Gardening Naturally: 8 Ways to Garden in Harmony with Nature
Gardens are special places where, as gardeners, we’re privileged to get up close to the natural world. But working with nature makes you realize just how precious it is. Our impact on the planet is well documented, and it’s up to us to adopt more environmentally conscious ways of living. Growing your own food is a great start, but how you grow it makes all the difference.
We’re going to share eight great ideas to garden more sustainably, in step with nature.
Let’s start by replacing electric or gasoline-powered equipment such as lawnmowers, tillers and leaf blowers with more sustainable human-powered alternatives whenever we can. It’ll save natural resources, and by breaking big jobs down into regular smaller blocks it’s a great way to stay active and keep fit.
Artificial fertilizers and pesticides are energy-intensive to manufacture and carry many undesirable side effects from polluting rivers to harming beneficial insects and soil life. A natural approach, adding organic materials to the soil to build long term soil fertility and planting flowers to attract pest predators avoids these negative impacts while creating a livelier healthier garden.
Trees lock up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping mitigate the effects of our changing climate. Let’s plant more of them! Trees range from tiny to massive to suit every space, and can be planted into otherwise wasted or underused parts of the garden. Most are easy to grow and many trees are productive too – just think of a handsome apple tree for example. Trees offer birds somewhere to nest, feed and shelter. In return they will keep many plant pests in check, while contributing their melodious song.
Much of our waste can be composted. Composting is a natural process, and a far more environmentally friendly alternative to burying it in landfill. Garden-made compost is often richer in valuable nutrients than bought-in sources of compost, so make your own and enjoy a free source of natural fertilizer to feed your soil and the plants growing in it. Setting up a simple compost bin or heap like this one doesn’t take long, it’s easy to add to, and don’t worry – it won’t smell! Lawns demand a lot of effort watering to stay green, especially in hotter climates.
How much lawn do you really need? Can any of it be repurposed? For example a native wildflower meadow only needs cutting once or twice a year. Make the lawn that remains more sustainable by simply leaving the grass to grow a little longer between cuttings, then leave the clippings where they fall at least once a month to return their nutrients to the soil.
Don’t be in a haste to throw away old pots and seed containers. Reuse them as often as you can by washing them after each session so they’re ready and clean for the next.
Look after your tools by storing them somewhere dry so they last longer. Keep moving parts oiled, and sharpen blades regularly so they work like new. Go for lower energy natural materials in the garden, from biodegradable pots made of coir, cardboard or even old newspaper, to a greenhouse built from sustainable wood in place of aluminum. Many gardeners are only too happy to repurpose old items into new ones for the garden, and there’s all sorts of fun to be had in getting creative!
Nature gives us lots for free!
Set up barrels to collect rainfall and cut your consumption of treated water – and your water bill! Rake up fallen leaves to make leaf-mold, the perfect material for improving soil structure or creating your own packaging-free potting mix.
Create more spaces for wildlife. Flowers rich in nectar feed pollinators, as well as drawing in other insects to feed on the bugs you don’t want.
Include a pond for frogs and toads – the ultimate slug controllers! Extra room for wild life doesn’t mean sacrificing valuable ground space. For example, install a green roof on your shed or put together a simple bug hotel. Projects like this are great fun for adults and kids alike. Many projects are easily completed in a weekend to bring benefits lasting long into the future.
Growing plants that naturally thrive in your location means you’ll enjoy more success, and less heartache. Pick the right plant for the right place – for example, vegetables like tomatoes and beans for sunny areas, or leafy salads in the shade.
You’ll be doing yourself and the planet a world of good!
It’s all about thinking beyond the garden fence – how does what we do in the garden impact on the wider environment, and how can we work with nature for the benefit of us all?