Tips for Sustainable Gardening
Interested in sustainable gardening? Phipps can help, with tips on everything from mulching, composting, preventing pests, and retaining rainwater. Most are easy and timesaving, not to mention fun.
Grow food without harmful pesticides, herbicides and inorganic fertilizers that pollute soil and water. It relies on the use of beneficial insects, diversity of plants, and the use of compost to supply the soil with nutrients.
To reduce the need for irrigation, pesticides, drastic soil changes and major pruning, staking and other chores, plant the right plant in the right place to start with! Native plants are a good garden choice because they are adapted to the region, and have evolved with the local wildlife, but plants from other regions with similar climates may also work well and be sustainable. Just make sure they are not invasive weeds!
Adding Organic Matter
Before planting, mix 1 to 4" of organic matter such as compost into the top 8 to 12" of the planting beds. Add additional organic matter any time you are working the soil. This will help to keep the soil well-drained yet able to hold adequate moisture for optimal plant growth. A 2 to 3” layer of organic mulch, such as shredded bark or pine needles, will help the soil absorb and hold available moisture and decrease evaporation, while slowly adding nutrients.
Worm composting is a fun and easy way to have a supply of pure organic plant food available at all times. All you need to start is a shallow bin that allows air to circulate, bedding and worms. The castings that worms produce are a great fertilizer for plants and vermicomposting is an excellent way to keep food waste out of the garbage.
Backyard composting is a method of turning organic waste into a nutrient rich soil amendment. Good compost contains nutrients that plants need to grow. Ultimately, compost improves plant health by supplying nutrients to the soil. There are many methods of composting and good compost can be achieved by using any of them though some will take longer than others.
Drip irrigation is a slow, controlled application of water that flows under low pressure through plastic pipe or hose laid along each row of plants. Soil moisture remains constant, and air is always available. Since little is lost to evaporation or runoff, this technique is very water efficient. It's one of the best techniques for watering gardens, fruit trees, vines and container plants.
Mulch protects the soil by helping it retain moisture, suppresses weeds and insulates plants from extreme temperatures. Any material such as wood chips, straw, nut shells, paper, sawdust, leaves, seaweed, grass clippings or compost can be used as a mulch. Apply only two to three inches and keep away from stems and trunks.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
A fancy expression for a simple idea. IPM focuses on using the least toxic method to produce the desired result. You can control pests and keep a healthy, natural balance in your garden. IPM techniques can be as simple as planting companion plants to attract beneficial insects to your garden. Learn to tolerate a certain amount of pests. In a sustainable garden there are a few pests, but there is also an army of beneficial insects, spiders, reptiles and birds waiting to have a pest for lunch. Remember, most insects you see in the garden are not pests.