7 Signs Your Garden Isn’t Sustainable

If you’re practicing some of these bad gardening habits, now’s the time to change your ways.

by Megan Wild
PHOTO: iStock/Thinkstock

Sustainable gardening isn’t just a buzz phrase. It’s a real way of life for many people. A sustainable garden is not only easier to maintain, but it’s better for our environment. Check out these warning signs your garden might not be sustainable, and learn what you can do to change that.

You Don’t Companion Plant

Companion planting gives your plants buddies to grow with. It also improves the flavor of your plants and even helps with pest problems. Growing tomatoes and basil together is said to improve the flavor of tomatoes and even helps confuse pests looking to munch on tomatoes. Nasturtium will repel a variety of pests and it’s edible—talk about a plant doing double-duty!

You Use Synthetic Fertilizers

Using man-made chemical fertilizers may not seem like a big deal, but you have to remember everything you put into your soil can be taken up by your food crops or run off into the water supply. When looking for natural fertilizer alternatives, keep in mind that natural and organic often mean two entirely different things, especially when there’s a profit for someone involved. Fortunately, you can use natural fertilizer without even leaving the comfort of your own home. Look around and you’re sure to find plenty of things you can feed your garden: egg shells, banana peels and coffee grounds are all great examples of natural fertilizers that are easy to use and get ahold of.

You Forget To Mulch Your Garden

You’re probably thinking, “What’s the big deal about mulch?” Mulch helps retain water in the soil, thus reducing your overall water consumption. Mulch also helps keep weeds under control and even protects your plants’ roots. You might be surprised to learn leaves make a great mulch. Instead of putting all your leaves into the compost pile, save some to put around your plants.

You Haven’t Started Composting

When attempting to live and garden sustainably it helps to remember the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. Turning common items into compost for your garden is a perfect way to be more eco-friendly and honor the three R’s. There are tons of options when it comes to compost. You can even make your own compost tea if that’s your thing. Those veggie scraps from dinner will make a perfect addition to your compost pile, and you’ll feel great about not wasting food.

Your Tools Are Electric or Gas-Powered

Whether it’s equipment for tilling the land or your gas-powered weed whacker, there’s one truth you should know: Fossil fuels don’t fit into a sustainable garden. Nonrenewable resources are the antithesis of sustainability. Solar-powered garden equipment is the future of long-term gardening and a perfect way to lower your utility bills. Whether it’s the lights you use to make a bright path or the tools needed to maintain your garden, there are plenty of options these days for making your garden more eco-friendly.

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You Don’t Support Nature

By “supporting nature,” I mean creating spaces that encourage natural wildlife to flourish in your garden. Plant flowers and edibles, such as lavender, for bees. The bees will repay you in their own way by pollinating nearby plants. Make sure local birds have a place to call home, and encourage natural pest control, such as bats and ladybugs, by catering to their needs. Setting up a place for bats to live can go a long way toward reducing your number of overall pests, and it’s just a nice thing to do for nature.

You Haven’t Folded Animals Into The Equation

If you have any kind of farm animal and they’re not contributing to your garden, you are doing it wrong. Chickens provide eggs and manure, and both will make excellent additions to your garden. Another benefit is chickens love to eat insects and will happily munch on pests nearby. Ducks will do the same.

Goats, horses and sheep will reduce your need for lawnmowers and other gas-powered items, as they’ll do a wonderful job of controlling weeds and keeping your lawn in check. Larger farm animals can also be used to help pull carts or move items. You can’t beat free labor.

The planet does a lot for us, so the least we can do is try to repay some of that generosity by living more naturally and sustainably. Looking at the warnings on this list can give you a great head start on creating a garden that is perfect for you and for our Earth. Sustainable gardening doesn’t have to be complicated. Just keep it simple and use what the planet provides, and you’ll be a sustainable garden guru in no time.

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