Adam Sarmiento has been gardening professionally for 18 years and owns the environmentally focused landscaping design/build firm Eco Landscaping. He also leads workshops and presentations on sustainable gardening, and is working on a book on the subject. For more eco gardening tips visit ecogardenok.com.

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Green Gardening for All
by Adam Sarmiento       #Environment   #Natives   #Permascaping   #Sustainability and Self-Sufficiency

Here in the 21st century the idea of ecological or “green” gardening is nothing new. As gardeners we have a unique connection to ecology that leads many of us to desire to garden in ways that don’t harm the environment. Most of us approach using chemicals with at least some level of apprehension and concern about both environmental and human health. Scientific research is increasingly confirming suspicions that horticultural and agricultural chemicals are contributing to a wide array of concerns such as cancer, pollinator decline, and poor water quality. Still, much confusion remains about what going green in the garden entails and how practical it is, especially as we age and become less physically able.

The good news is that the biggest challenge in going green is a mental one. Going green won’t necessarily require you to do much differently physically, but it will require you to challenge some of your assumptions about gardening. The following is a list of six things you can do this year to make your garden healthier and more ecofriendly.

 


We can learn a lot by observing how natural ecosystems contain a wide variety of plants providing different roles and functions.

Embrace Diversity

Most natural landscapes include a plethora of plant species interacting and filling different niches that support wildlife, like pollinators and birds, and environmental functionality, like fertile soils and clean water. The more plant species, especially native, that we bring into our gardens the more potential we have for a healthy ecosystem. Start by taking an inventory of the number and types of plant species you have and then make a list of beneficial plants you could add.

Take Back Your Lawn

The elephant in the room when it comes to a lack of plant diversity in most gardens is the lawn. Our obsession with golf course-like expanses comes with many ecological consequences. Poor water quality, toxic chemical exposure, air pollution, species decline, noise pollution, and habitat loss can all be attributed to the modern lawn. Take stock of how much you actually use your lawn, how it contributes to the design of your garden, and how much you spend to maintain it, and then consider ways to reduce your lawn and replace it with native grasses, flowers, and other beneficial plants. A lawn is essentially an artificially maintained pioneer or newly established ecosystem.  

 


By bringing together many native and useful plants we can mimic natural systems and create beautiful gardens.

Go Native

Native plants provide beauty, habitat, food, and ecological functionality in the landscape. By observing your local native plants you can begin to see the types of ecosystems you have in your area and the ways in which you can replicate them in your garden. Take an inventory of the origins of the plants you have. You may be surprised to find that you have few plants native to your region. Most states and regions have a native plant society or group that can help you learn about your native plants and the benefits they provide. Many nurseries are offering increasingly more native plants.

Go Organic      

These days, organic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides are readily available and provide good non-toxic alternatives. Use of organic products will increase the health of both you and your plants, and increase the long-term fertility of your gardens.

 


Raised beds like these can make gardening more accessible for those with limited mobility.

Grow Your Own      

The ecological costs of our industrial-scale agricultural systems are numerous. By growing some of your own food you can help mitigate this situation and assure yourself that you are getting the freshest, tastiest, and healthiest food possible. As we grow older and/or have more limited mobility, it can be challenging to continue to grow food. One of the biggest challenges is being able to work on the ground. Using raised beds or taller containers can help alleviate this problem and make your plants more accessible.

 


Composting is an easy way to make your gardening more sustainable and reduce waste.

Compost      

Every day good compostable material is dumped into landfills. You can reduce your need for fertilizers and mulch and reduce your contribution to your community’s waste stream by composting your food scraps. You don’t need a fancy bin or to invest much money into the process. A simple well-built pile only requires a small space in a shady part of your property. For urban dwellers or those with limited mobility, a worm bin can provide a good alternative to make use of your compostable materials.      

The environmental legacy of our gardening and landscaping can be one of restoration, protection, and health or one of species extinction, toxic chemical pollutants, and illness. It is up to each of us as gardeners, landscapers, and consumers to decide what kind of legacy we will leave. These six simple steps are a good way to make your garden more ecologically friendly and with some little personal tweaks it can be something you can sustain for a lifetime.    

 

A version of this article appeared in a March 2016 print edition of State-by-State Gardening.
Photography courtesy of Adam Sarmiento.

 

Posted: 05/17/16   RSS | Print

 

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