation is to collect rainwater. This is especially useful for gardeners who live in areas that get seasonal rainfall. Collect the rainwater during the wet season then use it for gardening during the dry season. A simple way of collecting rainwater is to set up rain barrels around the backyard. A rain barrel consists of three components: a storage tank, spigot, and filter screen. The spigot is typically situated at the bottom of the storage tank and allows for easy water access. The filter screen is placed on top and its purpose is to prevent debris and insects from entering the tank.

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Another recommendation is to put more emphasis on growing native plants. These plants, for the most part, may require less watering because they have already adapted to the local soil and climate conditions. For example, several native plant species in California, such as the California Yarrow and White Sage, have drought-tolerant properties. This characteristic is attractive for California gardeners when they take into account the drought conditions the state has faced. Growing native plants could also reduce the amount spent on fertilizer.

Exposure to Pesticide

One of the biggest pain points of gardening is pest control. You would have to be the luckiest gardener in the world to not deal with pests like caterpillars, aphids, fleas, ticks, and moths. For obvious reasons, many gardeners resort to using chemical pesticide to get rid of these critters. Pesticide may be very effective at its job but it is linked to a host of environmental problems.

For example, pesticide has been linked to the drastic decline in honeybee population. For those who weren’t aware, bumblebees pollinate around 15 percent of our food crops. While such impact is likely to come more from the use of agricultural pesticide, that shouldn’t prevent you from playing a part and reducing pesticide exposure in your own community. Fortunately, there are a couple of natural pest control methods that gardeners could use in place of pesticide.

The first method is to attract beneficial insects or natural pest predators to your garden. Beneficial insects refer to species of bugs that leave your garden crops alone and primarily feast on the pests. Examples include ladybugs, spiders, ground beetles, ladybugs, and praying mantis. While you can have certain species delivered to your doorsteps, the more sustainable approach is to attract native beneficial species to your garden.

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There are typically three conditions that need to be fulfilled in order to make a garden an attractive home for beneficial insects. First, make sure there are areas for insects to shelter and hide. Ladybugs, for example, like to shelter under loose barks so don’t throw away the dead wood lying around the garden. Second, make sure the insects have a place to hydrate. This could be as simple as setting up shallow trays of water around the garden. Last but not least, don’t try and eradicate all the pests at once. The beneficial insects will naturally drift away if they can no longer find a regular supply of food.

In addition to attracting beneficial insects, you may want to also consider a method called companion planting. This would have you grow pest-repelling plants next to the garden crops. Plants can repel pests in a number of ways. One of the most common ways is by releasing scent that the pests hate. Examples of pest-repelling plants include lavender, lemon balm, basil, and rosemary. It may seem strange that pests like fleas don’t enjoy the scent of lavender until you realize that many commercial pest control products utilize the essential oils from such plants.

Companion planting requires careful planning. In addition to building an understanding of what plants go well together, you will also need to be strategic about where you grow them in the garden. Your best bet is to grow the pest-repelling plants near common entry points and long shrubs of grass. If you are a pet owner then you will have to take further precautions as some pest-repelling plants, such as chrysanthemum, are toxic to animals.

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Pollution-Generating Tools

Some gardening and lawn care tools aren’t so eco-friendly. Gas-powered lawn mowers are a prime example. Much like pesticide, they get the job done efficiently but they could also generate a lot of pollution. According to a study, one hour of lawn mowing could generate the same amount of air pollution as a 100 miles car trip.

Over the years, more and more gardening companies have put an emphasis on making tools that are sustainable and eco-friendly. That said, you should still do your due diligence of determining how much environmental impact certain tools and equipment could have before you hit the buy button. Aside from lawn mowers, other gardening tools to be wary of include leaf blowers and chainsaws.

As you can see, gardening isn’t so “green” if it isn’t conducted in a sustainable manner. In several situations, there is a tradeoff between being efficient and keeping to environmental standards. Unless the situation warrants it, you should avoid the option that ends up causing more harm than good to the surrounding environment. The next time you start planning for your garden, consider all these scenarios and determine what you can do to promote a healthy and sustainable environment.

Photo by: pixabay

Sonia Madaan is a writer and founding editor of the science education blog EarthEclipse. She loves writing on topics related to space, environment, chemistry, biology, geology and geography. When she is not writing, she loves watching sci-fi movies on Netflix.